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Challenges and opportunities
The AIHW continued to depend on highly skilled and competent people to achieve its strategic goals and is committed to the ongoing development of all staff, especially in relation to retaining and enhancing specialist capabilities. We continued to rely on engaging contract staff to complete our expanded work program and deliver our commitments while managing staff numbers within the Average Staffing Level cap allocations applicable for all APS agencies. As at June 30 2020, we had 507 active staff, including 164 contract staff (32%). While there were challenges and risks in having a high proportion of contract staff, we actively managed this by engaging skilled people, offering some long-term contracts and providing contract staff with the same development opportunities as ongoing staff. Overall, the integration of contract staff across the AIHW has proven to be exceptionally successful.
Without doubt, the most significant challenges experienced by the AIHW and our staff were the impacts of the bushfires, which ravaged many parts of Australia throughout December 2019 and January 2020, immediately followed by the global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Like all government agencies, we introduced a number of measures to ensure the safety of staff and help protect their mental wellbeing during this unprecedented time. More details about our response to these challenges are provided later in this chapter.
During this period, we were guided by government advice in relation to travel and workplace restrictions and made a significant financial investment in new technologies to improve communications and support working-from-home arrangements.