16 December 2021

Dear {Contact_First_Name},

With 2021 drawing to a close, I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for your support of the SSA throughout this year. I hope that you are able to relax and recharge before 2022!

With border closures and repeated lockdowns, and all that goes along with those, 2021 was another challenging year. However, there were some bright moments within the SSA in 2021. The SSA’s Mentoring Program was launched at the start of the year and was a great success. Matching of pairs is already underway for the 2022 program. The Society launched its Equity, Diversity and Inclusivity Committee, which is dedicated to ensuring that our Society is as welcoming, respectful, and inclusive as it can be. On that note, the Committee wants to hear what you think of the Society with respect to equity and diversity: if you have 5 minutes spare, please fill out our survey here.

And of course, the Society’s major event took place in July: the biennial conference. Postponed from 2020, and run entirely online, this conference was an astounding success, with inspiring talks from researchers at all career stages, fantastic social events, and the announcement of the 2021 Pitman Medal, awarded to Professor Rob Hyndman. And then, shortly after: the Early Career and Student Statistician conference. This was another brilliant event, showcasing the breadth of statistical expertise in our early career statisticians. The organising committees of both of these conferences put in an enormous amount of effort – effort which certainly paid off.

Add to all of this a full program of Branch and Section events, workshops, PhD Scholarships, Fellowship Funding awards, SSA joining the Royal Statistical Society and American Statistical Association in the production of Significance magazine, and the Society welcoming its 1000th member! There were quite a few bright moments within the SSA in 2021. I hope that you had some bright moments in 2021 too.

Jessica Kasza
SSA President

Read newsletter in your browser

South Australia Branch: Cornish Memorial Lecture with Rob Hyndman

The SA Branch’s Cornish memorial lecture is held once every two years in honour of Professor E. A. Cornish. This year’s Cornish lecture was delivered by Rob Hyndman FAA FASSA, Professor of Statistics and Head of the Department of Econometrics and Business Statistics. 

Forty members from all across Australia attended the event. Usually, the Cornish lecture is delivered face-to-face, but due to Covid restrictions we had to conduct this event, like so many others, online. When we still had a glimmer of hope of the state borders opening, we approached Rob, and he readily agreed to do give the lecture. He was even open to coming down to Adelaide personally.

Rob’s lecture was titled “Feasts and fables: modern tools for time series analysis”. These days it is common for organisations to collect huge amounts of data over time, and existing time series analysis tools are not always able to handle the scale, frequency and structure of the data collected. During his talk, Rob demonstrated some interesting new tools and methods that have been developed to handle the analysis of large collections of time series. These include a feature-based approach for exploring time series data in high dimensions, and to allow anomalous time series to be identified within a collection of time series. Rob also showed show how automated large-scale probabilistic forecasting is now very easy to do. He illustrated his ideas using the tsibble, feasts and fable packages for R, giving his audience an interesting insight into various R libraries. The feedback received after the event was very positive, as everyone thoroughly enjoyed Rob’s presentation.

We will make a copy of the recording available to members of SSA shortly. Branch meeting recordings can be viewed here.

Murthy Mittinty
President, SA Branch

 Logo Competition for ASC2023

The theme for the 2023 Australian Statistical Conference (ASC) is ‘Statisticians in society’, focussing on the key role statisticians play in communication across diverse areas that are key to our society. The importance of statistical thinking has become increasingly prominent in recent years through the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change discussions around COP26. Our communication theme acknowledges the important role that statisticians play - not only as experts in analysing data, but as communicators of uncertainty - when making decisions that affect our daily lives and the world around us. ASC 2023 will bring together statisticians from across Australia, as an opportunity to communicate with one another, and advance our collective knowledge of statistical methods and applications. We look forward to offering a diverse program featuring speakers from academia, government and industry across a range of disciplines and career stages.  

The Local Organising Committee of ASC023 is keen to involve the SSA community in a competition to create a logo for ASC2023 conference. Please note that the conference will be held in NSW with the dates to be advised in due course. The winner will be awarded with free conference registration for ASC2023.  

