24 June 2021

Dear {Contact_First_Name}, 

Has it been five years already since the last census? I can’t believe the next one is just around he corner! And while the Australian Bureau of Statistics is putting measures in place (and holding its breath, I’m sure) to avoid a repeat of the disaster of the 2016 census, the upcoming poll has made me reflect on the changes in my life since 2016. The most remarkable is that we are now a household of three, no longer four, since our youngest child moved out and became independent.  Adjusting to that has not been easy, even though I really enjoy having a spare room and a tidy house! My husband is fully retired – another big change – and a very nice one, may I say. He  just offered to cook more for me! And then there are the changes brought about by COVID, of course. 
I am sure you have had changes happen in your life as well. I hope that overall they have been for the better.

To help the ABS prepare for a successful event this time, last year 60,000 households in the Sydney area were given the opportunity for a test run, and 40,000 households in Adelaide, Darwin, Canberra, Warrnambool, Karratha and the surrounds of Alice Springs also got a taste of things to come. It appears the trial runs were successful, because  the ABS is confident that it is better prepared this time. It rebuilt the census online service for 2021 and recruited two new private sector partners to help run the census: PWC and Amazon Web Services.

The MacGibbon review, charged with looking into the errors made in 2016,  made 29 recommendations and Australia’s Statistician Dr David Gruen confirmed that every single one was implemented. What else did the ABS do to be better prepared this time? In her article "Never say ‘never’: Top statistician braces for census night hacks to avoid repeat of 2016" Jennifer Duke, Sydney Morning Herald, goes into details. You can read the article here.

Marie-Louise Rankin
Executive Officer, SSA

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NSW Branch May meeting:

A survival analysis in Game of Thrones by Dr. Reidar Lystad 

Dr Reidar Lystad is a Research Fellow at the Australian Institute of Health Innovation, Faculty of Medicine, Health and Human Sciences, Macquarie University. He is a great fan of "Game of Thrones". Together with his colleague, another "Game of Thrones" fan, Dr Benjamin Brown, he watched the first seven seasons of the show and studied the survival chance of the 300 characters in “Game of Thrones”. The research paper was published in the 2018 Christmas edition of the journal Injury Epidemiology. 

In the study, they found that the survival time of the characters ranged from 11 seconds to 57 hours. The probability of dying within the first hour after appearing is 14%. Switching allegiance has been a useful survival tool for many characters.

Dr Lystad also revealed the media outreach flow during the study process and shared his experience in dealing with overwhelming media attention after the paper was published.

As everyone is curious about "What is next". Dr Lystad commented that timing is crucial for this type of research. The study for “Game of Thrones” was done at the end of Season 7 before the final season was released, which was perfect timing. So, stay tuned and watch and see the next piece of artwork from Dr Lystad when another golden opportunity arrives. 

This SSA NSW branch May event was hosted at Macquarie University in a hybrid format with face-to-face and virtual options, and attracted more than 40 participants. The event started with snacks and drinks at 17WW Collaborative Forum, Macquarie University, and closed with a casual dinner with the speaker at a nearby restaurant.  

Houying Zhu 

Macquarie University 

Science Meets Parliament 2021

Science & Technology Australia (STA) has been offering its flagship event, “Science Meets Parliament” since 1999. It’s objectives are

  • To stimulate and inform parliamentarians of how science contributes to and informs public policy, and
  • To assist in professional development through providing participants with an insight into political, policy, media and parliamentary processes.

Science meets Parliament plays an important part in Science & Technology Australia’s advocacy effort, as it demonstrates, with real examples, how Australia benefits from public and private investment in science. It is also a terrific networking and professional development opportunity for participants.

In 2021, “Science Meets Parliament” was delivered virtually from 2 March to
1 April. Two lucky members were chosen to represent SSA at this year’s event. We always ask them for a written report on their experience, and I have just received the first one, written by Jason Whyte. Thank you, Jason!

Read all about Jason’s SmP experience here.

Interested in attending Science Meets Parliament next year? Keep an eye out for of search for expressions of interest in the SSA newsletters from early 2022.

COVID-19 vaccines and the DeltaVariant

I came across an interesting tweet by ABC journalist Barrie Cassidy this week. He tweeted: “This is not good. Of all deaths from the #DeltaVariant in the UK - the overwhelmingly dominant strain there - 45% had one shot and alarmingly 29% had two shots.”

My heart immediately sank. Not for long though, because thirteen years working for SSA have left their mark on me. I am not a statistician, but I thought that this kind of tweet would probably be a statistician’s dream. Don’t you just itch to pull these numbers apart? I have had zero statistical training, but the first thought that entered my mind was that the UK, like Australia, would also have vaccinated their elderly and more vulnerable population first, so I would assume that of the 29% many would be members of that cohort.

