Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Lucky Country: How are the kids faring?

The Australian Research Alliance for Children & Youth (ARACY) has released a report card on the well being of Australia's young people. The report was based on an OECD study that has compared 27 member countries on a range of measures, including material well being, health and safety, education, training and employment, peer and family relationships, behaviours and risks, subjective well being, participation and environment.

While Australia does well on some measures, surprisingly it doesn't do as well as we might expect in others, and data for Indigenous children are well below what you would expect for a wealthy country like Australia. Here are some of the most notable findings from the report:
  • Australian children were 12 times as likely to live in a jobless household as those in Japan
  • Australia ranks 20th out of 27 nations for infant mortality.
  • The infant mortality rate for Indigenous Australians is more than double the non-Indigenous rate.
  • Teenage pregnancy rates for Indigenous young Australians are the highest in the OECD.
  • Youth road deaths are 12 times higher than Portugal.
  • Australia's Indigenous young people have a suicide rate second only to Finland.
  • Participation in community activities by Australia's young people is strong.

While Australia is a wealthy nation and its children are very fortunate in world terms, the report raises serious questions for us to address. There have been numerous reports that note our higher than expected youth suicide, others have noted the high teenage death rate on our roads, and many have focussed on many significant areas of Indigenous disadvantage in infant mortality (which I assume is the reason for Australia's 20th ranking), education and suicide (see my previous post here). The Rudd Labor government was elected based on a number of reform agendas. One of these was the promise of an "educational revolution" and a number of Indigenous health agendas. In a country with one of the best school systems in the world, and a health system that is the envy of other countries, it would seem to me that a key agenda for the government will be the extent to which it addresses areas of key disadvantage in education and health. This is one of the key ways that I will judge the success of the government in two years time.

Further reading

Download the OECD report here
Read in more detail the ARACY report card here
You can read my previous posts on Indigenous Issues here

No comments: