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released: 17 Jun 2009 author: AIHW media release

This report delivers the latest information on how, as a nation, we are faring according to key indicators of child health, development and wellbeing. Death rates among children have fallen dramatically, and most children are physically active and meet minimum standards for reading and numeracy. But it is not all good news. Rates of severe disability and diabetes are on the rise. Too many children are overweight or obese, or are at risk of homelessness, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children fare worse on most key indicators.

ISBN 978 1 74024 929 4; Cat. no. PHE 112; 224pp.; Internet only

Summary

A picture of Australia's children 2009 is the fourth in a series of national statistical reports on children aged 0-14 years. This report provides the latest available information on how Australia's children are faring according to key national indicators of health, development and wellbeing. Drawing on the advice of the National Child Information Advisory Group, it brings together a broad range of indicators that cover health status, risk and protective factors, early learning and education, family and community environments, safety and security, and system performance. The indicators include ministerially endorsed Children's Headline Indicators, published for the first time in this report.

The report contains nearly all of the indicators with specific relevance to children agreed by the Council of Australian Governments for monitoring performance under the National Healthcare Agreement, the National Education Agreement and the National Indigenous Reform Agreement. This report, however, provides a broader spectrum of indicators related to child health, development and wellbeing (see Box 2 for the indicator framework).

Key findings

Many Australian children are faring well, but there is much scope for further gains, particularly among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. The table on the following page summarises recent achievements and concerns, and identifies important data gaps. This is followed by statistics on the key national indicators presented in this report for quick reference.

The good news

  • Large declines in death rates (mostly due to a decline in injury deaths).
  • Declines in asthma hospitalisations and improved survival for leukaemia.
  • Favourable trends in some risk and protective factors, such as immunisation coverage, teenage births and smoking rates among older children.
  • Most children meet national physical activity guidelines and achieve national minimum standards for reading and numeracy.

Things to work on

  • Rising rates of severe disability, diabetes and, among 6 year olds, dental decay.
  • Far too many children spend more than the recommended time in front of a video screen (including television and computers), are overweight or obese, are not eating recommended amounts of vegetables, are homeless or at risk of homelessness, or are victims of assault.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children

  • are far more likely to be disadvantaged across a broad range of health and socioeconomic indicators—2-3 times as likely to die, be of low birthweight or have dental caries; 5 times as likely to be born to teenage mothers; 8-9 times as likely to be in the child protection system; and 24 times as likely to be in juvenile justice supervision.

Children living in remote areas

  • have higher death rates; higher rates of neural tube defects; lower rates of cancer survival; worse dental decay; and are less likely to meet minimum standards for reading and numeracy, than those in major cities.

Summary table: achievements, concerns and the unknown

Health status

  • Achievements
    • Infant and child mortality rates halved between 1986-2006
    • Asthma hospitalisations and general practice visits have declined
    • Cancer survival continues to improve, especially for leukaemia
  • Areas of concerns
    • Poorer outcomes for Indigenous children in multiple areas (e.g. death rates 3 times as high)
    • Infant and under 5 child mortality compares unfavourably with other OECD countries
    • Incidence of diabetes and hospitalisations for diabetes increasing
    • Prevalence of overall disability and severe disability increasing
  • What we don't know
    • Prevalence of mental health problems and disorders among children

Healthy child development

  • Achievements
    • Dental decay among 12 year olds decreasing
    • Almost three-quarters of children (9-14 years) meet physical activity guidelines
  • Areas of concern
    • Dental decay among 6 year olds increasing
    • Only one-third of children (9-14 years) meet guidelines for video screen viewing
    • Most children do not consume recommended amounts of vegetables
  • What we don't know
    • How many infants are exclusively breastfed at 4 and 6 months
    • How many infants are read to by an adult

Learning and development

  • Achievements
    • Most children in Year 5 meet national minimum standards for reading and numeracy
  • Areas of concern
    • Indigenous Year 5 students less likely to meet national minimum standards for reading and numeracy
  • What we don't know
    • How many children attend early childhood education programs in the 2 years before school
    • Social and emotional development of children

Adverse factors

  • Achievements
    • Teenage births and smoking among older children have declined
    • Fewer children are exposed to tobacco smoke in the home
  • Areas of concern
    • Teenage birth rate compares unfavourably with other OECD countries and 5 times as high among Indigenous women
    • One in six women smoke and 60% consume alcohol during pregnancy
    • Over one-fifth of children nationally are either overweight or obese
  • What we don't know
    • --

