New Curtin University report reveals “staggering divide” between Australian children

New Curtin University report reveals “staggering divide” between Australian children

by Jason Roberts

August 28, 2020

A new report released by the Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre has revealed the extent of inequality of early learning opportunities across Western Australia and Australia and that children living in the most disadvantaged communities across Australia are far less likely to attend the required 15 hours of preschool.

 

The report titled, The Early Years: Investing in Our Future, shows that disadvantage starts during pregnancy and extends through toddlerhood and into preschool years, with significant differences in child outcomes evident across various domains including mental health, language development and early learning, well before formal school commences.

 

Report co-author and Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre Principal Fellow Associate Professor Rebecca Cassells said that the report highlights “the staggering divide” between the most advantaged and disadvantaged areas in Australia and the impact this has on early childhood years.

 

“Children living in the most disadvantaged areas are 10 times more likely not to be accessing 15 hours of preschool each week in the year before school compared to children in the most advantaged areas, which brings into question how universal early learning opportunities really are,” Associate Professor Cassells said.

 

Another important focus of the report looking at WA alone was the high incidence of children living in poverty with one in five children under the age of five are living in poverty, with 11.4 per cent in severe financial hardship.

 

Report co-author and Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre Director Professor Alan Duncan said “the extent of very young children living in poverty in WA had also increased overtime, placing further pressure on these families” and that the report “found that the out-of-pocket costs of childcare contributes to an increased likelihood of poverty, even after childcare subsidies are factored in.” 

 

Key findings from the report include:

 

  • Almost 37 per cent of children living in the most disadvantaged areas do not access 15 hours of preschool each week in the year before school;
  • One in two children living in the most disadvantaged areas are developmentally vulnerable on two or more domains, compared to the national average of 11.4 per cent;
  • The most disadvantaged areas are all located in remote and very remote regions of Australia, across both Western Australia and the Northern Territory;
  • Two-thirds of children in the most disadvantaged areas in WA are attending preschool for more than 15 hours compared to 85 per cent nationally;
  • Children who attend preschool in the year before schooling are less likely to be developmentally vulnerable in their first year of school;
  • WA also has the lowest proportion of children enrolled in centre-based day care preschool programs, at only six per cent, compared to 50 per cent nationwide;
  • More than one in five children under five in Western Australia (20.7 per cent) are living in families in poverty;
  • The rate of severe poverty among children under five in Western Australia has risen to 11.4 per cent compared to a national rate of 6.7 per cent;
  • Almost 30 per cent of toddlers from households living in severe poverty were estimated to have delays in language development;
  • Nearly 30 per cent of children enrolled in preschool are accessing less than 15 hours of preschool each week in the year before commencing formal schooling in Western Australia;
  • Only one in two Indigenous children in WA are accessing more than 15 hours of preschool each week, compared to 70 per cent of non-Indigenous children; and
  • Indigenous child aged between zero and four years old in WA, 19.3 times more likely to be in out-of-home care than a non-Indigenous child.

 

To read the report please click here

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