Australia is failing its children: report

Children in Australia are languishing in the current economic and social systems, according to a new report.  

The report, complied by the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY) with the support of UNICEF Australia, was launched by Families Minister Jenny Macklin and ARACY board chair, Fiona Stanley.

Ms Macklin said the report provided vital baseline data to help gauge the improvements for Australian children and youth over time, enabling the Government to compare the Australian average, the Indigenous Australian average and international or OECD performance.

“The ARACY report card is a clear signal there is no room for complacency and a need for improvement,” she said.

Among the key finding were:

• Australian children were three times as likely to live in poverty as children in Finland and 12 times as likely to live in a jobless household as those in Japan.

•  Australia ranks 20th out of 27 nations for infant mortality and the infant mortality rate for Indigenous Australians is more than double the non-Indigenous rate.

• Indigenous Australian babies have the lowest birth weight in the OECD.

• Teenage pregnancy rates are much higher than the OECD average, with Australia ranked 21st out of 30 countries. The rates for Indigenous young Australians are the highest in the OECD.

• Australia is weak in measures of family relationships, ranking 21st out of 27 nations in terms of children eating a meal with their parents, and 18th in parents spending time talking with their children.

• In school achievement Australia ranks in the top eight of OECD nations in reading, maths and science. School achievement for Indigenous young Australians is in the bottom three.

Professor Stanley said the report was “a wake-up call” to the nation, reinforcing the need for a fundamental change in the way Australia provided for its children.

“If this was the Olympics, Australians would be horrified that we’ve failed to bring home a single medal, let alone any gold ones.

“We need to be asking how an affluent and successful country like Australia can be so average when it comes to raising our children and whether we’re prepared to continue to accept mediocrity for our young people,” she said.

“The bottom line is that changes that benefit children invariably benefit all of us. The risk is that if we fail to act now, we’ll all be bearing the consequences for years to come as an increasing number of young people are condemned to the fringes of our society.”

ARACY CEO Lance Emerson said while the Australian Government has recently stepped up its initiatives to improve the wellbeing of children and young people, urgent action by the whole of the community was needed to bring about real changes.

“The poor results for children highlighted in the ARACY report card can no longer be seen as the unfortunate side-effect of our economic progress. We need a better balance between economic progress and a socially and environmentally sustainable society.

“The big challenge for Australia is to work together to create a society in which all children and young people are highly valued and have the opportunity to become the best they can be,” Dr Emerson said.

The ARACY report card and supporting technical report can be found here.

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