On behalf of the AIHW Board, I am pleased to present the AIHW’s annual report for 2019–20.
The board and I have been incredibly impressed by the dedication of the AIHW’s staff in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Staff have supported the National Incident Room and AIHW data have contributed to the considerations of the Prime Minister, the Minister for Health and the Chief Medical Officer in their policy responses to COVID-19. This exemplifies our purpose to create authoritative and accessible information and statistics that inform decisions and improve the health and welfare of all Australians. Among the tragedy and terrible effects of COVID-19 in Australia and around the world, it gives me enormous pride to commend the tremendous efforts of the AIHW.
Unsurprisingly, COVID-19 dominated our March and June board meetings, which were held via teleconference. We paid particular attention to our strategic risk profile and performance reports in exercising the board’s oversight of the AIHW in responding to the pandemic while striving to meet our strategic goals.
On 11 September 2019, I had the honour of hosting the Minister for Social Services, Senator the Hon. Anne Ruston, to launch our flagship report Australia’s welfare 2019 at Parliament House. This was the first release of a flagship report in a new format that included improved online functionality, allowing users better interaction with data presented.
The board recognises the importance of community trust in the AIHW in holding large data assets that contain sensitive personal information. We take our role seriously in oversighting policies and practices to keep these data safe and secure from growing cyber threats. This focus on community trust also requires us to continue delivering our services to a high standard while also investing in technologies to deliver new and enhanced service offerings in a changing data landscape.
I gratefully accepted the opportunity to be reappointed as AIHW Board Chair by the Minister for Health, the Hon. Greg Hunt, MP, for another 3 years. I also welcomed the reappointment of our 3 members nominated by state and territory health ministers—Dr Zoran Bolevich, Ms Christine Castley and Ms Marilyn Chilvers. These appointments provide the board with stability and continuity not seen for a number of years. I thank all members for their useful contributions to board discussions and decisions. On behalf of the board, I also thank the members of the AIHW Ethics Committee for their advice and support in managing the complex issues around access to sensitive data and the linkage of multiple data sets.
The achievements in this annual report reflect the authentic and visionary leadership of the Chief Executive Officer, Mr Barry Sandison, and his outstanding guidance to the executive team and the staff of the AIHW. I thank each and every one of them for their dedication, commitment and passion in one of the most challenging periods in our history. Under Mr Sandison’s stewardship, the AIHW has grown its data and analytical capabilities in traditional and new topic areas, presented publications in more innovative, dynamic and interactive formats, and provided expanded data and information services in collaboration with governments and the research community.
In 2020–21, we will maintain focus on efficiency and building partnerships with our stakeholders to achieve our vision of stronger evidence, better decisions and improved health and welfare. The AIHW Board will commence a review of our strategic directions with the aim of cementing the pathway to retain the AIHW as the leader in health and welfare information in Australia.