A picture of Australia's children 2012 provides the latest information on the health and wellbeing of Australia's children aged 0-14. Many are faring well, but there is scope for further gains, particularly among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and those living in areas with the lowest socioeconomic status.

The good news

  • Death rates for infants (aged under 1) and children (aged 1-14) more than halved between 1986 and 2010, with rates slightly ahead of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) average for infants, and equal to the average for children under 5. Notably, child deaths from injuries halved between 1997 and 2010.
  • The prevalence of asthma has decreased, while the incidences of diabetes and cancer have remained stable.
  • Almost three-quarters of children aged 0-2 have stories read or told to them regularly, and most children achieve above the national minimum standard for reading and numeracy. Australia's average score for mathematics was in the top half of OECD countries.
  • Smoking in households with children has decreased, while rates of risky drinking and smoking among children have declined.
  • Most parents rate their health as excellent, or (very) good, and the majority of households with children perceive their neighbourhood as safe. Most households with children, including Indigenous, reported that they could get assistance from outside the household in times of crisis.

Things to work on

  • Around 1 in 7 women smoked during pregnancy, and about half of pregnant women drank alcohol.
  • Exclusive breastfeeding was initiated for 90% of infants at birth; however only 2 in 5 infants were exclusively breastfed to around 4 months.
  • An estimated 45% of children aged 6 and 39% of children aged 12 experienced dental decay.
  • Almost a quarter of children were developmentally vulnerable on one or more domains of the Australian Early Development Index at school entry.
  • About 15% of parents were affected by mental health problems.
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children experience higher death rates, including from injuries, than the national average. They were less likely to have achieved the reading and numeracy minimum standards, and had higher smoking rates than the general child population.
  • Children living in the lowest socioeconomic status (SES) areas were less likely to have stories read or told to them regularly, more likely to be exposed to tobacco smoke in the home, and more likely to smoke themselves than children living in the highest SES areas.
  • Teenage birth rates were higher in the lowest SES areas than in the highest SES areas, and parents living in the lowest SES areas were more likely to report fair/poor health and poorer mental health compared with those in the highest SES areas.