Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2021) Australia's youth, AIHW, Australian Government, accessed 08 August 2022.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2021). Australia's youth. Retrieved from https://pp.aihw.gov.au/reports/children-youth/australias-youth
Australia's youth. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 25 June 2021, https://pp.aihw.gov.au/reports/children-youth/australias-youth
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. Australia's youth [Internet]. Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2021 [cited 2022 Aug. 8]. Available from: https://pp.aihw.gov.au/reports/children-youth/australias-youth
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) 2021, Australia's youth, viewed 8 August 2022, https://pp.aihw.gov.au/reports/children-youth/australias-youth
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Much is known about the health and wellbeing of young people in Australia. There are still notable gaps and limitations, however, which limit national population-level monitoring over time. The COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted some of these limitations, particularly the need for nationally consistent time-series data on a wide range of topics.
This section identifies overarching data gaps that affect the quality of reporting against all, or most, of the 7 domains of the wellbeing of young people (see Introduction). It includes nationally relevant data gaps that relate to specific topics.
The national relevancy of these data gaps has been established, based on whether the topics have been identified as national policy priorities—such as those outlined in Healthy, safe and thriving: National Strategic Framework for Child and Youth Health, and in the National Action Plan for the Health of Children and Young People 2020–2030—and/or raised by a national expert group as topics for which data gaps exist.
The information presented here forms a basis for future discussions on national data and information development priorities; it not exhaustive.
A number of overarching data gaps affect several topic areas and/or domains. Some of these gaps, such as lack of information on some health and community services, also apply to whole-of-population reporting.
Current ongoing, national data sources that support population-level monitoring over time are predominantly:
This means that, for some measures, data on young people ages 12–15, or sometimes 12–18, are not available.
Reporting on the voice of young people may mean looking at different modes of data collection and also understanding how young people would like to see their opinions and data reported.
Reporting data for different population groups is critical for understanding issues of inequity, and for providing services and resources based on need. But it is often not possible to report data by population groups. This is particularly the case if the data come from surveys with small sample sizes that may not be representative of smaller population groups.
The range of population groups for which data are not readily available include:
Where some groups are included in surveys—such as those from a CALD background, or those living in the lowest socioeconomic areas—small sample sizes often prevent any significant differences being detected between groups.
These services may be delivered by governments, or by non-government organisations (for-profit and not-for-profit). Existing data are often fragmented, incomplete and inconsistent. Policy and service delivery approaches for young people vary across Australia, involving multiple sectors and governments. This can influence the scope and consistency of data collection at a national level. Current data are generally available for specific services or life stages (for example, from hospitals and schools).
Many health and community services collect data as part of their daily operations. Some services have data collated and routinely reported at national level (such as specialist homelessness services and child protection services), but many do not. This may be because:
Better reporting of some health and community services—for example, primary health care, sexual assault services, youth services and family domestic violence support services—could provide a more complete picture of service use by young people across Australia. It could also benefit service planning by identifying:
This information, together with other data on prevalence and experiences, could then be used to predict demand and needs.
There are currently no nationally agreed indicators to measure how:
The growth of nationally linked (or joined up) administrative data may help to provide more insightful indicators in the future (Box 1).
At a national level, data linkage activities continue to develop. There are some enduring national integrated data sets to support cross-sectoral and pathways analysis. However, with no single, proven national approach to routinely linking Commonwealth and state and territory data, there is limited ability to follow young people holistically through a wide range of data sources to assess their service use patterns and needs, outcomes, and related risk and protective factors. National integrated data sets can support governments and others to effectively evaluate services and to better understand young people’s experiences and outcomes over time.
National Disability Data Asset (NDDA)
The NDDA is currently in a pilot phase. The pilot aims to identify the most effective ways to share, link and access de-identified data to develop a more complete picture and a better understanding of the life experiences and outcomes of people with disability in Australia, their families and carers.
