ACHPER WA Board member Clara Deans summarises the recent ARACY Report Card: The wellbeing of young Australians.
The Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY) is a research and results focused, apolitical organisation working with government, researchers and those providing services to children and their families. The main focus for ARACY is on prevention, heading off problems before they arise. ARACY is unique in making the link between all areas of wellbeing for young Australians and between all areas of government, policy making, research and service delivery to address the issues young Australians face.
Australia is currently in the top third of Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries on a mere quarter of the indicators of child and youth wellbeing. The goal of the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY) is to have Australia rank in the top third of countries on half of these same indicators by 2025. To achieve this goal, ARACY uses The Nest Action Agenda an evidence-based framework for national child and youth wellbeing, focussed across six wellbeing domains: Loved and Safe, Material Basics, Healthy, Learning, Participating, and Positive Sense of Culture & Identity.
The third ARACY Report Card: The Wellbeing of Young Australians (2018) published 26 February presents data on Australia’s performance against a range of health and wellbeing indicators as compared with other OECD countries, and the previous reports in 2013 and 2008.
This new report shows we are leading the world in some areas, but are falling behind and ranked in the bottom third in a number of education indicators, including school bullying, numeracy skills, feeling of belonging, pre-primary enrolment rate, and school-related pressure.
A comparison of ARACY statistics showed that student performance in mathematics, reading and science was on the decline, while the number of students who stayed on until year 12 and applied for post-school studies had increased.
Among the key findings:
- Australia leads the developed world in low youth smoking rates, the amount of time parents spend with their children daily, and average life expectancy at birth
- Rates of alcohol abuse and illicit drug use by young people have dropped
- Indigenous child mortality is down
- The number of Indigenous students completing Year 12 is rising faster than the national average
Less impressive are the report highlights and comparisons in statistics that show a steep fall in the number of immunised children, that mental health is a growing issue for young Australians especially among teens, and that there are more challenges for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians. For example:
- In 2014–15, 15% of Australians aged 18–24 years suffered high or very high psychological distress—up from 11% in 2011.
- Australia was also ranked poorly in neighbourhood safety, childhood obesity, whooping cough and measles vaccinations, teenage pregnancy, cost of childcare, and children living in jobless households.
Furthermore, Australia sits in the middle third of countries for most of the rankings, including youth unemployment; the number of teens not in education or training; mathematics, science and literacy performance; average class size; gender gap in educational achievement; and participation in post-school education.