A positive start in life helps children to reach their full potential, while a poor start increases the chances of adverse outcomes.

A child’s health, family relationships, where and how they live, the quality of parenting they receive, how they perform at school, their social interactions, and whether they are safe from harm are among a multitude of factors that can have lifelong effects.

Healthy development requires that children grow and learn in supportive and nurturing environments. Early disadvantage can have lasting effects—children who are vulnerable are more likely to develop problems with health, development, learning and behaviours. These problems may have a cumulative effect over their lives, which can have an impact on their ability to fully participate in society.

While many of our children are doing well, there is scope for further gains, particularly among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and children in socioeconomic disadvantaged areas.

Timely, accurate and comprehensive information is essential for monitoring the progress of Australia’s children, and is critical for the development of evidence-based policy. The AIHW reports on child health and wellbeing in its Children’s Headline Indicators, a set of 19 indicators spanning the domains of health, early education and care, and family and community endorsed by the Australian Health Ministers' Conference, Community and Disability Services Ministers' Conference and the Australian Education, Early Childhood Development and Youth Affairs Senior Officials Committee.

Adolescence and young adulthood

Adolescence and young adulthood is a significant period of transition in a person’s life. It is a time when young people are undergoing rapid emotional, physical and intellectual changes and many modifiable behaviours risk factors (such as smoking and drinking alcohol) either emerge or accelerate during this time.

This transition is affected by social, economic, environmental and, particularly in recent years, technological changes. The pathways from education to work, and from the parental home to independent living, have become more varied and complex for young people, and often extend over longer periods. Each of these transitions comes with its own challenges. How young people navigate these changes can affect the rest of their life course significantly.

While the majority of Australia’s young people cope well with the transitions from adolescence to young adulthood, there are some who are vulnerable to harm and who face limited social, educational or economic opportunities. While there are many factors associated with vulnerability, Indigenous youths, young people from low  socioeconomic areas, youths in the child protection and youth justice systems, and those experiencing homeliness are at increased risk.

The National Youth information Framework (NYIF), developed by the National Youth Information Advisory Committee, focuses on identified priority areas for young people aged 12–24. The framework comprises a set of 38 indicators in 5 areas: health status and wellbeing; health system performance; factors influencing health; family, relationships and community; and education, employment and economic situation.

The AIHW reports on the indicators in its NYIF dynamic data display. The youth data portal builds on the AIHW's Young Australians: their health and wellbeing series of national reports, the last of which was released in 2011, and is a companion product to the Children Headline Indicators dynamic data display.