Data for Policy

The Life Course Centre has played a leading role in shaping administrative data access in Australia through our ongoing Data for Policy initiative. Our focus on leveraging administrative data for research and policy can be traced back to the start of the Life Course Centre in 2014.

We are well placed to continue to play a key role in bringing together relevant stakeholders, undertaking proof-of-concept projects, identifying new data directions and strategies, identifying new sources of data and enhancing evidence-based policy outcomes to improve the lives of those living in social and environmental disadvantage.

In the 2023–24 Budget, the Australian Government announced a $16.4 million investment in a new ‘Life Course Data Initiative’ that will capture data insights to improve understanding of how communities experience disadvantage, including through longitudinal data. This is an exciting development that reflects the sustained Data for Policy focus of the Life Course Centre.

2023 Data for Policy Summit

Summit attendees, 15 August 2023

In August 2023 the Life Course Centre brought together researchers, government departments, NGOs, not-for-profits and other stakeholders to explore new directions in innovative data access and collaborative research to inform social policy. This was our sixth Data for Policy event, dating back to the start of our Centre in 2014.


Dr David Gruen AO
Australian Statistician
Australian Bureau of Statistics
Supporting Analysis of The Life Course

Hon Dr Andrew Leigh MP
Assistant Minister for Competition, Charities and Treasury
Data and Evaluation: A Match Made in Policy Heaven

Travers McLeod
Chief Executive Officer
Brotherhood of St Laurence 
Destination Unknown?​

Summit themes and speakers

Summit presentations are available upon request.
Please contact for details.

The Future of Data 

Michael Smedes
Chief Data Officer and General Manager, Australian Bureau of Statistics 
​​Uplifting data capability security, and access across the data landscape 
Matthew James
Deputy Chief Executive Officer, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare  
Gemma Van Halderen
Chief Data Officer and Group Manager, Data and Evaluation Group, Australian Government Department of Social Services 
The Future of Data: A policy-department perspective

Government Data to inform policy and practice  

Gayle Milnes
National Data Commissioner, Office of the National Data Commissioner 
Data Availability and Transparency Act (DATA) Scheme 
Merran Butler
NSW Government Department of Communities and Justice 
NSW Case Study: Investment Plan 
Toby Hall
NSW Government Department of Customer Service 
NSW Case Study: Better Outcomes Lab 
Kate Miller
Coordinator Science and Partnerships, Population Health Research Network 
Data Linkage in Australia 

NGO program data for evaluation

Marion Bennett
Executive, Practice Evidence and Impact, Mission Australia  
Using data for evaluation, evidence and insights to benefit people in need​
Myra Geddes
General Manager, Social Impact, Goodstart Early Learning
Amplify our impact – opportunities to leverage NGO data & insights
Marsha Reid
Outcomes Lead, Anglicare WA
Lessons from the Frontline: Child Sexual Abuse Therapeutic Service
Anne Hampshire
Head of Research and Advocacy, The Smith Family  
Using data to address educational inequality: The Education Dashboard SA (EDSA) 

Place-based Data Approaches

Tim Reddel
The University of Queensland 
Early insights from the National Centre for Place Based Collaboration (Nexus) 
James Vecchio
Australian Government Department of Social Services 
Bronwen Clark
Executive Officer, National Growth Areas Alliance 
From paddock to postcode – using data to plan new communities 
Kerry Nice and Sachith Seneviratne
University of Melbourne and Life Course Centre  
Data for analysis of spatial inequities in access to services 

The Use of Data for Research

Chris Hatherly
Chief Executive Officer, Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia  
Decadal Plan for Social Science Research Infrastructure 2023–32
Deborah Cobb-Clark, the University of Sydney and Life Course Centre 
Data at the Coalface 
Sharon Stuart, Branch Manager, Data Strategy Branch, Data and Evaluation Group, Australian Government Department of Social Services 
Data for Research 
Mark Western, The University of Queensland and Life Course Centre 
Data for Research: National Context & Opportunities 

Closing the Gap 

Sharif Dean
Head of Secretariat for the NSW Coalition of Aboriginal Peak Organisations 
Closing the Gap: Priority reforms in practice 
Catherine Andersson
Assistant Commissioner, Closing the Gap Review and Reporting Group, Productivity Commission  
Governments approach to data under the National Agreement on Closing the Gap 
Jessica Hartmann
Branch Manager, Evaluation Branch, Empowerment and Recognition Group, National Indigenous Australians Agency 
Developing a Framework for Governance of Indigenous Data 
Abdullah Mamun
The University of Queensland and Life Course Centre 
Closing the Gap Target 2: Is there a mitch-match between data and policy? 

