Australian Institute of Family Studies
The Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) is an Australian Government statutory agency in the portfolio of the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs. It is located in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. Its role is to conduct research and communicate findings that affect family wellbeing to policy makers, service providers and the broader community.
The Director of AIFS is Professor Alan Hayes, and the Chairman of the Advisory Council is Reverend the Honourable Professor Brian Howe AO.
The Australian Institute of Family Studies was established in February 1980. Born largely out of concerns about the possible effects of no-fault divorce, the inclusion of an Institute of Family Studies (as it was then known) had been an eleventh hour amendment to the Bill which helped to get the Family Law Act 1975 over the final hurdle of a Parliamentary debate which had lasted more than 18 months.
AIFS’ first major study was the Australian Family Formation Project, which commenced in 1981. Other key studies in the early years included the Children in Families Study, the Cost of Children Study and the Economic Consequences of Marital Breakdown Study. This study was influential in demonstrating the need for an Australian child support scheme, which was subsequently introduced in 1988. Further research conducted by AIFS was instrumental in providing the evidence base for the major changes to the scheme that were made in 2006.
Emerging issues in the late-80s and early-90s that were the focus of work at AIFS included work and family, early childhood and family law. Broader issues of economic and social wellbeing led to the establishment of the Australian Living Standards Study.
In 2000, AIFS became the host of the Australian Temperament Project, a large longitudinal study of children’s development that began in 1983. The study investigates pathways to psychosocial adjustment across childhood and adolescence, and results from the study have been published extensively in scientific journals. The Growing Up in Australia: Longitudinal Study of Australian Children commenced in 2004, a major study following the development of 10,000 children and families from all parts of Australia. The study is investigating the contribution of children’s social, economic and cultural environments to their adjustment and wellbeing.
The National Child Protection Clearinghouse was transferred to AIFS from the Australian Institute of Criminology in 1995. Research on child protection issues has been used in reviews of Australian Child Protection systems, such as the Special Commission of Inquiry into Child Protection Services in New South Wales, Australia.
Other clearinghouses established at the Institute include:
- Communities and Families Clearinghouse Australia (2005-2012) (formerly known as the Stronger Families Learning Exchange (2000–2004))
- Australian Centre for the Study of Sexual Assault (2003- )
- Australian Family Relationships Clearinghouse (2006-2012)
- Closing the Gap Clearinghouse (in partnership with the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare) (2009- )
A new information exchange, Child Family Community Australia, was launched on 30 March 2012. It is the product of an amalgamation of three AIFS clearinghouses: National Child Protection Clearinghouse, Australian Family Relationships Clearinghouse and Communities and Families Clearinghouse Australia.
AIFS has also undertaken an extensive evaluation of the 2006 family law reforms.
AIFS reviews its research directions every three years. The current research directions (2012-2015) focus on the following themes:
- Family change, functioning and wellbeing
- social and economic participation for families
- Child and family safety
- Services to support families
AIFS communicates the findings of its research and analysis via:
- Publications, including the research journal Family Matters (first published in 1987), research papers and report series.
- Website, including reports on programs and activities; access to publications; information from databases and resource collections.
- Seminar series and biennial conference
- Information services, including a library that contains a substantial and up-to-date collection of international and Australian research on family wellbeing in Australia.
- Rosenbrock, C. (2001). "Australian Institute of Family Studies: The first 21 years". Family Matters 60: 50–70.
- Edwards, M., Howard, C. & Miller, R. (2001). Social Policy, Public Policy. Sydney: Allen & Unwin.
- Report of the Ministerial Taskforce on Child Support (2005). In the best interests of children: Reforming the Child Support Scheme.
- Sanson, A. V., Letcher, P., Smart, D., Prior, M., Toumbourou, J. W., & Oberklaid, F (2009). Associations between early childhood temperament clusters and later psychosocial adjustment. Merrill Palmer Quarterly, 55(1), 26-54.
- Smart, D., Hayes, A., Sanson, A., & Toumbourou, J. W. (2009). Mental health and well-being of Australian adolescents. In D. Bennett, S. Towns, E. Elliott & J. Merrick (Eds.), Challenges in adolescent health: An Australian perspective (pp. 49-60). New York: Nova Science Publishers
- "Growing up in Australia - The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children (LSAC)". Facs.gov.au. 2009-12-03. Retrieved 2010-05-17.
- Gray, M. & Smart, D. (2009). The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children: A Valuable New Data Source for Economists. Australian Economic Review, 42(3), 367-376.
- Graycar, Adam; Jenny Mouzos (18 November 2002). "Violence: Directions for Australia – 10 Years On". Australian Institute of Criminology. Retrieved 2010-05-20.
- "Special Commission of Inquiry into Child Protection Services in New South Wales - NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet". Dpc.nsw.gov.au. Archived from the original on 23 May 2010. Retrieved 2010-05-17.
- "Attorney General's Department - 28 January 2010 - Release of Family Law Reviews". Attorneygeneral.gov.au. 2010-01-28. Retrieved 2010-05-17.