Published: June 27, 2018

This article was originally published in May 2017.

Research and government organisations have been calling for effective use of administrative data – regularly collected by government agencies – to paint a better picture of socio-economic adversity in Australia, to evaluate existing government programs and to assist with designing effective policies to alleviate disadvantage.

To ensure that administrative data is used to inform policy, the Life Course Centre has led several initiatives and projects that raise awareness of the potential of administrative data and to trial ways of accessing and analysing such data.


‘We are at a turning point in the social sciences in Australia where we are beginning to realise the enormous untapped potential of administrative data for understanding and evaluating a whole range of individual and community outcomes. Other countries, such as New Zealand, have already made huge advances in these directions and it is essential that Australia does not lag behind our international counterparts in developing the frameworks and systems to keep pace with these developments,’ explains Professor Janeen Baxter, Life Course Centre Director.

To foster greater international discussions and exchange of experiences the Life Course Centre  initiated and co-sponsored the International workshop on government administrative data for policy-relevant research on 1 and 2 May 2017, at Stanford University.

The workshop was co-sponsored with the Children’s Data Network at the University of Southern California, the Program for Administrative Data at Stanford, and the Stanford Center for Poverty and Inequality, leaders in using administrative data for policy.

International Workshop at Stanford University

Caption: Regan Foust (University of Southern California), Emily Putnam-Hornstein, (University of Southern California), Janeen Baxter (The University of Queensland), David Grusky (Stanford University), Jonathan Fisher (Stanford University), Matthew Snipp (Standford University), Sergi Vidal (The University of Queensland)

Over the two workshop days, authoritative figures from research and government organisations in Australia, Canada, Germany, New Zealand and the US discussed strategies to enhance productive partnerships and communication with stakeholders, as well as skills  and capacities required to realise the benefit of existing data while also safeguarding the privacy of individual records.

The panel and roundtable discussions held during the workshop enabled sharing of relevant experience across the 56 workshop participants – including 11 Life Course Centre research leaders, research fellows and government partners – and were pivotal to raising awareness of opportunities and directions across jurisdictions, as well as highlighting collaborative opportunities to examine administrative data integration for evidence-based policy.

Now, there are plans to apply the lessons learned and to include more government organisations in discussions and collaborative networks to reduce duplicity of efforts in supporting effective and accountable policy.  Further international workshops and round-tables are planned in the coming years to maintain the international links and to continue to exchange experiences and key learnings.