Please upload the logo you designed here and in the google form briefly explain why you designed the logo the way you did, enter your name, and contact details.   

Science Meets Parliament 2022

Congratulations to SSA members

  • Elizabeth Korevaar
  • Clara Grazian and
  • Ben Harrap

on having been selected to represent SSA at "Science Meets Parliament 2022", hosted by Science & Technology Australia. Our applicants stood out not only through their own excellent academic work, but also through many years of volunteering for SSA. SSA is proud to be represented by these dedicated delegates.

Is Synthetic Data the Solution?

Earlier this week the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the SSA hosted the “ABS Symposium on Data Access and Privacy”. Over three days key stake holders from the Australian Public Service, overseas presenters and other delegates discussed public data access and privacy sharing experience in enabling data access for research while ensuring confidentiality.

It can be tough balancing the benefits of data access and the public’s right to keeping their data private.

Could synthetic data be the answer? According to the article “The promise and pitfalls of synthetic data” (Diane Peters, 13 December 2021, “University Affairs”, Canada) one solution that scientists are looking into, is the creation of datasets that mimic important properties of the real thing, which could help ease privacy concerns. However, creating synthetic data is not always straightforward.

Find out more about the pros and cons of working with synthetic data.

Find out more about the pros and cons of synthetic data.


Vale John Zarb

A memorial notice appeared in a recent Canberra Times for John Zarb, who died in September this year. John had been the go to person at the ABS for Time Series and Seasonal Adjustment when I joined and retained this peculiar position for most of my time there, a distinctive if for me distant figure, undemonstrative yet respected. He had been invited to present lectures to an ONS audience in London, but had not attained sufficient rank in the organisation to warrant backing and did not travel; a block faced by ABS specialists to this day I believe. 

Yet John had been a celebrity well before joining ABS. As a conscientious objector he had been gaoled for defying the Vietnam War draft. If descending to the underpass in Punt Road in inner Melbourne in the 1970s many may recall in large uneven white letters on the Railway bridge “Free Zarb”. As far as I know this exhortation to the world notwithstanding, John did serve time equivalent to military service locked up. 

I had no cause to tackle John on his past; I don't know how many of his ABS colleagues knew of it. Yet his stand would have inspired many among the million who had taken to the streets in Melbourne and other Australian cities in protest at Australia’s overseas military involvement; foreshadowing the end to conscription and withdrawal of forces not long after. 

John Zarb deserves to be remembered for his international standing in official statistics; I hope his passing has not gone unnoticed in the ABS for that reason. In my eyes his moral stand on an issue that had split the population deserves equally to be remembered. 

Stephen Horn
Chair, Official Statistics Section

Loss and grief in the COVID pandemic: more than counting losses and moving on 

As we look back on 2021 and a second year of having lived with COVID-19, it seems to be getting more and more difficult not to get desensitised when listening to the daily announcements of infection numbers and deaths. Just yesterday, "The Conversation" published an article by Alida G Herbst, Director of the School of Psychosocial Health, North-West University, South Africa: "Loss and grief in the COVID pandemic: more than counting losses and moving on". In her article Alida addresses the risk of becoming desensitised and reminds her readers of the impact the illness itself and the grief can have on individuals. She writes: "At the time of writing this article, the World Health Organisation’s dashboard reported the following global statistics: 265,713,467 confirmed cases and 5,260,888 deaths. Suppose a family has four members. If one member gets infected with COVID-19, behind the 265,713,467 confirmed cases there are triple that number of people affected in one way or another. If one member of a family dies, behind the 5,260,888 deaths there are potentially more than 15 million people mourning. In fact, a recent study estimated that on average, each COVID-19 death leaves nine bereaved family members."

Alida concludes her article with a list of recommendations for steps society and governments could take to support those left behind. Measures could include lighting of landmarks in a show of unity and support, changes to compassionate leave for employees, the media sharing stories of actual people touched by the pandemic and more.

Read the full article here

SSA Workshop: Introduction to Machine Learning for Health Data

12 -13 May 2022,   9:00 AM - 5:00 PM each day, Adelaide

Craving an in-person event? SSA and Flinders University are proudly offering a 2 day course with Presenter Dr Oscar Perez-Concha, Centre for Big Data Research in Health, UNSW Sydney.

