The need

The right support at the right time can be the difference between a country child thriving or falling behind.

Every Australian child has the right to access quality health, education and developmental services. Where you live should not be a barrier to access services or a cause for disadvantage. But the reality is that kids living in rural and remote communities are more likely to start school developmentally vulnerable compared to kids growing up in the city.

‘Developmentally vulnerable’ means a child is in the lowest 10 per cent in at least one of five developmental domains: social, emotional, physical, cognitive and language.

This vulnerability is compounded in rural and remote areas by limited access to services and less chance of early intervention.

Country children need our support

The Australian early development census (AEDC) is a population-based measure of how children in Australia have developed by the time they start their first year of full-time school.
The 2018 AEDC figures show that:
  • One in five kids in rural and remote areas are developmentally vulnerable in two or more domains, compared to one in ten kids in metropolitan areas
  • Children living in rural and remote areas of Australia are twice as likely to start school developmentally vulnerable than city kids
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are twice as likely as non-Indigenous children to be developmentally vulnerable.
Tackling developmental vulnerability is important for all Australian children, but particularly in rural and remote communities where vulnerability and disadvantage can be so much higher and outcomes frequently inequitable.

Jacqueline Emery
Royal Far West CEO

No distance too far

  • The physical, emotional and social development attained in childhood can make the difference between kids flying or falling behind, not just in school but across their lifetime.
  • Long waiting lists for services and long distances to travel to receive support make early intervention, diagnosis, and/or treatment extremely difficult for many country families.

Demand for services and complexity of the need is growing

  • 180,000+ children across rural and remote Australia need support for their developmental health and future wellbeing.
  • We are seeing a significant increase in the complexity of developmental and mental health issues, and children are displaying more challenging behaviours at younger ages.
  • Natural disasters like droughts, bushfires and floods add further challenges for rural and remote communities, and more needs to be done to support children before, during and long after disasters.

The cost of developmental vulnerability

  • Developmental vulnerability comes at a high cost to individuals, families and to society as a whole.
  • Vulnerable children who don’t receive the right support are at risk of growing up to be vulnerable adults, with poorer educational attainment, higher rates of chronic disease and mental health, and a greater tendency towards unemployment, homelessness and crime.

Giving voice to the needs of country kids

The Invisible Children

The vulnerability gap between urban and rural children is growing. This Report details the complexity and challenges facing country children and highlights a way forward.

Stories of the Invisible Children

Learn what it is like to be a country child with a developmental vulnerability, and the experiences of the teachers and communities supporting them.

After the Disaster – Recovery for Australia’s Children

More needs to be done to protect children and young people against long-term negative impacts of natural disasters.