The latest report card into the wellbeing of Australian children by UNICEF Australia and the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY) has reinforced the need for a Commonwealth Early Years Strategy to improve outcomes for young children.
The Wellbeing of Australia’s Children report offers insights into how Australian children are faring across all aspects of wellbeing and how this is changing.
The report found that while children are doing well in most areas, there are some growing areas of concern, and that the key to enhancing the wellbeing of Australian children lies in addressing the main drivers of inequitable outcomes.
Minister for Social Services Amanda Rishworth said the report’s findings reinforce the Government’s approach to children’s wellbeing, starting with a focus on their earliest years through the Early Years Strategy.
“This report highlights what Australia is doing well to support its children, and what we could do better. Much of this aligns with the steps we’re already taking,” Minister Rishworth said.
“We are introducing the Early Years Strategy, which will focus on our children’s foundational early years from zero to five, to optimise their lifetime wellbeing and counter factors detrimental to their wellbeing across many areas.
“This is part of a broader suite of Government support for children, including the Safe and Supported national framework, which has a key focus on reducing the over-representation of First Nations children in out-of-home care – addressing another major finding of the report.”
The Government is currently consulting on the development of the Early Years Strategy and today’s release of the Wellbeing of Australia’s Children report follows the successful National Early Years Strategy Summit held in February.
A summary of the Summit, which brought together over 100 delegates, was also publicly released today.
The summary notes some key themes that emerged from the Summit, including:
- the need to support and empower children, parents, carers, families and communities
- the necessity of inclusion, particularly for culturally and linguistically diverse and First Nations peoples, and children with disability
- accountability of public policy, and
- the importance of universal, but not uniform, approaches that are responsive to local contexts.
Minister for Early Childhood Education Dr Anne Aly said that the Albanese Government is charting a course to deliver the best possible outcomes for Australian children.
“The Early Years Strategy will improve coordination between Commonwealth programs and frameworks that impact child development,” Dr Aly said.
“If we get those vital first five years right, we’re able to change the trajectory of a child’s life.
“The Strategy will be informed by evidence and data along with the voices of children, their families, academics and expert representatives from the industry.”
Nicole Breeze, Chief Advocate for Children at UNICEF Australia, said the Wellbeing Index – built on the Nest framework from ARACY, helps to holistically measure children across six interconnected dimensions from being loved, valued and safe, to being healthy, learning, having their basic material needs met, a positive identity and culture to participating in their community and having a voice.
“The Index is a tool to hold us all accountable, to challenge us to do better, and raise Australia’s children in the best way possible,” Ms Breeze said.
Penny Dakin, CEO of ARACY and member of the Expert Advisory Panel for the Early Years Strategy, said the Index was the most comprehensive coverage of how children are faring in Australia.
“We know that better data helps get us closer to better outcomes, and we need to make sure we are measuring the right things, in the right way, and at the right times,” Ms Dakin said.
Public submissions are open on the development of the Early Years Strategy until 30 April 2023. To access the discussion paper, make a submission, or explore other opportunities to contribute to the consultation process, visit the DSS Engage website.
For more information on the Early Years Strategy, including a summary of the recent Summit, visit the Early Years Strategy website.
To read or download the Wellbeing of Australia’s Children report, visit the UNICEF Australia website.