Families and communities

  • Achievements
    • Most parents of children rate their health as good, very good or excellent
    • Most households with children have access to social support and perceive their neighbourhood to be safe
  • Areas of concern
    • One-fifth of parents have poor mental health
    • One-fifth of children live with a parent with disability
  • What we don't know
    • How many children live in healthy functioning families

Safety and security

  • Achievements
    • Injury death rates fell by almost 40% over the decade 1997-2006
    • Accidental drowning death rates almost halved between 1997 and 2006
  • Areas of concern
    • Over one-third of child deaths are preventable as they are caused by injuries
    • Almost 20,000 children are victims of physical or sexual assault
    • Indigenous children overrepresented in child protection system (8-9 times as high) and juvenile justice supervision (24 times as high)
    • Almost 65,000 children are homeless or at risk of homelessness, there are high unmet requests for SAAP accommodation for families with children
  • What we don't know
    • Prevalence of bullying in schools
    • Prevalence of child abuse and neglect and whether this has changed over time

System performance

  • Achievements
    • Immunisation coverage highest on record (93% for 2 year olds)
    • Increased neonatal hearing screening
    • Five-year relative survival for leukaemia has increased
  • Areas of concern
    • Immunisation coverage at 6 years is lower than at 1 or 2 years of age
  • What we don't know
    • How quality child care should be defined

Key national indicators of child health, development and wellbeing: quick reference guide

Key: ü = favourable trend; û = unfavourable trend; ~ = no change or clear trend; . . = no trend data presented.

 

How healthy are Australia's children?
Indicator area Indicator Value Trend
Mortality Infant mortality per 1,000 live born infants (2006)(a) 4.7 ü
Mortality Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) deaths per 100,000 live births (2006) 24 ü
Mortality Deaths per 100,000 children aged 1-14 years (2006) 13 ü
Morbidity Percentage of children aged 0-14 years with asthma as a long-term condition (2004-05) 12 ~
Morbidity New cases of insulin-dependent diabetes per 100,000 children aged 0-14 years (2006) 23 û
Morbidity New cases of cancer per 100,000 children aged 0-14 years (2001-2005) 14 . .
Disability Percentage of children aged 0-14 years with severe or profound core activity limitations (2003) 4.3 û
Congenital anomalies Rate of selected congenital anomalies among infants per 10,000 births (1998-2003):    
Congenital anomalies neural tube defects 4.5 . .
Congenital anomalies Down syndrome 11 . .
Congenital anomalies abdominal wall defects 4.4 . .
Congenital anomalies orofacial clefts 17 . .
Mental health Proportion of children aged 4-14 years with mental health problems (2004-05) No recent data available  
Mental health Proportion of children aged 6-14 years with mental health disorders (ADHD, depressive disorder, conduct disorder) (2004-05) No recent data available  

 

How well are we promoting healthy child development?
Indicator area Indicator Value Trend
Breastfeeding Percentage of infants exclusively breastfed at 4 months of age(a) National data not available  
Dental health Percentage of children decay-free (2002):    
Dental health at age 6 years 53 ~
Dental health at age 12 years 58 ü
Dental health Mean number of decayed, missing or filled teeth (DMFT) at 12 years (2002)(a) 1.0 ~
Physical activity Percentage of children aged 9-14 years (2007):    
Physical activity meeting the National Physical Activity Guidelines 74 . .
Physical activity not exceeding the screen time guidelines 33 . .
Early learning Proportion of children aged < 1 year old who are read to by an adult on a regular basis National data not available  

 

How well are Australia's children learning and developing?
Indicator area Indicator Value Trend
Attending early childhood education programs Proportion of children attending an educational program in the 2 years before beginning primary school(a) Data not available  
Transition to primary school Proportion of children entering school with basic skills for life and learning(a) National data not available  
Attendance at primary school Attendance rate of children at primary school, per cent (Year 5) (2007) (a) 85-95 . .
Literacy and numeracy Percentage of children in Year 5 who achieved at or above the national minimum standards (2008):    
Literacy and numeracy reading(a) 91 . .
Literacy and numeracy numeracy(a) 93 . .
Social and emotional development Under development Data not available  

 