It will also focus on the best ways to protect people’s privacy, including data de‑identification and information security methods (DSS 2020). One area in which the NDDA could provide a better understanding of outcomes for young people with disability is the transition pathway from education to work.
Data Over Multiple Individual Occurrences (DOMINO)
The longitudinal researchable database on income support payments and characteristics (Data Over Multiple Individual Occurrences: DOMINO) aims to examine the long-term welfare outcomes and transitions for vulnerable and disadvantaged young people.
Two successfully completed linkages have shown the value of viewing a young person’s experiences from a broader perspective. These were for:
There is limited information routinely available at small geographic levels to inform local needs assessment and planning. High-quality data reported by geographical areas would provide useful information (for instance, how far young people travel to access certain services or employment) or identify areas with higher rates of disease where services should be targeted.
Future reports could explore the inclusion of data at lower geographic areas. However, nationally, some data gaps also exist in these areas.
Inclusion in international youth wellbeing surveys allows Australia to compare how its young people are faring relative to their peers in other countries. International comparisons, where data are readily available, have been included in the report.
Currently, Australia does not provide data to the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) on life satisfaction. Nor does it participate in the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children survey, which includes measures for 15-year-olds on a range of wellbeing measures, including family and peer relationships.
Australia’s Youth provides a national overview of how Australian young people are faring at a particular point in time, in a way that enables regular updating and tracking of progress.
For this reason, the report focuses mainly on national data, collected periodically, that supports population-level comparisons. Table 1 summarises current topics where national data for this purpose are not available or are limited.
Topics are grouped according to the child-centred domains, and a separate category—the Environment. Environment includes built and natural environment topics as well as those covering contextual factors, such as service availability.
Justice and safety
A number of options are available for improving national information on the wellbeing of young people. These options are not exhaustive, and different options will meet different information needs.
Enhance existing data sets
Add flags or data items to data sets for specific population groups or geographies (for example, adding more detailed data items on disability, sex, gender, variations of sex characteristics and sexual orientation)
Adopt appropriate sampling techniques to ensure survey data can more accurately represent smaller population groups, such as CALD young people
Add new questions to capture data related to a topic not captured elsewhere
Create new data collections or safely link existing data
Establish a new administrative data collection in gap areas, or a national youth-specific survey, which includes topics where data are not currently available and/or captures data for specific age groups where data are limited (for example, for those aged 12–15)
Analysis of linked data can provide insight on young people’s experiences and outcomes across multiple dimensions of wellbeing, and over time
Indicator development, including refreshing existing national youth indicators
Multi-sectorial linked data sets enable new, more comprehensive indicators to be developed and reported that provide additional insights into the wellbeing of young people. For example, information on potentially vulnerable households could be gained by linking Centrelink data to other sources on vulnerability (such as data on homelessness or hospitalisations).
Similarly, linked data could be used to measure the proportion of children in child protection who are later involved in the youth justice system
Locally relevant data
Demand is increasing for locally relevant data on young people that span multiple aspects of their experience. Potentially, the sort of data presented in this report could be built on to produce a layered national data and reporting platform to support collating, presenting and sharing people-centred data about young people across multiple domains and according to place or location. Such a data platform, focused on young people, would inform a wide range of information needs on the wellbeing of young people in Australia.
An initiative to be developed between 2021 and 2023 is the Australian National Child Health and Development Atlas project, led by the Telethon Kids Institute. This project aims to create a national data asset (including proof of concept dashboard) that maps data on children and young people across Australia, enabling the visualisation, analysis and monitoring of health and wellbeing metrics for children. It aims to incorporate Australian, state and territory data, as well as data from non-government organisations that are relevant to the health and wellbeing of Australian children.
For information on data gaps specific to younger children see Australia’s children, Data gaps.
DSS (Department of Social Services) 2020. The National Disability Data Asset. Canberra: DSS. Viewed 20 November 2020.
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