When I read the comments following Barry’s tweet, I saw that I was not far off the mark. One person replied: “Barrie - a small point: there were 33,000 delta covid cases. 42 deaths in total. 12 of the 42 had 2 shots. So out of 33,000 cases, 12 fully vaxxed people died. We have no idea if they were 103 years old with dementia or 30 year olds with no underlying conditions.”

Twitter user George Hartley wrote: “Um those stats, the 45% and 29% are from a total of *42 deaths*. Not exactly a sample size you can draw concrete conclusions from, yet.”

If you are on Twitter you may wish to add your thoughts as well. You can read the complete thread here.

Marie-Louise Rankin

ECSSC Science Communication Series:

Presenting Virtually

30 Jun 2021, 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM AEST via Zoom

Presenting is an important aspect of science communication, and in recent times it has become essential to be able to present in both live and virtual formats. In this workshop, hear from Dr Karen Lamb about how presenting virtually is different to the conventional presentation and get some tips and anecdotal advice to better your online presentation skills.

We hope participants will come away from the series with the confidence to share their research in an engaging manner.

This event is free for delegates of ECSSC2021 and costs $10 for everyone else.

Please click here to register

The SSA supports trans and gender diverse people and high-quality data collection on sex and gender

SSA's Equity, Diversity and Inclusivity Committee has developed a statement expressing the support of the SSA for the trans and gender diverse community within the SSA, and more broadly. This statement also encourages all researchers to collect data on sex and gender in an inclusive way, and is available here.

Are statistics your vocation?

In his latest column on the ISI website, ISI President John Bailer reflects on his work in statistics. He says that becoming a statistician was his vocation, one that evolved and changed over the many years of his career. He then goes on to give examples of how this came about.

He explains that as a professional statistical society, he feels the ISI needs to help people hear their vocational calls. "As a society of colleagues, the Institute must assist helping connect the gifts and passions of its members with opportunities." The same could be said for the SSA.

John ends the column with thanks to those members who responded to their call to be “society leaders, meeting organizers, journal editors and reviewers, teachers, researchers, mentors, communicators, capacity builders and so much more.

Hear, hear, John Bailer.

Read John’s column here

Australia as a STEM Superpower - Science A& Technology Policy Vision

Yesterday, Science & Technology published their policy vision, a blueprint outlining how Australia can safeguard and strengthen its sovereign science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM) capabilities.

The policy document highlights how Australia - through clever strategic investments, leveraged global collaboration, and a coordinated national strategy- can seize advantages for the nation while keeping pace with the world.

Some of the points mentioned are:

  • A national strategy to extend crucial science and technology capabilities;
  • An ambitious target of levelling-up R&D investment to 3 per cent of GDP to keep pace and compete with our international rivals;
  • A new $2.4 billion research translation and commercialisation fund to turbo-charge more of Australia’s ideas and innovations into products, services, and jobs;
  • A major new initiative to inspire school students to grow their skills, knowledge, and love of STEM in order to arrest the alarming slide in maths and science skills among school students;
  • Policy deeply informed by research and evidence;
  • Increased and deepened internationally collaborative research and engagement; and
  • A diverse and inclusive STEM workforce.
Read all about STA's Policy Vision here

Joint SSA Canberra Branch + Canberra Data Scientists Meeting

From supervised machine learning to causal heterogeneity modelling for personalised decision making 

27 Jul 2021, 6:00 PM - 7:30 PM AEST via Zoom

The SSA Canberra Branch invites you to its June branch meeting, which will be held jointly with Canberra Data Scientists, and presented Prof. Jiuyong Li, University of South Australia.

About the talk:

Causal heterogeneity modelling emerges as an effective approach for personalised decision making and is used in personalised marketing and personalised medicine. In this talk, We will differentiate causal heterogeneity modelling from supervised machine learning and show some research and applications we have done in using causal heterogeneity modelling for decision making. We will give some common practice recommendations for using causal heterogeneity modelling methods. 

ANZSC2021 Conference Hubs

While ANZSC2021 is being held virtually, most of our branches are offering opportunities for face-to-face gatherings (COVID-19 restrictions permitting). Remember to be COVID-safe. If you feel unwell on the day, please rethink your in-person attendance.

Check out the ANZSC2021 Hubs in your area:

Canberra Branch

Foreman Lecture

Tuesday, 6 July 5pm-6pm AEST

Available to SSA members, ABS staff, guests

The Foreman Lecture is being given by Professor Li-Chun Zhang on 'Graph Sampling theory: A current overview'. We will meet at the Knibbs Theatre, Australian Bureau of Statistics, Belconnen ACT to view the lecture, then will go to a nearby restaurant for dinner. SSA Canberra will subsidise the dinner but some payment from attendees will be expected.