What factors can affect children adversely?
Indicator area Indicator Value Trend
Teenage births Age-specific birth rate per 1,000 15-19 year old women (2006)(a) 17 ü
Smoking in pregnancy Proportion of women who smoked during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy(a) National data not available  
Alcohol use during pregnancy Percentage of women who consumed alcohol during pregnancy (2007) 60 ü
Birthweight Percentage of live born infants of low birthweight (2006)(a) 6 ~
Overweight and obesity Percentage of children aged 2-12 years whose BMI score is above the international cut-off points for ‘overweight' and ‘obese' for their age and sex (2007)(a) 22 . .
Environmental tobacco smoke Percentage of households with children aged 0-14 years where someone smokes inside (2007) 8 ü
Tobacco use Percentage of children aged 12-14 years who are current smokers (2005) 5 ü
Alcohol misuse Percentage of children aged 12-14 years who have engaged in risky drinking on any one occasion (2005) 2.6 û

 

What kind of families and communities do Australia's children live in?
Indicator area Indicator Value Trend
Family functioning Under development Data not available  
Family economic situation Average weekly real equivalised disposable household income for households with children in the 2nd and 3rd income deciles (2005-06)(a) $347 ü
Children in non-parental care Number of children per 1,000 aged 0-14 years in out-of-home care (2008) 7 û
Percentage of children aged 0-17 years in grandparent families (2006-07) 0.4 ü
Parental health status Percentage of parents rating their health as ‘fair' or ‘poor' (2006) 13 . .
Percentage of children living with parents with disability (2003) 19 . .
Percentage of parents with mental health problems (2006) 21 . .
Neighbourhood safety Percentage of households with children aged 0-14 years where their neighbourhood is perceived as safe (2006) 86 . .
Social capital Percentage of households with children aged 0-14 years where respondent was able to get support in time of crisis from persons living outside household (2006) 94 ~

 

How safe and secure are Australia's children?
Indicator area Indicator Value Trend
Injuries Age-specific death rates from all injuries for children aged 0-14 years, per 100,000 (2006)(a) 6 ü
Injuries Road transport accident death rate for children aged 0-14 years, per 100,000 (2007) 1.6 ü
Injuries Accidental drowning death rate for children aged 0-14 years, per 100,000 (2006) 1.0 ü
Injuries Assault death rate for children aged 0-14 years, per 100,000 (2006-07) 0.7 . .
Injuries Injury hospitalisation rate for children aged 0-14 years, per 100,000 (2006-07) 1,462 ü
Injuries Assault hospitalisation rate for children aged 0-14 years, per 100,000 (2006-07) 20 ü
Injuries Intentional self-harm hospitalisation rate for children aged 10-14 years, per 100,000 (2006-07) 41 û
School relationships and bullying Under development Data not available  
Child abuse and neglect Children aged 0-12 years who were the subject of a substantiation of a child protection notification received in 2007-08(a) 7 ü
Child abuse and neglect Children aged 0-12 years who were the subject of care and protection orders, per 1,000 (2008) 7 û
Children as victims of violence Children aged 0-14 years per 100,000 who have been the victims of (2003):    
Children as victims of violence physical assault 309 . .
Children as victims of violence sexual assault 187 . .
Homelessness Number of accompanying children aged 0-14 years attending agencies funded under the Supported Accommodation Assistance Program, per 1,000 (2006-07) 16 . .
Children and crime Number of children aged 10-14 years who are under juvenile justice supervision, per 1,000 (2006-07) 1.7 . .

 

How well is the system performing in delivering quality health, development and wellbeing actions to Australia's children?
Indicator area Indicator Value Trend
Neonatal hearing screening Proportion of children identified as requiring a hearing aid who are then fitted with a hearing aid by 6 and/or 12 months of age Data not available  
Childhood immunisation Percentage of children on the Australian Childhood Immunisation Register who are fully immunised at 2 years of age (2008)(a) 93 ü
Survival of leukaemia Five-year relative survival rate for leukaemia in children aged 0-14 years (1998-2004) (per cent) 83 ü
Quality of child care Under development Data not available  
Child protection resubstantiations Number of children aged 0-12 years who were the subject of a child protection resubstantiation in a given year, per 1,000 Data not available  

(a) Children's Headline Indicator.

Key: ü = favourable trend; û = unfavourable trend; ~ = no change or clear trend; . . = no trend data presented.

Recommended citation

AIHW 2009. A picture of Australia's children 2009. Cat. no. PHE 112. Canberra: AIHW.