Wellbeing can be affected by a range of interdependent factors, for example, individual factors such as a person’s knowledge, attitudes, behaviours and how they respond to life events; or broader factors such as access to education, employment, secure housing, the environment, community networks and safety. Many of these elements can be influenced by government policies as well as by social and economic forces.

The biennial Australia’s welfare report is framed around ‘welfare’ in its broadest context. It presents reliable and detailed information on population factors that influence the demand for welfare services, welfare spending and the composition of the community services workforce.

The report discusses the critical role that factors such as family functioning and education have in providing lifelong foundations for health, development and wellbeing, particularly for children and young people, and examines the challenges faced by Australians at different stages of their lives — for example, through unemployment or contact with the child protection or criminal justice system.

It also explores the concept of disadvantage in Australia, including that experienced by Indigenous Australians, our homeless population, victims of domestic and family violence, and people with disability.

Australia does not have a nationally agreed set of key indicators for reporting on welfare. In 2015, the AIHW developed a new reporting framework and indicator set, which is an integral feature of its Australia’s welfare reports.

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. Such data gaps and opportunities for data linkage work are discussed throughout the report.

Australia’s welfare is a sister publication to the Australia’s health biennial report; both reports are accompanied by companion ‘in brief’ booklets.