Making Australian children and young people a national priority is the clear message from a national assessment of the wellbeing of the nation’s young people.

The mixed result report card found Australia leads the world in areas including low youth smoking rates, the amount of time parents spend with their children and life expectancy,

However, when it comes to indicators about bullying, childcare costs and immunisation rates, Australia has a significant amount of work to do to lift its performance, according to the Report Card 2018: The Wellbeing of  Young Australians.

The report was compiled by the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth (ARACY).

ARACY Chief Executive Officer Stephen Bartos praised Australia for its efforts to protect and support young people but said the nation “could do better”.

“Every young person deserves a chance to succeed in life. We are doing well by some measures, but on far too many the data shows large numbers of Australian kids are missing out,” Mr Bartos said.

“A particular concern is too many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander kids are not getting a fair go.”

The importance of reading to children early continues to be embraced by Australian parents with almost 81% of families with children up to two years of age reading or telling them a story.

According to the report  “helping parents be part of their kids’ education is a cost-effective way to improve outcomes. Research shows it can equate to two to three years of extra education”.

The report also found teens are happy opening up to their parents, with 77.7%  of 15-19 year olds turning to their families for support in 2017 – up from 70.9% in 2007.

Other findings of interest included:

  • rates of youth smoking, drinking and use of illicit drugs have declined
  • child immunisation rates have dropped
  • concern about family conflict declined from 29.3% in 2007 to 20% in 2017
  • 15.4% of 18-24 year olds have high or very high psychological distress
  • 22.8% of 15-19 year olds reported potentially having a serious mental illness in 2016 – up from 18.7% in 2012.
  • students feel increased pressure from their school work with Year 8 girls (55%) feeling it more than boys (47.1%)
  • most students describe school as a happy place, with figures ranging from 79% for Year 8 students to 90% in Year 6 students