What makes for a ‘good life’? This seemingly simple question has dogged philosophers, economists, legislators and leaders through the ages. At the AIFS 2020 Conference, we tackle this question head on to ask: what is a good life in the face of rapid social and technological change? At different stages of our lives? What do children, families and communities hope for? And how do we design service systems, institutions, policies and laws that help us to realise these aspirations?

We want to hear about the work you are doing that can help answer these questions and invite you to submit abstracts in one of the following six key themes.

When submitting your abstract please identify the sub-theme that is most closely related to your abstract.


Topics covered in theme

Family policy and service system challenges

This theme examines the intersections between families, social policy and services systems, and how this impacts on the quality of life for families across socio-economic and geographic domains. Have policies and service systems changed to meet the needs of the families today and what are the strengths and barriers that support families to get what they need?

Families and the economy, the future of work, engaging (or servicing) remote families, family diversity, rural/remote service delivery, working in an imperfect system, future of work, poverty, public health approaches, welfare, impacts of climate change, housing and civic infrastructure, educating for the future

Balancing work and family

This theme examines how work and family commitments are balanced in families; what helps or hinders work and family balance (e.g. what policies and workplace characteristics matter); how work–family challenges impact on family functioning and other family processes (e.g. decisions about how this relates to starting a family, child care, parenting responsibilities, other caring responsibilities, housework), and on engagement in the workforce (e.g. career progression, occupational downgrading); on what has and has not changed, especially in relation to gendered patterns in work and family, and in relation to new forms of work.

Family roles, family structures, multi-generational families, housework, gender roles, child care accessibility & use, parental employment, family leave arrangements, employment transitions for lone and couple parents, parental joblessness.

Health and wellbeing over the life course

This theme takes a contemporary perspective on physical, mental and emotional wellbeing at different stages of our lives. What are the issues that are having a positive and/or negative impact on health and wellbeing? How can we find new ways of addressing both newly emerging and long-standing issues that impact families’ capacity to have good lives?

Mental health, social media, urban living, economic stress,  gender roles, engaging fathers, child development, adolescence and emerging adulthood, disability, big data, family trends, education, parenting; pornography, sexuality, and relationships, ageing well,  dignity in old age, obesity

Communities and social cohesion

Often described as the “glue that holds society together”, social cohesion can come under pressure in the face of rapid change.  This theme examines contemporary Australian communities and issues that bring people together – and drive us apart. In a world of hyper-connectivity, increasing individualisation, and demographic change, how do we maintain a collective sense of belonging, co-operation and trust?

Newly arrived and emerging communities; ageing; loneliness; identity politics; health of democracy; urban/regional divides; contemporary media landscape


Family threats, vulnerabilities and trauma

Families can sometimes struggle to care for and nurture each other. This theme examines the day to day issues that families live with.  Economic stress, ill-health, disability and poverty can create negative outcomes for children, families and communities. Experiences of abuse, violence, and maltreatment add another layer of adversity for children, young people and families, with impacts that can persist over generations.  What are these challenges and what helps and what hinders families to heal?

Alcohol and substance abuse; mental illness; gambling; housing stress;  family, domestic and sexual violence; child abuse and neglect; child protection and systems of care; out-of-home care, collective and intergenerational forms of trauma; systems responses.

Family law: Challenges and solutions

In the forty years since AIFS was established through the Family Law Act, there have been significant changes to the needs of families in the family courts and to the role of the Family Law system itself. This theme looks at the role of family law in supporting families, fathers, mothers, young people and children. It asks the question about where to from here? What are the new opportunities for family law that will help families navigate this complex set of emotions and systems?

Family law, child protection, systems responses, systems reform,  interagency collaboration; justice; parental separation, custody, divorce, co-parenting.