Please contact Warren Muller  for further information.

SA Branch

ANZSC2021 Conference Dinner

Thursday, 8 July, time tba

Please email your RSVP to the organiser by 4 July 

Based on the numbers the organiser will email you the venue details and time.

NSW Branch

NSW Conference Hub

6 July, 9am to 3pm

Law Annex Lecture Theatre 101, University of Sydney

Available for delegates of ANZSC2021

The NSW Branch will host a conference hub at the University of Sydney for delegates to gather and enjoy the in-person experience of a conference alongside the virtual presentations. 

Please register here


NSW Branch Early Career and Student Statistician Mixers

6 July, 3pm to 4:30pm

Law Annex Lecture Theatre 101, University of Sydney

Available for SSA members and registered delegates of ANZSC2021

Come and join us at the University of Sydney for the NSW Branch ECSS Mixer to catch up with current friends and discover new ones while enjoying some light refreshments. There will also be a lucky draw with some SSA t-shirts or book-vouchers to be won! 

Please register here


NSW Branch Meeting: Foremen Lecture

6 July. 4:30pm for refreshments; 5pm to 6pm for lecture.

Law Annex Lecture Theatre 101, University of Sydney

Available for SSA members and registered delegates of ANZSC2021 

Please come and join for a very special Branch Meeting. The SSA NSW Branch will stream the Foreman Lecture, as a special, one-off event in this branch meeting.

No RSVP required.


NSW Hub Conference Dinner

6 July, 6:30pm until late

To be held at a nearby restaurant to University of Sydney

Available for delegates of ANZSC2021

After the Foremen Lecture, we will have a conference dinner at a nearby restaurant. We would like to encourage all delegates to join us for some delicious food in a relaxed setting. The cost of the dinner will be subsidised.

Please register here by 28 June 2021.

A Song of Wind & Fire: a statistical journey through an uncertain world

Dr Rachael Quill

Wednesday 14 July, 12pm-1pm AEST via Zoom

In this lecture, Dr Rachael Quill will explore how shedding light on the uncertainties of wind flow across the environment can support informed decision-making in bushfire management and renewable energy generation.

Extreme fire behaviours are being witnessed at an increasing rate across Australia and the world. Such behaviours were recorded in 2003 as fires rushed from the mountains into the suburbs of Canberra, destroying 500 homes and sadly claiming 4 lives. Nearly two decades of scientific research since then has pushed the boundaries of our understanding in fire dynamics, bushfire prediction and emergency management. In this lecture, we will explore how improving the understanding of uncertainties around fire behaviour enables more informed fire management through seeing a fuller picture of an event.

The principles of accounting for uncertainty translate into many different fields. In the second half of this lecture, we will explore this notion in relation to renewable energy. Integrating renewable and intermittent power into national electricity grids is a global challenge in the pursuit of lowering our carbon emissions. Enabling accurate and timely prediction of resources, such as wind, involves understanding its inherent variability then communicating and accounting for uncertainty in prediction. In a world where hard decisions must be made to address global challenges, we need to ensure those decisions are made knowing the fullest picture possible.

Register here

The Melbourne Centre for Data Science presents

A seat at the table: The key role of biostatistics and data science in the COVID-19 pandemic

Friday 2 July, 10am AEST, via Zoom

featuring Dr Jeffrey Morris.

The novel virus SARS-CoV-2 has produced a global pandemic, forcing doctors and policymakers to “fly blind,” trying to deal with a virus and disease they knew virtually nothing about. Sorting through the information in real time has been a daunting process—processing data, media reports, commentaries, and research articles. In the USA this is exacerbated by an ideologically divided society that has difficulty with mutual trust, or even agreement on common facts.  The skills underlying our statistical profession are central to this knowledge discovery process, filtering out biases, aggregating disparate data sources together, dealing with measurement error and missing data, identifying key insights while quantifying the uncertainty in these insights, and then communicating the results in an accessible balanced way.  As a result, we have had a central role to play in society to bring our perspective and expertise to bear on the pandemic to help ensure knowledge is efficiently discovered and put into practice. Unfortunately, our profession is often shy about asserting its perspective in broader societal ventures, perhaps not realising the central importance of our perspective and mindset.

