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Most children in Australia grow up in a safe, healthy and positive environment. Face the facts children's rights statistics

Broadly speaking, children in Australia have access to high-quality schools and health services. Most live in safe and nurturing homes, where they can pursue their interests, be involved in their communities and plan for their futures.

However, twenty years after Australia signed the Convention on the Rights of the Child, there are still vulnerable groups of children and young people who are at risk of being left behind or falling through the cracks.

Children experiencing homelessness or mental health issues, children with disabilities, children living in out-of-home care, children in immigration detention and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children require particular assistance to make sure their rights are protected.

About Australian children

  • There are approximately 5.1 million children in Australia. Roughly 1.5 million are aged four years or under; 2.2 million are aged between five and 12 years; and 1.4 million are aged between 13 and 17 years.[1] The proportion of children among Australia’s total population has been steadily declining in recent decades due to sustained low fertility and increased life expectancy.[2]
  • In 2006, there were an estimated 294,000 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in Australia.[3] Children (38%) and young people (19%) made up more than half of the total Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population, whereas children (19%) and young people (14%) made up only 33% of the non-Indigenous population.[4]
  • In 2009, around seven per cent (290,000) of Australia’s children aged 0 to 14 years had some form of disability. Of these children, more than half had severe or profound limitation of core activities.[5]
  • On 30 June 2012, there were 39,621 children living in out-of-home care in Australia,[6] an increase of 27 per cent from 2008.[7] Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were nearly ten times more likely to be in out-of-home care compared to non-Indigenous children.[8]
  • As at 30 June 2014 there were 699 children in immigration detention facilities in Australia and 193 children detained in Nauru.[9]

Key issues for children and their rights

  • Across Australia during 2011-2012, 37,781 children aged 0 to17 years were the subject of one or more substantiations of abuse or neglect – an 18 per cent increase from 2007-2008.[10]
  • Children often experience violence within the family. In 2010-2011, 39 per cent of hospitalised cases involving assault against children aged 0 to14 years involved a perpetrator who was a parent, carer or other family member.[11] Around 42 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children reported witnessing violence against their mother or stepmother, compared with 23 per cent of all children.[12]
  • Around 6700 children aged 0 to 14 years – or 157 in every 100,000 children – were the reported victims of sexual assault. Three quarters of these reported victims were girls.[13]
  • In 2011-2012, around 107,200 people aged 0 to 24 years were assisted by specialist homelessness services; around 19 per cent were under 12 years and around 13 per cent were aged 12 to 18 years.[14]
  • On an average day in 2011-2012, there were 6,940 children and young people aged 10 years or older under youth justice supervision;[15] the vast majority were male (83 per cent) and aged between 14 to 17 years (79 per cent).[16] About 40 per cent of this group were Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.[17]
  • Mental health problems and disorders comprise the highest burden of disease among Australian children.[18] In 2007, the prevalence of mental disorders among young people aged 16–24 years was 26%.[19] From 2007 to 2011, there were 53 deaths by suicide of children aged under 15 years. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children accounted for 17 (32 per cent) of these deaths.[20]
  • Australian research in 2009 indicates that over a quarter (27 per cent) of students are affected by bullying at school; around seven per cent reported cyberbullying.[21] Similarly, around a quarter of children and young people surveyed in 2011 said bullying was an issue. It was of most concern to children aged 11 to 14 years (28.3 per cent).[22]

Positive developments

  • The vast majority (93 per cent) of Australian children rate their health as “good”, “very good” or “excellent”.[23]
  • Most children in Australia are achieving national minimum standards for reading, writing and numeracy; are fully engaged in study or work; and have strong support networks.[24]
  • Most children say they are able to get support from outside their household in times of crisis.[25]
  • There has been a significant decrease in death rates among children in recent years, mostly due to a fall in injury-related deaths.[26]

Did you know?

Over 60 per cent of children and young people who took part in a survey by the Australian Human Rights Commission said they did not know or were unaware that they had special rights.[27]

Our role

In 2013, a National Children's Commissioner was appointed to the Australian Human Rights Commission.

A key role of the Commissioner is to monitor and report annually on the status of children’s rights in Australia and to make recommendations to ensure that children can enjoy their rights.

The Commissioner also promotes community awareness and discussion of children’s rights; undertakes research and educational programs; and can examine and make recommendations on new and existing Commonwealth laws to ensure that the rights of children are respected.

To do this work, the Commissioner consults with children and children’s advocates.

Find out more about our work in this area.

Find out more

 


[1] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Australia’s welfare 2013, (2013), p 5.
[2] Australian Bureau of Statistics, 3101.0-Australian Demographic Statistics, June 2009, (December 2009).
[3] Australian Bureau of Statistics, 4725.0-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Wellbeing: A focus on children and youth, April 2011 (May 2012).
[4] Australian Bureau of Statistics, above.
[5] Australian Bureau of Statistics, 4102.0-Australian Social Trends, June 2012 (2012).
[6] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Child protection Australia 2011-12 (2013), Table A21, p 78.
[7] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, note 1, p 176.
[8] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Child protection Australia 2011-12, (2013), p 41.
[9] Department of Immigration and Border Protection, Australian Government, Immigration Detention and Community Statistics Summary: 30 June 2014 (2014) pp 3 - 4.
[10] Australian Human Rights Commission, Children’s Rights Report 2013, (2013), footnote 19, p 25.
[11] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, A picture of Australia’s children 2012 (2012), p 90.
[12] Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care study cited in K Richards, ‘Children’s Exposure to Domestic Violence in Australia’, Australian Institute of Criminology Trends and Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice, (2011) p 2.
[13] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, note 11, p 106.
[14]Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, note 1, p 178.
[15] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Youth justice in Australia 2011-12: an overview (2013), p 4.
[16]Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, above, p 1.
[17]Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, note 1, p 181.
[18] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Young Australians: their health and wellbeing 2011, Report Profile (2011), p 1.
[19] Australian Bureau of Statistics, 4326.0 - National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing: Summary of Results, 2007, (October 2008).
[20] Australian Bureau of Statistics, 3303.0-Causes of Death, Australia, 2011 (March 2013).
[21] Child Health Promotion Research Centre, Edith Cowan University, Australian Covert Bullying Prevalence Study (2009), p 284.
[22] Mission Australia, Insights into the concerns of young Australians: Making sense of the 2011 Youth Survey (2012), p 5.
[23] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, note 18, p 1.
[24] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, note 18, p 1.
[25] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, note 18, p 1.
[26] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, note 18, p 1.
[27] Australian Human Rights Commission, note 10, p 21.