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Tuesday, 25 November 1986
Page: 2667

Senator CROWLEY(3.32) —I move:

That the Senate take note of the paper.

I am pleased to speak on the annual report 1985-86 of the Australian Institute of Family Studies. Those of us who have had any interest in this area would, of course, have talked to the Australian Institute or its personnel over this period and certainly since. As the report points out, the Institute was speaking to us to a greater degree than usual because of the considerable difficulties the Institute faced during that year. There was the prospect that the Institute would cease to exist at all. This annual report covers this very difficult period when it had to face significant operating difficulties arising from Budget cutbacks and a requirement to undergo a review which looked at alternative ways of reducing Budget costs or outlays in the Attorney-General's Department and which tried to decide whether there was a better way of providing the research and support in the Attorney-General's Department. The Government decided to establish the review to examine the operation of the Institute of Family Studies, along with the Law Reform Commission, the Human Rights Commission and the Australian Institute of Criminology, and to report on the existence, overlap or duplication within the Attorney-General's Department or any other body, the reduction in staffing that could be effected and the possible amalgamation of research bodies in the portfolio.

As a consequence, the annual report lists how much of the 1985-86 year was devoted to that review and how much of the Institute's time and effort went into that so that it was drawn away from its aims, objectives or principal reasons for its existence in the first place. The report states:

. . . the outcomes were both gratifying in terms of assessment of past performance, and positive as far as the future is concerned.

The difficulties of course meant, apart from its time away from its preferred work or its specific objectives, it also had to face considerable Budget constraints. That is listed in the report. I do not need, in the few moments we have, to run through the actual cutbacks that the Institute struggled to manage under last year. The point it makes is that while there are constraints on the operating costs what worried it most was that the impact was principally on the reduction in the amount of research and publications it could produce in the 12 months under review. This it sees as a matter of the gravest concern and it makes this point a number of times throughout this report.

It is concerned that its principal objective or task of statutory responsibility, the `identification and development of understanding of the factors affecting marital and family stability', should continue to be researched and continue to be promoted through the publication of that research. As one of many politicians around the country who have benefited from research documents produced by the Institute of Family Studies, I think it is a matter of some disappointment that its allocation was reduced in 1985-86 as a consequence of the review and the budgetary constraints. However, we look forward to better times. I am not sure how soon the Institute will see itself back on full bore, as it were, to what it was before 1985-86, but the rest of this report gives some idea of the areas covered by the Institute and is, I think a very good justification for its continuation. It is not only looking at what is seen to be a matter of immediate concern to families but also is looking to other broader factors in society that do impact on the family. In particular, it is looking at the effect of work and equal opportunity within work and how they affect the family. I am very pleased to see a study such as that coming from a responsible research authority. It may well dint some of the prejudices that are claimed in this area.

The Institute states in this report that it was pleased to see in the census the appearance of some of the suggestions that it was able to put to the Australian Bureau of Statistics and that these were taken up and included in the census to provide more useful data to the Government and to society on the family in general.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Colston) —Order! The honourable senator's time has expired.

Question resolved in the affirmative.