New report shows Australia continues to fall behind in children’s outcomes

A new report card examining a wide range of child and youth health, wellbeing and education data reveals that Australia is doing worse than, or only meeting, the international average in two-thirds of indicators.

According to the 2018 Report Card released by ARACY, the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth, Australia is out-performing international outcomes for areas such as smoking and alcohol abuse, time spent with families and life expectancy at birth.

But Australia continues to demonstrate poor performance in a number of key indicators, with results well below the international average in vaccination rates, bullying and mental health.

The vaccination rate data will be of particular concern for health professionals and policy makers, given the significant community discussion over the last several years and strict Government policies such as the No Jab, No Play legislation. Despite this, the percentage of children aged 2 who are fully vaccinated has fallen from 92.2% in 2013 to 90.5% today.

For National Quality Framework professionals, the Report Card highlights ongoing challenges with Australia’s provision of early education and care.

While Australia’s regulatory system is dramatically outperforming other countries, with our educator:child ratios ranked 1st out of 32 OECD countries, enrolment and participation rates are in the lowest third of rankings.

  • Preschool enrolment rate ranking: 35/40
  • Years spent in early education ranking: 42/48
  • Family cost of access to early education: 20/30
  • Enrolment rate of children aged 0-3 ranking: 19/37

Given the stringent Activity Test of the Government’s new Child Care Package due to begin in July, it cannot be seen how these indicators will improve by the time the next Report Card is released in 2023. While most comparable countries are looking for ways to increase access to early education, particularly for children at risk of or experiencing vulnerability, Australian policy settings continue to make access for those children more and more difficult.

Alongside other recent data releases, the Report Card highlights the continued structural barriers and discrimination faced by Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander children and youth.

  • A third of Indigenous youth aged 15-19 have a probable mental illness
  • Indigenous youth are 3 times more likely to commit suicide than non-Indigenous youth
  • Indigenous children are 10 times more likely to be in out-of-home care than non-Indigenous children
  • Indigenous children are 25 times more likely to be in detention than non-Indigenous children

With reports that Closing the Gap targets will need to be “refreshed” as Governments have consistently failed to meet the majority of them, there does not appear to be any clear policy directions or responses to deal with these statistics.

“Every young person deserves a chance to succeed in life,” said ARACY CEO Stephen Bartos.

“We are doing well by some measures, but on far too many the data shows large numbers of Australian kids are missing out. A particular concern is too many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kids are not getting a fair go.”

Mr Bartos called on the Federal Government to create a Minister for Children, who could have responsibility for these issues across a range of areas.

“Helping all young Australians to reach their potential requires a more coordinated approach. Young people depend on a range of policies and services including health, education, employment, and justice, all of which work better when they cooperate and align. However it is to be done, Australia’s children must be given top priority.”

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