This workshop introduces the basics for understanding and using machine learning algorithms.

We will discuss the machine learning workflow, from clearly defining our research question to the rationale behind choosing different machine learning techniques for different scenarios, highlighting questions such as over-fitting/under-fitting, missing data, and interpretability. We will focus on the principles behind some of the most used supervised learning algorithms.

However, the detailed mathematics underlying these algorithms will not be discussed.Real healthcare scenarios using Python will be presented. Participants need not have prior exposure to Python.

Dr Oscar Perez-Concha is a health data scientist with over 15 years’ experience in machine learning and statistical modelling. Oscar currently works as a Lecturer at the Centre for Big Data Research in Health (CBDRH), UNSW Sydney. His research focuses on answering questions related to health and healthcare, using statistical and machine learning methods on large electronic health record datasets. This is to identify and explore outcomes for these patient groups, improve patient care and streamline clinical processes. Oscar is also passionate about teaching and supervising students. In 2018, he developed an introductory course to Machine Learning which he convenes and teaches as part of the UNSW Master of Science in Health Data Science, the first such program in the southern hemisphere.

Register here

Before you go...Tips for easing yourself into a new work year in 2022

With many of you going on leave soon, I thought I’d share some tips published by Wiley on 1 December 2021 under the heading “Relax. Rest. Recharge. Reset". Author Lucie Peplow, Customer Marketing, Wiley, came up with seven tips on how to make your return to the office next year less daunting:

Before you leave the office:

1. Delete, file, and flag: Be ruthless on your inbox. Allocate a block of time to deal with old emails before you leave the office. Archive everything that’s more than 6 months old. Flag the things that need attention on your return.

2. A clean ship is a happy ship: Whether you’re working from home or in the office spend time filing, tidying, and cleaning your workspace before you head off for the break. Your future return-to-work-self will thank you!

3. Make a list (and check it twice): Before you switch off, list the things you know will be high priority or time-sensitive upon your return so that you have a ready-made plan of action.

4. Let technology bear the mental load: Set up your email and voicemail out-of-office messages so that anyone contacting you knows not to expect an immediate response.

Upon your return:

5. This is a meeting-free zone: Keep your first morning back completely free by blocking out your calendar to focus on identifying what is urgent (and perhaps more importantly - what can wait!).

6. Let us help you get ahead: To answer questions or if you need guidance on Wiley products, the Wiley Customer Success Hub is a great place to start with numerous user guides, videos and on-demand training. Or if you need an open access 101 or refresher – check out our short video guides

7. Treat yourself: Make time for something that brings you joy on the first day back to reality - whether it’s a cup of your favorite coffee; a walk in the fresh air or something delicious for lunch.


The SSA Office will be closed for the Christmas break from next Thursday, 23 December 2021 until Monday, 17 January 2022. You will receive one more issue of the SSA newsletter this year.

The first issue of 2022 will make its way to your inbox on 20 January 2022.

Are you

  • considering postgraduate studies,
  • looking to develop your skills or
  • seeking a career change?

Now is the time to check out the Biostatistics Collaboration of Australia’s revised program for semester 1 2022 enrolment.

Check out current job vacancies in SSA's Career Centre here

Lecturer/Senior Lecturer in Business Analytics

Monash University

Job No.: 627158 Location: Caulfield campus ...

Biostatistician - Senior Research Fellow

Austin Health

Austin Health is the major provider of tertiary ...

Research Associate in Ecological Statistics

UNSW Sydney

$96K - $105K plus 17% Superannuation and annual ...

Research Fellow - Department of Renal Medicine

Monash University

Job No.: 626637 Location: The Alfred Centre ...

Research Associate/ Research Fellow

University of Sydney

12-month fixed term, flexible between 0.5 FTE ...



Biostatistician Clinical Research Datapharm ...

Associate Lecturer - Epidemiology and Biostatistics

The University of Sydney

Associate Lecturer opportunity teaching biostatistics ...

View All Jobs

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 |