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Fresh look at child deaths reveals key themes

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Fresh look at child deaths reveals key themes

13 September 2023

The Queensland Family and Child Commission (QFCC) has found key themes in the lives of 30 children who were known to the child protection system and have died.

Common themes include disengagement from school; not attending an early childhood education facility; and lack of services for children, young people and families living in regional or remote Queensland.

The learnings from these children’s deaths provide an opportunity for systemic improvements to better protect and safeguard children and young people across Queensland.

Regular attendance at school or childcare and access to services for families and children, particularly families living in remote and regional Queensland, have emerged as key themes that may assist in the prevention of child deaths, a new report from the QFCC has revealed.

Queensland’s Child Death Review Board (CDRB) produces detailed timelines of system interactions when conducting reviews into the deaths of children. These timelines give a clear story about each child and family’s interactions with services, including health, childcare, school and child protection.

The QFCC took a fresh look into the deaths of 30 children reviewed by the board, closely examining timelines to identify commonalities that could lead to learnings for systemic improvements.

From the analysis, three key themes emerged:

  • Education is a protective factor – the importance of attending and engaging with school can help determine if a school-aged child’s life is at risk. Prolonged absence and/or disengagement from education increases their risk.
  • For children under five, enrolment and attendance at an early childhood education centre can assist with greater visibility of a child and family’s needs, and referrals to services for support.
  • Living in remote or regional Queensland impacts access to services that can meet the safety needs of young people, including culturally safe services for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people. The more remote, the less opportunity children and families had to access services.

Learnings from the review will provide evidence of children and families’ experiences with various government systems, enabling improvements to the delivery of services.

To view the report visit Lessons from life-story timelines of 30 children who have died.

Quotes attributable to QFCC Principal Commissioner Luke Twyford:

“The death of any child is tragic, and I extend my deepest condolences to the children’s and young people’s families.

“This analysis provided an opportunity to take a fresh look for any new learnings by examining each child’s life timeline and their interactions with government departments and services, including education.

“The report shows there are clear patterns in the lives of children known to child safety who have died and confirms what those in the sector know—that schools and early childhood education programs are a protective factor for children and young people, and that their geographic location impacts access to services.

“While we can’t hear the voices of the children who are represented in these timelines, we can certainly honour their memory and learn from their experiences. 

“The evidence gathered by the Board through this review is an opportunity for further systemic improvements in saving the lives of children and young people.”




For media information contact:

Kirstine O’Donnell | Queensland Family and Child Commission
Phone: 0404 971 164
Email:    media@qfcc.qld.gov.au