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Each year the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) produces one of its highly regarded biennial flagship reports—Australia's health or Australia's welfare. This year I am pleased to introduce our 12th report in the Australia's welfare series, Australia's welfare 2015.

As in the past, Australia's welfare 2015 presents reliable information on population factors that underpin the demand for welfare services, welfare spending and the composition of the community services workforce. This report examines the welfare of Australians through the life course, starting at childhood, then moving through youth to working age and the later years of growing older.

As part of the AIHW's ongoing commitment to widen our readership, a new and innovative format has been used for this year's report. Our focus is on topical welfare issues and key facts, which are presented in analytical 'feature articles' and short statistical 'snapshots'. Each article and snapshot contains online links to where more detailed information is available, including in other specialised AIHW reports.

The feature articles cover a broad range of issues—they highlight the important role of family in child development and wellbeing; they explore the pathways of Australia's children and youth through education and training, and the challenges Australia's youth face; they examine the welfare of Australia's working-age population; and they consider the pressures and opportunities of an ageing population.

This report also proposes a new welfare reporting framework and indicator set. This follows an internal review of what measures best capture the depth and breadth of Australia's welfare system, and the AIHW requests feedback on the overall approach presented.

While Australia's welfare 2015 shows that most of us are doing well, the report also profiles some of the most vulnerable Australians. Feature articles and snapshots on Indigenous Australians, vulnerable young people, people with mental illness or disability, Australia's homeless population, and those experiencing domestic and family violence, highlight the diversity of disadvantage that exists in our communities.

Despite recent improvements and enhancements, there are still gaps in available national data in many areas, including who needs welfare support, people who face entrenched or persistent disadvantage, and the various pathways that people take through the welfare system. As such, there are opportunities for data linkage work among national and jurisdictional data sets that could yield new insights. Such data gaps and opportunities for improvement are discussed in 'What is missing from the picture?' sections throughout the report.

Australia's welfare 2015 is accompanied by an Australia's welfare 2015—in brief mini report that summarises key statistics and concepts from the main report, and a variety of online resources.

I would like to thank the many experts who provided the AIHW with valuable advice when drafting this report, and note that their contributions are recognised in the Acknowledgments section.

The AIHW is committed to improving the usefulness and relevance of its flagship reports and welcomes feedback on Australia's welfare 2015.

Kerry Flanagan PSM 
Acting Director