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Tragedies provide roadmap to action

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Today the Queensland Family & Child Commission released the 12th Annual report analysing the deaths of children and young people in Queensland in 2015-16.

“Firstly, I want to extend my condolences to all the families who have experienced the tragedy of losing a child. There is no greater loss. The QFCC’s role in releasing this information is not to extend the pain and grief felt by families and the community. Rather, we hope by deeply and thoroughly reflecting upon the risks which exist in children’s lives we can contribute to eliminating them altogether,” said Principal Commissioner Cheryl Vardon.

Three hundred and ninety (390) deaths of children and young people were recorded in 2015-16. This represents a decrease of 12% compared to 2014-15. This decrease is the result of fewer children and young people dying as a result of the two main natural causes of deaths––perinatal conditions  and congenital anomalies––and in deaths resulting from external (non-natural) causes such as transport, suicide, drowning and fatal assault and neglect.

Three quarters of all deaths recorded for children and young people were due to diseases and morbid conditions (291 or 75% of deaths). While some of these deaths may not have been preventable due to the underlying nature of the medical conditions, the data highlights the importance of early detection and the need for all pregnant women to have regular check-ups and follow the medical advice recommended by doctors, Specialists or Midwives. It is especially important for women to remember to not drink alcohol, not use illicit drugs or smoke while pregnant. 

Four children die on average each year from diseases potentially preventable by vaccines. Immunisation remains the safest and most effective way of providing protection from infectious disease. “I would encourage parents to make use of Vaccidate, a Queensland Government app developed to help parents manage their child’s vaccinations up to the age 4 years. It allows you to receive reminders, schedule appointments and keep a full immunisation record,” Commissioner Vardon said.

Suicide (20 deaths) has replaced transport (18 deaths) as the leading external cause of death for the past two years. Suicide was the leading cause of death for young people aged 10–17 years with young people aged 15–17 years most at risk.

Ms Vardon stressed, “Young people may be feeling anxious about their future, particularly as they transition from school to work or University. If you feel your teenager is struggling I urge you to seek advice and help early. The warning signs might be very subtle – disconnecting from friends and family, change in sleeping and eating patterns, withdrawing from activities previously enjoyed to name just a few. If you need information on support services in your local area visit www.oneplace.org.au which is a Queensland specific community services directory developed by the QFCC.”

“Queensland continues to experience high temperatures. It is critical to vigilantly supervise children when they are around water. This hot weather has meant an influx of families enjoying Queensland beaches and taking advantage of our dams, rivers and pools. In 2015-16, 8 children drowned, with 5 of the children aged 1–4 years. Three of the children drowned in swimming pools and 4 drowned in inland waterways. While it is heartening to know that no deaths were due to defective pool fencing, adults must provide constant supervision for infants and young children when they are in or near water. Please don’t rely on older siblings to supervise younger children. The QFCC has released a short video on pool safety which is available on our website. It provides some timely reminders on how we can keep kids safe when they are around water,” the Children’s Commissioner stated.

The deaths of 46 children known to the child protection system were registered in 2015-16. Seventeen of these children died as a result of natural causes and 17 as a result of non-natural causes. The cause of death is yet to be determined for the remaining 12 children. Five of the children known to child protection died as a result of suicide. Four of the children known to child protection died due to suspected or confirmed fatal assault or neglect.

Principal Commissioner Vardon said, “As with previous years, the deaths of children known to the child protection system occurred at a higher rate than the general population. This is explained, to a large extent, by the significant disadvantage, abuse and neglect these children experience prior to coming to the attention of the child protection system. I cannot state this strongly enough, if parents are struggling to cope and need support to care for their children please seek help early. If you see a friend, family member or neighbour struggling offer to help. If you aren’t sure where to go or what to do contact Family and Child Connect for advice and information to assist you to cope with family and parenting challenges, call 13FAMILY (13 32 64). Every member of the Queensland community has a part to play in keeping Queensland children safe.”

The Annual Report deaths of children and young people 2015-16 provides information which is used extensively by state and local governments, health and community services and the academic community to identify how we can create safer communities. It provides a roadmap to identify the need for new policies, legislation and safety measures to better protect our most vulnerable citizens, our children.

ENDS 16 February 2016

Media contact: QFCC - Jane Reid 07 3900 6075 or 0423 565 108

Additional prevention messages

Swim safety video is available online.

SIDS and sleep accidents

Risk factors associated with SIDS and sudden infant deaths include co-sleeping, stomach or side sleeping position, soft surfaces or loose bedding, over-wrapping as well as infant factors (prematurity, history of respiratory illness) and parental factors (smoking, high risk lifestyles).

Safe sleeping messages:

  • Sleep baby on the back from birth, not on the tummy or side.
  • Sleep baby with the head and face uncovered.
  • Keep baby smoke free before birth and after.
  • Provide a safe sleeping environment night and day.
  • Sleep baby in their own safe sleeping place in the same room as an adult carer for 6-12 months.
  • Breastfeed baby.   

Transport incidents

  • Young children are vulnerable in driveways from low speed run overs. Keep young children safe in driveways, parking areas and near roads.
  • On 1 February 2017, the Queensland Government introduced new laws covering the use of quad bikes. Children under 8 are now prohibited from being passengers on a quad bike and helmet use is mandatory on all roads.
  • It is recommended that children, under 16 years, do not operate adult-sized quad bikes.
  • More information can be found on the Worksafe website.

Button batteries

  • Young children are vulnerable to choking and strangulation hazards, falls and accidental poisoning.
  • Button batteries are toxic. Child deaths and serious injuries have occurred through children ingesting button batteries or inserting them into ears or noses.
  • Button batteries are found in many products such as novelty items, toys and mini torches.
  • Store button batteries out of reach of children and check that products have secure child-proof battery compartments.
  • Call the Poisons Hotline 13 11 26 if there is a suspicion that a button battery has been swallowed.

Fire

House fires caused 32 child deaths in Queensland in the 12 years from 2004 to 2015.

  • Replace smoke alarms every 10 years. Hard-wired photoelectric alarms are recommended, with these installed in bedrooms and living areas.
  • From 1 January 2017, new laws were introduced which mandate that when an old smoke alarms is replaced, you must install a photoelectric type which complies with Australian Standard (AS) 3786-2014. For more information visit The Queensland Fire and Emergency Services website.
  • Teach children fire safety and practice escape plans in the home.
  • Don’t leave lighters where children can get them.