The Invisible Children: Country Kids Being Left Behind

Governor Hurley launching the report.jpg

New research has revealed that children living in rural and remote areas of Australia have poorer health and lower developmental outcomes. The divide between their peers living in urban areas is growing, as access to services are severely limited in these rural and remote areas.

Research undertaken by the Murdoch Children's research Institute's Centre for Community Child Health shows that childhood development does not get the attention or understanding needed, despite its critical importance. It concludes that investing in health solutions for vulnerable children will have significant long-term benefits.

The highest rate of return in early childhood development comes from investing as early as possible, from birth through to age five, in disadvantaged families,” said report co-author Dr Tim Moore.

The research shows that the effects of disproportionate levels of disadvantage are compounded due to poor access to appropriate allied health services and paediatricians. Early childhood is the period of greatest developmental plasticity and not addressing concerns early can have profound long-term influences.

“Early identification and intervention has been shown to be effective in addressing presenting issues from the onset, altering the trajectories of developmentally vulnerable children,” said Royal Far West CEO Lindsay Cane.

“We engaged the CCCH to comprehensively profile the developmental, behavioural and mental health needs of rural and remote children, as this vital piece of work was missing from the national agenda.”

Childhood development lays a critical foundation for long-term outcomes. Children with developmental vulnerabilities and delays are more likely to develop chronic health, learning, behavioural and mental health problems, resulting in increased risk of hospitalisation; increased contact with the criminal justice system; higher likelihood of unemployment and lower remuneration levels when employed; higher risk of homelessness; and likelihood of personal relationship difficulties.

Royal Far West has been a leader in rural and remote children's health and well-being for 94 years. They have proposed a nationally funded integrated approach to Early Childhood Development as part of a longer-term solution. Such an approach would focus on greater awareness of the problem, earlier intervention, and improved access to allied health services in rural communities.