As a new child-centred study, The Australian Child Wellbeing Project involved young people’s perspectives to design and conduct Australia’s first major nationally representative and internationally comparable survey of wellbeing among children aged 8-14 years. Particular attention was given to understanding the perspectives of six groups of young people with specific experiences and needs that may have a bearing on their wellbeing: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people, culturally and linguistically diverse young people, young people with disability, young people in regional and remote Australia, economically disadvantaged young people, and young people in out-of-home care. The survey aimed to benchmark child wellbeing in Australia and provide information that contributes to the development of effective services for young people’s healthy development.
Why is it important?
The wellbeing of children in their middle years is important for their current quality of life, and for their future development. Wellbeing is broadly understood to be made up of a child's material and environmental circumstances, her/his relationships, and how she/he thinks about herself/himself in the context of those circumstances and relationships.
Little is known about Australian children’s wellbeing in their middle years, or how wellbeing varies among different groups of children. If policies to promote children’s wellbeing are to be implemented, then policymakers need to know how children in general, and disadvantaged children in particular, understand and rate their own wellbeing.
The ACWP project provides important information for policy makers, service providers, schools and researchers about child wellbeing in Australia and provides information that contributes to the design of effective services for children’s wellbeing and development.
What did the project involve?
This study set out to investigate child wellbeing in the middle years from children’s own perspectives. Particular attention was given to understanding the perspectives of six groups of children with specific experiences and needs that might impact their wellbeing: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, culturally and linguistically diverse children, children with disability, children in regional and remote Australia, economically disadvantaged children, and children in out-of-home care.
The ACWP project was approved by the University of New South Wales Human Research Ethics Committee and the Social and Behavioural Research Ethics Committee at Flinders University. The project included six phases over four years from 2012 to 2015:
Phase 1 (2012-2013): Examination of young people’s perspectives on wellbeing through group activities and interviews with young people
Phase 2 (late 2013): Development of wellbeing indicators based on Phase 1 findings and existing validated measures and tested through cognitive interviews
Phase 3 (early 2014): Field Trial, school-based with representative groups of young people
Phase 4 (late 2014): National survey, online, of a representative sample of young people in schools across Australia
Phase 5 (mid 2015): In-depth research with young people on their wellbeing (mid-2015)
Phase 6 (2015): Data analysis and reporting, ongoing
The first phase of the four-year study involved in-depth group work and interviews with 8-14 year olds. This included group activities and follow up interviews with small groups of children in each of the six groups identified above, and with children who did not fall into any of the above groups. This work was mostly conducted across several states between November 2012 and July 2013. Read the Overview on findings from this phase of the research
In subsequent phases, children's perspectives informed the design and implementation of a large nationally representative survey, conducted by the Australian Council for Educational Research. This involved students in Years 4, 6 and 8, drawn from a sample of 180 primary and secondary schools in every State and Territory. In-depth interviews provided a richer insight to the views captured through the surveys. Read the report on findings from this phase of the research (coming soon).
ACER’s online survey aimed to be engaging and interactive, being mindful of the range of skills and abilities of students within the target age groups. It also enabled international comparisons on aspects of wellbeing that establish where Australian young people stand in comparison to young people in other high-income countries.
The study was led by a team of researchers at Flinders University of South Australia and the University of New South Wales. Chief Investigators are Associate Professor Gerry Redmond (Flinders University), and Dr Jen Skattebol and Professor Peter Saunders (both at the University of New South Wales).
Dr Sue Thomson (Australian Council for Educational Research) is also a national Partner Investigator.
Professors Sabine Andresen (Goethe University Frankfurt) and Jonathan Bradshaw (University of York) are international Partner Investigators.
