Politics — 20 November 2013

A research alliance has called on the Federal Government to make Australia a top five OECD country for education performance, physical wellbeing, social and emotional wellbeing by 2025 in Australia’s first national plan for child and youth wellbeing.

The Nest action agenda was launched at Parliament House, Canberra today and was  facilitated by the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY) and its 3000 members, in collaboration with Bupa Health Foundation (BHF).

The agenda was a culmination of three years of work by leading thinkers, service providers and advocates to evidence that Australian children and youth were lagging behind internationally across key health and wellbeing indicators.

“Currently, we are middle of the road at best for child wellbeing when compared to other countries. That is why we are calling for bold reform. Targets detailed in The Nest are for Australia to be in the top five OECD countries for education performance, physical wellbeing, social and emotional wellbeing and children participating in issues affecting them by 2025,” ARACY Chief Executive Officer Dr Lance Emerson said.

“Healthy children mean a healthy economy and reducing Australia’s child vulnerability from 22 per cent to 15 per cent, as proposed in this action agenda, would lead to an increase in Australian GDP of 7.35 per cent over 60 years. The potential economic gains in addressing our ‘early childhood vulnerability debt’ are considerable.”

The action agenda details key evidence-based, preventive-focused priorities to improve child and youth  wellbeing across Australia, and includes six operational principles and six priority directions to mobilise collective efforts in improving the wellbeing of Australia’s young people.Child with learning difficulties

“While there has been some excellent reforms in the past, for too long we have been working in isolation, with non-government agencies, governments, and service providers all looking after their own patch. We know we can achieve these targets if we invest wisely in evidence-based and prevention-focused policies, programs and practices,” ACACY Chair Elaine Henry said.

The six priority directions are:

  • Improving early childhood learning and  development. GOAL: Reduce percentage of children identified as developmentally vulnerable on the Australian Early Development Index to 15 per cent by 2020;
  • Improving the educational performance of young Australians. GOAL: Australia ranks within the top five OECD countries for educational performance by 2025;

  • Improving the physical health of young Australians. GOAL: Australia ranks within the top five OECD countries for physical health outcomes by 2025.

  • Improving the social and emotional wellbeing of young Australians. GOAL: Australia ranks within the top five OECD countries on the UNICEF measures for social and emotional wellbeing by 2025.

  • Promoting the participation of young  Australians. GOAL: Develop and formalise national structures and frameworks for implementing and evaluating children and young people’s participation.

  • Addressing income  disparity and its impacts. GOAL: Ensure Australia ranks as one of the top five OECD countries with the lowest income inequality by 2020.

Paediatrician Dr Christine Bennett, from BHF, said: “The Nest action agenda is about Australia moving from the middle of developed countries for child and youth wellbeing, to the top of OECD countries – because that is where we would all like our young people to be.”

This article first appeared on Pro Bono Australia on 19 November 2013.


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