National Centre for Longitudinal Data

A groundswell of open public data is building that will shape the lives of generations of Australians.

Our society is in constant change. Technical innovation, demographic changes and geographic changes are all having a marked effect on our society.

To provide us with insight into these changes, longitudinal studies are a rich and valuable source of information. They help us measure physical, emotional and social health factors over time, and assess the past and potential future impact of social policies.

In my Department of Social Services alone, the National Centre for Longitudinal Data funds and manages four major studies. These give researchers a window into the long-term life experiences of Australian households, Australian children, Indigenous children, and humanitarian migrants.

In selected homes, since 2001, each household member over 15 years of age has been interviewed as part of the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey, managed by the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research.

Growing Up in Australia (The Longitudinal Study of Australian Children) has been following the lives of 10,000 Australian children (half aged 0-1 years and half aged 4–5 years) and their families since 2004. This study is a partnership between my department, the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the Australian Institute for Family Studies.

Since 2008, Footprints in Time (The Longitudinal Study of Indigenous Children) has been following 1,200 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children (aged 0-18 months and 3.5-5 years) and their parents. This study provides insight into their lives and helps inform government policies to close the gap in disadvantage experienced by Indigenous Australians.

Building a New Life in Australia (The Longitudinal Study of Humanitarian Migrants) looks at the settlement experience of humanitarian migrants over five years. On study commencement in 2013, the Australian Institute for Family Studies interviewed nearly 2,400 humanitarian migrants from 35 different countries of birth, who spoke almost 50 different languages.

The wellbeing of Australia’s 24 million people varies significantly. As a Government it is critical that we understand the life events, social processes and drivers that shape the life course of all Australians.

But, while important in their own right, studies done across Australia by numerous different organisations are largely unconnected and uncoordinated.

Being able to look at those studies as a complementary set would help prevent repetition and maximise the analytical value of the data.

That’s why my department’s National Centre for Longitudinal Data is working on a major review of Australia’s longitudinal data architecture, with a report due to Government in August 2016.

The review will highlight the gaps and overlaps in the various longitudinal data sets, undertake the first inventory of Commonwealth, state and institutional longitudinal surveys and administrative data sets, and provide insights into the enormous potential for these data to inform long-term national policies.

The findings will be presented in Canberra at the National Longitudinal Data Conference in October, 2016.

This conference will be first major public event of its kind in Australia and focus on survey and administrative longitudinal data, the ways in which it can inform Australia’s social policy and the key policy questions that should be driving the research agenda.

It will bring together leading Australian and international researchers, policy-makers, policy influencers, leaders in data technologies, data modellers and analysts from across public, private and not-for-profit sectors.

With the theme Powerful data, Strong evidence, Informed policy, the conference will highlight the latest methods and practice around the collection, design, linkage and analysis of data; research and analysis relevant to policy; and the challenges facing Australia.

Social policy needs to be built on a strong evidence base. Improving our knowledge and understanding along with better linking and information sharing of our nation’s longitudinal data will allow us all to work together more effectively to improve the lives of all Australians.

Minister for Social Services,
the Hon Christian Porter MP

More information on the Longitudinal Data Conference 2016: http://ncldconference2016.dss.gov.au/

More information on the National Centre for Longitudinal data: www.dss.gov.au/ncld

More information on the Australian Government Public Data Policy Statement: www.dpmc.gov.au/pmc/publication/australian-government-public-data-policy-statement

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