Early Years Investments

Myra Geddes
General Manager Social Impact, Goodstart Early Learning 
Our time is now – a once in a generation opportunity 
Rhyan Bloor
Assistant Secretary, Data and Delivery Support Branch, Child Care Division, Australian Government Department of Education 
The importance of Government data in supporting childhood development 
Juan Larrañaga
Policy and Portfolio Manager, Minderoo Foundation 
Breaking down the door!  Circuit breaking disadvantage and the role of data access 
Keisi Cheung
Manager, Data Strategy, Data, Analytics & Performance, Early Childhood Outcomes, NSW Department of Education 
National Disability Data Asset (NDDA) Early Childhood Test Case​ 
Sharon Goldfeld
Murdoch Children’s Research Institute and Life Course Centre 
Early Years Investment: putting radical pragmatism into action 

Housing and Homelessness

Gabrielle Phillips
Head, Housing & Specialised Services Group, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 
Australia’s Disability Strategy 
Rachel Christie
National Manager, MA Centre for Evidence and Insights, Mission Australia 
Using Data in Housing and Homelessness 
Mathew Ling
Research and Evaluation Lead, Neami National 
Seeing only what we’re looking for 
Caroline Speed
National Research and Policy Lead, National Growth Areas Alliance
Housing data gaps: Forecasting settlement patterns


Jennifer Poehl
Director, Data and Reporting, Australia’s Disability Strategy, Australian Government Department of Social Services​ 
Australia’s Disability Strategy​ 
Natasha Shahidullah, Acting Branch Manager, NDIS Finance and Performance, Australian Government Department of Social Services 
National Disability Research Partnership
Paul Hardcastle, Executive Director, National Disability Data Asset, Australian Government Department of Social Services 
National Disability Data Asset 
Louise York, Group Head, Community Services Group, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 
Using the National Disability Data Asset to improve data about people with disability 
Suzanne Poynton, Director Research and Evaluation, NSW Government Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research 
NDDA Pilot Project – Justice Test Case 

About Data for Policy

Current Investments

The establishment of the Multi-Agency Data Integration Project (MADIP) at the Australian Bureau of Statistics. MADIP is a secure data asset combining information on health, education, government payments, income and taxation, employment, and population demographics (including the Census) over time. It was first established in 2015 and further developed between 2017 and 2020 through DIPA.
The establishment of agency-specific data assets such as the Australian Tax Office’s ALife.
The development of state government data integration projects, such as the NSW government’s Data Analytics Unit (a Centre partner).
A number of projects looking at data assets for research purposes, including projects under the National Research Infrastructure Strategic Framework. The Australian Research Data Commons have funded projects in HASS Research Data Commons, and Supporting Indigenous Research Capability.
Establishment in 2018 of the Office of the National Data Commissioner within the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet signalled a further awareness and elevation of the value of administrative data collected and held by Australian Government agencies and made available for research purposes.
State-based linkage services continue to expand in scale and scope under the Population Health Research Network (PHRN), funded by an initial $20m cash investment from the Australian Government’s National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) and a $32m cash and in-kind investment from State and Territory governments from 2009-12 to establish the infrastructure, followed by repeated smaller investments since then.