The Research Teams
University of New South Wales
- Dr Jen Skattebol (Dip Ed EC, B.Ed., PhD), Chief Investigator, Research Fellow, Social Policy Research Centre
- Professor Peter Saunders (BSc DipEc S'ton., PhD Syd., FASSA), Chief Investigator, Research Professor, Social Policy, Social Policy Research Centre
- Associate Professor Bruce Bradbury (BSocSc, MCom, PhD NSW), Social Policy Research Centre
- Dr Myra Hamilton (BA Hons; PhD, Syd), Research Fellow, Social Policy Research Centre
- Margaret Raven (BSc Hons UWA), Research Fellow, Social Policy Research Centre
- Dr Melissa Wong (BEcon, MCom, PhD NSW), Research Fellow, Social Policy Research Centre
- Tammy Burnstock
- Dr Bridget Jenkins
Flinders University of South Australia
- Associate Professor Gerry Redmond (BSocSc Dublin, GradDipComp, MA Bath, PhD UNSW), Associate Professor, School of Social & Policy Studies
- Dr Jasmine Huynh (B.Psych, B.Psych Hons, PhD Psychology, MAPS), Research Associate, School of Social & Policy Studies
- Vanessa Maurici (B.Psych), Research Assistant, School of Social & Policy Studies
- Dr Anna Moffat (B.Psych Hons, PhD Flinders), Research Associate, School of Psychology
- Kelly Roberts (BSc Biomed; BEd Secondary Hons), Administrative Assistant (Research)
- Dr Gabriella Zizzo (BA Hons, PhD Adel), Research Associate, School of Social & Policy Studies
- Dr Grace Skrzypiec (B.Sc Physics & Psychology, BScHons Psychology, Grad Dip Ed, M.Ed Adelaide, PhD Flinders)
- Dr Alice McEntee
- Dr Helen Popple
The Australian Council for Educational Research
The ACER is an independent, non-profit organisation which creates and disseminates knowledge and tools to improve learning for the fulfilment of individuals and society. ACER’s mission is to create and promote research-based knowledge, products and services that can be used to improve learning across the life span.
- Dr Sue Thomson (AppSci RMIT, DipEd, MEdSt, PhD Monash, GradDipMathsEd Deakin), ACWP Senior Project Director; Head of Educational Monitoring and Research; Research Director, Australian Surveys Research Program
- Dr Petra Lietz (BEd Hamburg, MAcc CQU, MEd, PhD Flinders, CTEFLA Cambridge), ACWP Project Director, Principal Research Fellow, Australian Surveys Division
- Elizabeth O'Grady (BSocSc Psych, PGradDipPsych), Research Fellow, Australian Surveys Division
- Mollie Tobin (BA UCLA, MA Stanford), Research Fellow, Australian Surveys Division
- Dr Katherine Dix (BSc Hons, BEd Hons, MPhil, PhD), Senior Research Fellow, Australian Surveys Division
- Juliet Young-Thornton (Dip Visual Arts, Adelaide Central School of Art)
The project team acknowledges the following educational departments for their support:
- Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (VIC)
- Department of Education and Communities (NSW)
- Education and Training Directorate (ACT)
- Department of Education, Training and Employment (QLD)
- Department of Education (NT)
- Department of Education (WA)
- Department of Education and Child Development (SA)
- Department of Education Tasmania (TAS)
- Archdiocese of Adelaide
- Archdiocese of Brisbane
- Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn
- Archdiocese of Hobart
- Archdiocese of Melbourne
- Archdiocese of Perth
- Archdiocese of Sydney
- Diocese of Ballarat
- Diocese of Bathurst
- Diocese of Broken Bay
- Diocese of Broome
- Diocese of Bunbury
- Diocese of Cairns
- Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle
- Diocese of Parramatta
- Diocese of Port Pirie
- Diocese of Rockhampton
- Diocese of Sale
- Diocese of Sandhurst
- Diocese of Toowoomba
- Diocese of Townsville
- Diocese of Wagga Wagga
The Australian Child Wellbeing Project (ACWP) was funded by the Australian Research Council through a Linkage Grant (LP120100543), in partnership with the Australian Government Departments of Education and Training, and Social Services, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, and the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
Project Steering Group
The project is overseen by a Steering Group chaired by Professor George Patton, Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne.
Other members of the Steering Group include:
- Dr Ben Edwards, Executive Manager, Longitudinal Studies, Australian Institute of Family Studies
- Penny Dakin, National Program Director, Australian Research Alliance for Children & Youth
- Associate Professor Pammi Raghavendra, Flinders University