Lowest number of child deaths recorded in 14 years but there is more to be done

media release

Child deaths in Queensland have fallen to the lowest level in 14 years, according to the annual child death report released by the Queensland Family and Child Commission (QFCC). 

The QFCC is responsible for maintaining a register and reporting on all child deaths in Queensland. It produces the annual child death report to document the recorded deaths of children during the year and make recommendations on how to keep children more than safe. 

Principal Commissioner Cheryl Vardon said the QFCC is committed to keeping children more than safe so they can grow up happy, healthy and supported. 

“The death of any child is an absolute tragedy and it is always with sincere condolences to the families who lost their children that I release this annual report,” Ms Vardon said.

In 2017–18, the QFCC recorded the deaths of 385 children and young people, the lowest recorded number since the Child Death Register commenced in 2004.

The majority of these deaths were by natural causes:

  • Diseases and morbid conditions - 277 deaths
  • Transport-related incidents - 24 deaths
  • Suicide - 24 deaths
  • Drowning - 11 deaths
  • Other non-intentional injury-related deaths - 10 deaths
  • Cause yet to be determined - 39 deaths

No deaths were attributed to fatal assault and neglect at the time of reporting.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander child mortality rates have also continued to decrease over the past 14 years. However, the Indigenous child mortality continues to be twice the rate of non-Indigenous children, as decreases in Indigenous mortality have been matched by decreases in non-Indigenous mortality. 

Similarly, the mortality rate for children known to the child protection system continues to be higher than rates for all children, especially for deaths from external (non-natural) causes.

“Sadly, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and children known to the child protection system are over-represented for each of the external causes of death,” Ms Vardon said. 

The QFCC is working with other government agencies, organisations and the community to promote safe practice messages and prevention strategies to reduce child deaths.

“It is essential that we take action to prevent future child deaths as much as possible,” Ms Vardon said.

“We are working collaboratively to ensure that our messages are being delivered to the right audience.”

“We are addressing areas that indicate greater risk but also opportunities for prevention, such as low-speed vehicle run overs, drownings and suicides.”

Ms Vardon urged Queenslanders to be vigilant at all times to help prevent child deaths where possible and says that as we approach what can be a busy time of year, we need to stay connected with children and young people. 

“There is a lot going on this time of year and it’s easy to be distracted but with more people travelling on roads, exam stresses for young people and increased activity around water with the warm weather it is important we stay vigilant,” Ms Vardon said.

“Continue to constantly supervise children around water, make sure pool gates are always properly latched, talk to young people about stress and for drivers please take extra precautions before moving a vehicle.” 

A significant number of agencies are using the data from the annual child death report to inform policies, programs and campaigns to help reduce child deaths.

“By collecting and sharing information on child deaths we aim to raise awareness of possible risks and better inform prevention activities,” Ms Vardon said. 

“It is heartening that so many agencies are providing informed messages by incorporating the data from this report.

“We will continue to work with researchers and agencies to identify trends and develop effective messages, programs and policies.”

To view the full list of key findings in the Child Death Register for 2017–18 visit: https://www.qfcc.qld.gov.au/kids/preventing-child-injury-death/child-death-reports-data/annual-report-deaths

10 December 2018