Future Considerations

The re-funded Life Course Centre has been designed to include a much broader range of data, including geo-spatial data, biometric data, and addition of machine learning techniques to the Centre’s existing expertise in statistical analysis. As the types of data under consideration grow, and the data sets get significantly larger, modelling complex data becomes more challenging and demanding of existing infrastructures.
The Centre’s NGO partners and stakeholders are working towards linkage and analysis of their own data, including the possibility of linking NGO data to MADIP and/or state-based linkage infrastructures.
There is increasing interest in linking longitudinal and qualitative data to quantitative administrative data, for a fuller and richer picture over a longer period of time.
Large policy initiatives such as Closing the Gap and Safe & Supported have the need to track the success of initiatives. For these and other interventions, measuring success requires using a large range of data from a wide range of data custodians, including state and local governments, and service providers.
As the use of data gets more sophisticated, concerns arise in the community. A responsive and respectful approach is required towards project ethics, community consultation, ensuring a social licence for the work undertaken, and in particular the issue of Indigenous Data Sovereignty.
Greater use of linked data, and in particular multi-sectoral and multi-agency data, requires ensuring that the people using the data are highly trained and cognisant of all of the issues. This requires building the capacity of people in a collaborative way, and bringing together the expertise of multiple sectors. This includes building the capacity of communities to understand the way in which their administrative data is routinely used to support evidence based policy.

The history of Data for Policy

The Life Course Centre has hosted several Data for Policy events:

October 2014
Data Resource Workshop
University of Melbourne

This workshop brought together senior representatives and partners from the Life Course Centre, Commonwealth and State government agencies, data custodians, data integration authorities and non-government organisations. The focus of the workshop was data integration, or data linkage, which involves combining data sets from different sources, to build more comprehensive data resources.

March 2015
Data for Policy Workshop

This workshop brought together key data and policy stakeholders from Commonwealth Government agencies. Life Course Centre researchers worked with government stakeholders to identify questions of immediate policy priority and research projects that could use existing data. One of the projects arising from this was the NEET project (Not in Employment, Education or Training).

October 2016
Longitudinal Data Conference

The Department of Social Services and the Life Course Centre partnered in hosting the inaugural Longitudinal Data Conference in partnership with the Department’s National Centre for Longitudinal Data (October 2016). This was Australia’s first major public event to focus on survey and administrative longitudinal data, including the ways in which it can inform Australia’s social policy, and the key policy questions that should be driving the research agenda.

May 2017
Government Admin Data for Research Workshop
Stanford University

The Life Course Centre, Stanford Center for Poverty and Inequality, and Children’s Data Network co-hosted an international workshop on government administrative data for research purposes at Stanford University, California. Stakeholders from Australian, American and Canadian universities and government agencies were in attendance. The workshop focused on increasing awareness on the opportunities, bounds, innovations and future directions of using government administrative data to solve policy-relevant questions across countries; and identifying competencies and capacity required to enable government administrative data to be used more widely and effectively. The workshop also shared experiences on addressing social licence for using administrative data, and strategies for communication and partnerships with government agencies.

August 2019
Data for Policy Workshop

This two-day workshop was framed around the opportunity represented by draft Commonwealth data sharing legislation being developed by the then new Office of the National Data Commissioner. As of 2022, that legislation is now in place, and data access and infrastructure issues have moved on from there. The Data Integration Partnership for Australia (DIPA 2017–20), which powered much of the Commonwealth Department-based linked data analytics was showcased at this event, but DIPA was not re-funded after 2020. However, the Centre engaged in several notable projects through DIPA, particularly through the Social, Health and Welfare Analytical Unit (SHWAU). This included in projects in early childhood education and care, higher education, and the Adult Migrant English Program.

August 2023
Data for Policy Summit

Our sixth Data for Policy event was our biggest to date, attracting approximately 150 attendees from across all levels of government, the non-profit and community services sector, and academia. The 2023 Data for Policy Summit was held over two days in Canberra with the program shaped by our Data for Policy Planning Committee, compromising partner representatives. The summit featured a diverse range of speakers, facilitators and discussants and opportunities for networking. It included keynote government and partner addresses as well as interactive sessions spanning the future of data and its use for research, informing policy and practice, program evaluation, place-based approaches, closing the gap, early years investments, housing and homelessness, and disability.

Selected Linked Data Projects

Not in Employment, Education or Training

The Life Course Centre undertook a linked dataset analysis of Australian Department of Social Services and Australian Bureau of Statistics data to highlight the need to extend the definition of Not in Employment, Education or Training (NEET).

Try, Test & Learn

We completed an evaluation of the Try, Test and Learn (TTL) Fund for the Australian Government Department of Social Services to provide new evidence and insights into what works to reduce long-term welfare dependency.