Chair's report

Mrs Louise Markus

Louise MarkusOn behalf of the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) Board, I am pleased to present the AIHW’s annual report for 2020–21.

In a year again dominated by issues associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, the
board and I were impressed by the efforts, drive and expertise of the AIHW staff. In
addition to maintaining high standards in health and welfare data, they contributed to the Australian Government’s response to the pandemic. The AIHW has been tasked by the Australian Government with new work vital to monitoring progress in dealing with the pandemic, as well as to aiding recovery from it. The board  oversighted AIHW’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, in terms of how it supported staff, managed ICT challenges and improved data flows and timeliness.

Priority health and welfare data issues relating to: mental health; aged care; family and child safety and domestic violence; and Indigenous Australians continued to be of great interest to the board. Members valued the presentations on these topics made by AIHW staff at board meetings.

On 26 September 2020, the Minister for Health, the Hon Greg Hunt MP, provided his Statement of Expectations of the AIHW. Our Statement of Intent in response affirmed our commitment to producing high-quality and timely health and welfare data to support an increased understanding of health and welfare issues. Key components of
governance directing the AIHW’s purpose are its strategic partnerships with stakeholders, transparency and accountability, and strong and productive relationships with the minister and his department.

The board’s attention focused on a wide range of strategic issues that included: succession planning and appointment of the new chief executive officer, major budget initiatives and new funding, ICT strategy and cybersecurity, APS Employee Census 2020 results, strategic directions progress and extension, and some high-risk projects.

I thank all members of the board for their ongoing contributions to strategic issues and risk management, and members of the AIHW Ethics Committee for their advice and support in managing complex data-related issues.

On behalf of the board, I thank Ms Christine Castley, whose term ended on 31 October 2020, for her service as a board member, and wish her well for the future.

The AIHW Board also thanks departing chief executive officer Mr Barry Sandison for his authentic and visionary leadership over the last 5 years. Under his exemplary tutelage, the AIHW has been transformed and grown significantly in capability, size and status. He established beneficial stakeholder relationships and showed great flexibility in adapting to our stakeholders’ needs. The APS Employee Census 2020 confirmed that he was held in high esteem by AIHW staff. We appreciated his frank, honest and wise advice while assisting the board to fulfil its role as the AIHW’s  accountable authority. Mr Sandison leaves a legacy of which he can be justifiably proud, with the AIHW in good shape to face its ongoing challenges. We wish him the very best in all his future endeavours.

The board welcomes Mr Rob Heferen, who was appointed as Chief Executive Officer of the AIHW on 1 July 2021. We are delighted to have attracted such a high-calibre leader for the AIHW and look forward to working with
Mr Heferen over the next 5 years.