Social and economic determinants
Social and economic factors such as education and the economic circumstances of the family can influence the health outcomes and future trajectories of Indigenous children.
The Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) is a data collection for all children as they enter their first year of full-time schooling. Teachers assess students based on 5 domains of early childhood development. These domains have been shown to predict children’s later outcomes in health, wellbeing and academic success (AEDC 2022).
For more information on the AEDC refer to Data and notes.
The National Agreement on Closing the Gap includes 17 targets developed by the Australian Governments and the Coalition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peak Organisations. The targets are measurable goals that reflect the aim to reduce disadvantage among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The education target related to school readiness is:
By 2031, increase the proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children assessed as developmentally on track in all five domains of the Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) to 55 per cent.
In 2021, 34% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were on track in all 5 domains nationally, compared to 25% of Indigenous children in 2009.
The proportion of Indigenous children developmentally on track in all 5 domains in 2021 varied by state and territory:
- 39% of Indigenous children in New South Wales
- 31% in Western Australia
- 16% in the Northern Territory (Figure CH 11a).
The AEDC results also showed, among Indigenous children in 2021:
- 42% were developmentally vulnerable in 1 or more domain/s.
- 27% were developmentally vulnerable in 2 or more domains (Figure CH 11b).
Around 60% of Indigenous children were developmentally on track across each of the 5 AEDC domains in 2021. The domains with the highest proportion of Indigenous children developmentally on track were:
- emotional maturity (64% or 11,830)
- physical health and wellbeing (63% or 11,660)
- communication and general knowledge (59% or 11,583).
The domains with the highest proportion of Indigenous children who were developmentally vulnerable in 2021, were:
- language and cognitive skills (23% or 4,157)
- physical health and wellbeing (22% or 4,067) (Figure CH 12).
In 2021, among Indigenous students, the national school attendance rate was:
- 83% for Year 1–6
- 74% for Year 7–10
- 79% for Year 1–10
- highest in Tasmania (85%) and lowest in the Northern Territory (62%) for Year 1–10 (Figure CH 13).
In 2021, among Indigenous children:
- 84% of Year 3 students met national minimum standards in literacy and 81% met the national minimum standards in numeracy.
- 78% of Year 5 students met the national minimum standards in literacy and 76% met the national minimum standards in numeracy.
- 75% of Year 7 students met the national minimum standards in literacy and 71% met the national minimum standards in numeracy.
- 66% of Year 9 students met the national minimum standards in literacy and 79% met the national minimum standards in numeracy (Figure CH 14).
In 2016, among Indigenous Australians aged 1–14:
- 32% (60,909) lived in a dwelling that was owner occupied (owned outright or with a mortgage).
- 30% (57,740) lived in social housing (dwellings rented through a state or territory housing authority or community housing).
- 37% (71,037) lived in other homes being rented (Figure CH 15a).
On Census night in 2016, 3.3% (6,773) of the Indigenous Australians aged 1–14 were homeless (Figure CH 15b). Of this group:
- 75% (5,463) lived in severely crowded dwellings (requiring 4 or more additional bedrooms).
- 17% (868) lived in supported accommodation for the homeless (Figure CH 15c).
Financial stress and food security
In 2018–19 among Indigenous children aged 1–14:
- 56% (136,600) lived in a household that could not raise $2,000 in an emergency in a week.
- 43% (109,400) had days without money for basic living expenses in the last 12 months.
- 27% (68,200) ran out of food in the last 12 months (Figure CH 16).