“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.” Nelson Mandela

A new report released in Canberra on 15 March by the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY) entitled The Wellbeing of Young Australians, puts Australia’s youth on the middle to lower end of the wellbeing scale out of 34 OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) nations.

youth wellbeing

Taking into account 46 indicators, the report compares tangible measures of child and youth wellbeing. This includes: material wellbeing, health and safety, education, family relationships adolescent behaviour and risk taking.

Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth CEO, Dr Lance Emerson, said:

“The good news is we rank in the top third for 12 of the indicators but there are ominous signs that this achievement is fragile, particularly when you look at where we are performing poorly or moderately.”

Key findings:

  • As a nation Australia is middle of the road: we ranked in the top third of OECD countries for only 12 out of 46 indicators.
  • Australia is ranked relatively poorly when it comes to keeping our kids safe and preventing deaths from injuries: we ranked 22nd out of 34 OECD countries. Australia ranks 22nd on infant mortality and 29th for rates of some infant vaccinations to prevent disease.
  • Teenage pregnancy rates are higher than the OECD average, with Australia ranked 22nd out of 34 OECD countries.
  • 30% of young Australians aged 15-24 years are overweight or obese and 57% lead sedentary lifestyles. Most children don’t eat the recommended levels of fruit and vegetables.
  • 7% of young people smoke daily, 15% drink at risky levels and 18% use illicit drugs on a regular basis.
  • More than 10% of young people suffer high levels of psychological distress. This is 3 times greater among Indigenous communities.
  • Primary age school age children performed poorly in reading, maths and science but by year 10 students performances had improved.
  • 20% of Australian youth are unemployed or not in full time education.
  • 20% of Australian children lived at or below the poverty line in 2010. The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer, many young children now live in jobless families.

Director of Family and Children’s Services at Victoria’s Doveton College, June McLoughlin, said “It is incomprehensible we are in the bottom third for income inequality – which in the past the World Bank and the World Health Organisation have calculated as a key predictor of life expectancy; and that with preschool age children having access to early learning, we’re 30th out of 34 OECD nations.”

Dr Bruce Bradbury, an expert on child poverty from the Social Policy Research Centre, UNSW said “Family economic resources are of central importance for determining the goods that children can consume and the environments in which they live. In addition, child cognitive and behavioural outcomes are strongly associated with family economic resources, and this association is stronger in countries with greater economic inequality.”

To read the full report card go to ARACY

Writer Helen Splarn. Editor Dr Ramesh Manocha.
Source: ARACY. Sydney Morning Herald