Story of Our Children and Young People
The Story of Our Children and Young People is a comprehensive overview of the wellbeing of our children and young people. Forty-eight key indicators, mapped over six domains, measure wellbeing from the antenatal period to young adulthood. The Story also highlights case studies and cultural stories of wellbeing which begin to tell the many stories presented across our community.
Data across multiple measures of wellbeing for children and young people are presented not only for the Northern Territory as a whole, but for Greater Darwin and our five regional areas, providing a clearer understanding of the distinct characteristics of our children and young people. Together with the growing number of community stories, this provides an emerging network of information about children and young people to inform and guide policy, planning, decision-making and practice.
This inaugural Story, released in November 2019, was prepared by Menzies School of Health Research under the guidance of an Editorial Committee. It is the first, in what will be, a series of biennial stories, intended to track progress and provide a vehicle for local stories to be told.
The Story is underpinned by the national research of the Australian Research Alliance for Children and Youth and its development of The Nest outcomes framework for children and young people.
The Story also acknowledges the ancient authority and traditions of Aboriginal people by using a locally developed framework which applies cultural stories or metaphors chosen to represent some of the many distinct stories from the Aboriginal groups present in the Territory. The metaphors used were selected to be readily interpreted using the six domains of The Nest.
These six domains of wellbeing for children and young people are the foundation on which this Story is written:
- Being loved and safe – Coolamon
- Having material basics – Tree
- Being healthy – Hunting and gathering
- Learning – Oral tradition
- Participating – Spear, boomerang and dilly bag
- Positive sense of identity and culture – Kinship system.
While we are separating elements of wellbeing, in life they are intrinsically linked and so there is crossover between domains. We have attributed indicators to the domains in which they are most commonly reported. Each domain includes several case studies which highlight encouraging stories from across our community.
The Northern Territory occupies nearly one sixth of the Australian landmass and is home to just under 1% of the Australian population.
The Northern Territory Government divides the Territory into five regions: Top End, East Arnhem, Big Rivers, Barkly and Central, with Darwin recognised as a metropolitan centre.
This Story has aligned to this regional structure with one exception. The city of Palmerston and Litchfield Council are part of the Top End region, however many of the reported measures in this Story are more similar to Darwin than the balance of the Top End region. Therefore, for the purposes of this Story, Palmerston and Litchfield are included with Darwin as Greater Darwin (see map).
In this section, we explore the people of the Northern Territory, looking at a number of measures of population, language and culture, education, employment, families, and children and young people.
It is important for children and young people to grow up in a loving and safe environment. Children and young people need positive family relationships as well as positive connections with other people. They also need to be safe. The physical and emotional safety of a child are critical elements to their healthy early development, their ability to socialise, to understand society and determine their own future.
In this domain, two outcomes of safe families and safe communities, are explored through seven indicators and three case studies.
It is important for children and young people to have the material basics they need in life. Things like a house to live in, access to healthy food, clean water, clean sanitary systems, cooling and clothing. A family also needs the financial capacity to provide for these essentials. These are foundational elements to enable children and young people to flourish.
In this domain, four outcomes of financial stability, adequate housing, communication and technology, and access to transport, are explored through six indicators and three case studies.
It is important for children and young people to be healthy, including physical, developmental, psychosocial and mental health. Until around the age of 25 years individuals continue to develop. This is not only physically but also by the maturing of neural connections in the brain. It is essential to take good care of the health and wellbeing of children and young people to ensure optimal health and opportunity in adulthood.
In this domain, two outcomes of healthy before birth and growing up healthy are explored through 11 indicators and four case studies.
It is important for children and young people to be continually learning in both formal and informal ways. Children can learn at home with family, through interaction with the wider community and in formal settings, such as school.
Early education and participation, continual learning, emotional wellbeing and inclusion, and educational achievement are all important for successful progression through life. Active learning and school completion are important in supporting young people leaving school to achieve their goals and have a variety of future opportunities. While the indicators reported in this chapter are focused on formal learning, learning is not just about study at school, it is about all the experiences in the life of a child and young person.
In this domain, five outcomes of parent engagement in learning, early childhood learning, transitioning into school, school progress and school completion, are explored through 13 indicators and four case studies.
It is important for children and young people to be actively participating with their peers and within the community. Children can be involved by speaking up and sharing their views, being involved in sport or other recreational or social activities and by volunteering. Young people can participate in work, further study and can vote to have a say in our political leadership.
In this domain, two outcomes of participation in work or study and participation in the community, are explored through five indicators and three case studies.
Identity and culture underpin all other outcomes for children and young people’s wellbeing. Research has found a ‘positive sense of identity and culture’ is fundamental to a child or young person’s wellbeing.
Identity and culture are broad reaching themes and are challenging to define for any child or community, as they are very personal, are dependent on a child’s awareness of their own identity, and change as a child progresses through life. Identity is influenced by family, country, language, health, feeling loved and safe, involvement in the community and having access to other external influences. Each of these factors both define and are defined by identity and culture.
In this domain, three outcomes of connection to culture, spirituality and cultural diversity, are explored through six indicators and three case studies.
It is critical that we address the many challenges influencing the wellbeing of our children and young people. We all have a role to play in improving the outcomes for our children and young people. It requires a collaborative effort across the whole community, not just a role for government. Working together is essential and there are positive examples of this in many communities.
The Northern Territory Government is in the process of establishing Regional Children and Families Committees to improve local outcomes for children and families through increased collaboration and more effective programs and services. The Story, which has been structured by region, will provide a reference point to inform and support their work across the community.
This is the first in a series of publications. A commitment has been made by the Northern Territory Government, to ensure in 2021, we reflect on our journey and review our collective progress across the measures and case studies in this Story, in the spirit of continuous improvement and progress.
This is a rich and evolving resource for our community. It is designed to be useful and to be widely used. Upon its launch in 2019, there is an anticipated time for engagement and evaluation in the lead-up to the 2021 Story. It is important we continue to seek relevant local indicators for the wellbeing of children and young people that can guide services and measure progress.
If you have questions or wish to obtain hard copies of the Story of Our Children and Young People, please send us an email at DCM.EarlyChildhood@nt.gov.au.
Last updated: 27 November 2019