Aussie Kids Missing School and Going Hungry – Report
25 February 2016 at 10:15 am
One in 10 Australian children miss school at least once a week, almost one in six have been bullied, and one in 30 – a child in almost every classroom – goes to bed or school hungry nearly every day, according to a new report.
The final report of the Australian Child Wellbeing Project (ACWP), described as the largest study of its kind in Australia, was launched in Canberra on Thursday.
Lead researcher, Flinders University’s Associate Professor Gerry Redmond, said the ACWP findings revealed that young Australians were suffering because of a systematic failure to meet their most basic needs, with the most marginalised reporting low scores in every aspect of wellbeing.
“The Australian Child Wellbeing Project shows that for many children in Australia today, life is pretty tough,” Professor Redmond said.
“One young person in five reported going to school or bed hungry at least sometimes, and were also more likely to miss school frequently.
“Young people who go hungry and the one in ten who miss school frequently were, in addition, likely to report high levels of health complaints, frequent bullying and low levels of engagement at school.”
The University of New South Wales’ Dr Jennifer Skattebol, a chief investigator on the project, said all young people had identified their families as their most important resource.
“Young people want their families to be adequately supported to provide secure, safe environments for them to grow up in,” she said.
“Our study shows that young people with strong support networks tend to report that they have ‘a good life’ even in conditions of economic disadvantage and marginalisation.”
The Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) responded to the report calling on Federal Parliament to reject proposals to cut the family payments of low income single parent and couple households.
ACOSS has also renewed its call for Australia to set a clear poverty reduction target as the core purpose of economic growth and job creation.
ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said the ACWP report showed that although most middle-years children were doing well, almost one in five children surveyed were falling behind and going hungry.
“These include, young people with a disability, young carers, materially disadvantaged young people, culturally and linguistically diverse young people, indigenous young people, young people in rural and remote Australia and young people in out of home care,” Dr Goldie said.
“Our governments have forgotten that the core purpose of our family payment system is to protect against child poverty. Former Prime Minister Bob Hawke is the last leader to have placed child poverty at the centre of his government’s agenda. His legacy of a targeted family payments system has been eroded since then and is indeed under further attack.”
Goldie said policies of recent governments that have targeted vulnerable families, including single parents, had increased the risk of child poverty.
“ACOSS has long advocated for family payments to be simplified and targeted to families who need them most. Yet the Federal Government’s $4.26 billion cuts to family payments would have a devastating impact on some of the most disadvantaged parents and children, especially single parents and low income couple families,” she said.
“Our analysis shows the cuts currently before the Senate would see a sole parent, under 60, with one child over 13 years lose roughly $2,500 per year or $48, and a sole parent with two children around $3,000 per year or $58 per week.”
Funded by the Australian Research Council and Commonwealth government partners, the ACWP surveyed or interviewed 5,000 children in hundreds of schools across Australia.
Researchers said that compared with the early years and adolescence, the middle years (ages 8-14) have received relatively little attention from policymakers other than in the space of academic achievement, yet issues such as high pressure at school, hunger and missing school are of direct policy concern.
Read more about the Australian Child Wellbeing Project here.