David Kalisch, AIHW Director

A message from David Kalisch

We’re halfway through 2011 already, and at the Institute the pace has been frenetic with the release of several new high profile publications and online products.

The end of April saw the release of one of our signature annual reports, the 2009–10 edition of Australian Hospital Statistics. This is the earliest this 400-page report has ever been made available—thanks to earlier supply of data by our state and territory health department colleagues enabled by the improved data validation processes achieved through the AIHW’s new online Validata™ system.

To reinforce our commitment to making important national information as accessible as possible we also released a companion report, Australia’s hospitals 2009–10 at a glance, in both print and special online versions, and released updated individual hospital level data on the MyHospitals website.

In early May we were honoured that the Minister for Human Services, the Hon Tanya Plibersek MP, was able to launch the AIHW’s biennial report The health and welfare of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people: an overview 2011 and new Indigenous Observatory.

The Observatory includes nine new online papers and accompanying summary sheets on a variety of interesting Indigenous health and welfare topics, including Indigenous life expectancy and mortality; child safety; eye health; disability; access to health services; chronic disease; and older people. More papers will be added as they are written.

The online Closing the Gap Clearinghouse, which we produce in partnership with the Australian Institute of Family Studies, also received Ministerial attention in May, with the Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, the Hon Jenny Macklin MP, launching the latest Clearinghouse report, What works to overcome Indigenous disadvantage: key learnings and gaps in the evidence (PDF, 1MB).

A little ‘light relief’, if not notoriety, was achieved on 11 May when the 2006 AIHW report Australian incontinence data analysis and development was featured on the ABCTV music quiz show ‘Spicks and Specks’. Perth singer/songwriter Grace Woodroofe lent her haunting yet tranquil voice to singing excerpts from the report to the tune of the Beach Boys’ Don’t Worry Baby, Nick Cave’s Into my arms, and Beyonce’s Crazy love.

On 10 June we released Young Australians: their health and wellbeing 2011, which focuses on recent progress in the health and wellbeing of 12 to 24 year olds across the nation. We produced a new-look 4-page report profile for this publication, detailing the main findings.

On 14 June, which marked the start of International Men’s Health Week, we were again honoured to have a federal Minister launch one of our publications. On this occasion it was the Hon Warren Snowdon MP, Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Defence Science and Personnel, Indigenous Health and several other responsibilities, including men’s health.

The AIHW report was The health of Australia’s males, which examines attitudes to health issues, rates of injury, illness and mortality, and use of health services among Australian men. As with the Young Australians report, we produced an attractive accompanying 4-page report profile.

Minister Snowdon launched the report at the Tuggeranong Men’s Shed in Canberra, and drew a very large and appreciative crowd, with the Prime Minister’s partner and Men’s Sheds Association patron Tim Mathieson also speaking, and several radio and television stations attending to cover the event.

David Kalisch, AIHW Director at CEO Sleepout

Two days after the men’s health launch I participated in the CEO Sleepout in Canberra, organised by the St Vincent de Paul Society. The CEO Sleepout took place in capital cities across Australia, although I suspect the Canberra sleepout experience was colder than most, and by some accounts was very noisy in the middle of the night as snoring reached a crescendo. It was a great opportunity to help Vinnies to raise money for their services to the homeless, and gave us a better understanding of some personal journeys involving homelessness in our community.

The AIHW is undertaking important work on homelessness, with the development of a new specialist homelessness services data collection, supported by a new client management system for agencies providing homelessness services. The new collection system went live on 1 July, and we anticipate that the first data will be reported in early 2012. More information will be provided in forthcoming editions of Access.

As a precursor to other published information, the AIHW has also been very active on a range of data development activities, with preliminary work underway to improve our data collections in disability services, hospitals and mental health services areas, among a range of others. This is a key part of our ongoing business that goes on behind the scenes.

In other happenings, the AIHW celebrated National Reconciliation Week from 27 May to 3 June with a morning tea and presentation from Glen Cummings, the National Program Manager for Indigenous Community Volunteers. AIHW staff were invited to share their stories on reconciliation, why it is important, and what it means to them.

The Institute is already seeking new graduates for 2012, and our creative staff and past graduate recruits have used their talents to produce a brand new recruitment video which is now available on YouTube and the AIHW website. The jobs section of the AIHW website has all the graduate intake information you will need if you want to apply to join us next year.

As I write this column, the June meeting of the AIHW Board has just taken place. Among the many items that have been finalised are the AIHW’s 2011–2014 Strategic Directions, our 2011–12 Budget, our 2011–12 work plan, and a new customer service charter.

On a final note I would like to thank and bid farewell to the Hon Peter Collins AM QC who will be retiring as Chair of the AIHW Board after a record 7 years of service.

Peter led the Board through an enormous expansionary phase for the AIHW. Under his chairmanship the AIHW transformed from being a $24 million organisation in 2004 to being a $53 million organisation in 2011, with much greater focus on COAG performance reporting in the key areas of health and welfare services and much improved information on health and welfare services used by Indigenous Australians.

Peter made sure that this development did not compromise the independence and quality of our work. He insisted that we have efficient and robust processes, while delivering necessary and interesting information on the health and welfare of Australians. Peter, your contribution to the organisation will be enduring.

David Kalisch
Director (CEO)