Dr. Morris is a Professor and Director of the Division of Biostatistics at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.  He is a Fellow of the Institute for Mathematical Statistics (IMS) and of the American Statistical Association (ASA), and has been recognized with numerous national honors, including the ASA’s Noether Young Scholar Award and Harvard University’s Myrto Leftkopoulou Distinguished Invited Lectureship. He has served as President of the East North American Region (ENAR) of the International Biometric Society and overall program chair for the Joint Statistical Meetings, and is also currently the editor of Biology, Medicine and Genomics for the IMS journal The Annals of Applied Statistics.

For more information and to register click here

Do you have recent statistics or data science postgraduate research to showcase and would like to win some prize money?

Then you’re in luck, as SSA Canberra are holding a final call for nominations for this year’s Dennis Trewin prize! If you have interesting research that is of interest to statisticians and/or data scientists, we strongly encourage you to apply. Eligible applicants that were unsuccessful in previous years are more than welcome to re-apply this year.

Eligibility criteria:

  • At least 12 months into a postgraduate research degree or graduated from a postgraduate research degree in the last 36 months (at the time of application).
  • Undertaking/undertook the research degree from a university with a campus within the ACT or regional areas of NSW outside Newcastle-Sydney-Wollongong.

Please send an expression of interest to by Wednesday 30th June, providing a brief summary of your research topic.

Shortlisted applicants will be invited to record a 15-20 minute talk on their research. The winner will receive a $1,000 cash prize and an invitation to present their research virtually as part of SSA Canberra's branch meeting in late October.

If you have any further questions regarding the nature/format/scope of the prize, please contact


DT prize committee (SSA Canberra Council)


Statistical Society of Australia (SSA) Canberra Branch

Representing statisticians throughout the ACT and regional NSW | 

The Vic Branch of SSA is proud to present   

Julia for Statistics and Data Science -   Your first steps In statistics and integration with your current platform

8 Jul 2021– 9 Jul 2021 via Zoom

presented by Associate Professor Yoni Nazarathy from the School of Mathematics and Physics at The University of Queensland.

This two day workshop aims to enable R users and other data scientists to incrementally incorporate Julia in their workflow. After an introduction of Julia basics, the workshop focuses on the creation of a simple, yet computationally demanding simulation example. This Julia code is then incorporated in R and Python, illustrating how users may create new performant statistical software using Julia while maintaining existing code base in R or Python. With this exploration, participants will learn not just how to use Julia, but also how to integrate Julia into their day to day statistical analysis which may involve R or Python legacy code.

To learn more or to register, please click here.

ECSSC2021 Video Competition 

Submissions will open shortly for ECSSC2021 Video Competition. Working on any research? Put a video together and demonstrate your ability to concisely disseminate your research to a wider audience. Any student or early career statistician (within 5 years of graduation) in a statistics related field is welcome to enter the competition (sorry – previous winners are excluded). There is no entry fee!

For inspiration, please consider viewing previous submissions and winners. All submitted videos have been posted in the SSA ECSSN youtube channel of Statistical Society of Australia.

Scholarships available for attending ANZSC2021, ECSSC2021 and AMSI Winter School

Several branches of SSA are offering financial support to fund  participation at the Australian and New Zealand Statistical Conference 2021, the Early Career and Student Statisticians Conference and AMSI Winter School. The Canberra Branch has extended the application deadline until 28 June 2021 and is now offering reimbursements to successful applicants who are already registered for the conference.

Schemes and deadlines vary slightly between branches.

The SSA NSW Branch has just extended the application deadline of the ANZSC 2021 and ECSSC 2021 registration grants until 26th June, 2021. 

To find out what your branch is offering, please click on the appropriate blue box below.
QLD Branch
NSW Branch
VIC Branch
Canberra Branch
Canberra Branch

Early Career & Student Statisticians Conference 2021

Virtually from July 26 to August 1st

The conference is aimed at developing, maintaining and improving connections and support amongst Early Career and Students working in various scientific disciplines, including agriculture, economics, bioinformatics,artificial intelligence and machine learning, and environmental statistics.   

We have set aside a day (31 st July 2021) for our future budding statisticians! High school students, or teachers of high school and primary school students, are encouraged to join the conference.

Register here

We'd like to thank  our other generous sponsors:


The ECSSC is offering several courses leading up to the conference:

Presenting Virtually

30 Jun 2021, 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM AEST via Zoom

Convex Optimization for Statistical and Machine Learning with CVXR

24 Jul 2021, 11:00 AM – 3:00 PM AEST via Zoom

Statistical Shape Analysis via Topological Data Analysis

25 Jul 2021, 11:00 AM - 3:00 PM AEST via Zoom

If you have news from the Australian statistical community to share in Stats Matters and Events, please get in touch with us! We love getting feedback too.

Statistical Society of Australia |  PO Box 213 Belconnen ACT 2616 Australia 

02 6251 3647 |