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Research Review – March 2024

Research Review - monthly updates on the latest research on children, young people and families in Australia

The Research Review delivers the latest research relevant to the child and family services sector direct to your inbox.   

In this month’s Research Review, we highlight two pieces of research concerned with young people and their mental health – one exploring the impact of the out-of-home-care experience on mental health and wellbeing, and one International study looking at adverse childhood events and the likelihood of mental health challenges when there is genetic predisposition to psychiatric disorders. We also look at the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s latest Youth Justice report and data, the Federal Government’s new strategy for engaging young people in policy decisions, and the latest iteration of the Close the Gap report. As always, there is something for everyone in this month’s Research Review!

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Children and young people’s wellbeing

Playgroups post pandemic, a snapshot of playgroup attendance and child development from 2012 to 2021

This recently released research by the University of South Australia, drawing on Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) data, examines the role of playgroup in assisting children to be developmentally on track when starting primary school. A key finding of the study is the difference playgroup participation can make in promoting educational equity and inclusion through the developmental opportunities it provides children in lower socioeconomic areas.

Read the full report here

Outcomes of best-practice guided digital mental health interventions for youth and young adults with emerging symptoms: Part I. A systematic review of socioemotional outcomes and recommendations

This systematic review by La Trobe University and Beyond Blue assesses the effectiveness of guided psychological interventions and their impact on socioemotional outcomes for young people. Global rates of young people (10-25 years old) with a mental health disorder range from 10-20 per cent. This percentage has risen in recent decades, including during COVID-19, to become an urgent public health issue. The  review indicates that youth-friendly, stigma-free, and easily accessible digitally delivered mental health interventions are needed to address the growing prevalence of mental ill-health among young people.

Read the full article here

Pathways of Care: A longitudinal study of children in care in Australia

The Pathways of Care Longitudinal Study (POCLS) by the University of Sydney is the first large-scale prospective longitudinal study of children and young people in out-of-home care in Australia. This article introduces a series of articles that report findings from the first three or four waves (first 10 years) of POCLS. The study provides insights to help shape practice and policy around the needs of children and young people in out-of-home care, particularly in relation to their feelings of safety, security, and wellbeing.

Read the full article here

Youth justice in Australia 2021-22

This latest youth justice report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare looks at young people who were under youth justice supervision in Australia during 2021–22. It explores the key aspects of supervision, both in the community and in detention, and recent trends. Some data relates to between March 2020 and June 2022 when COVID-19 and related social restrictions were prevalent. Key data from the report shows that the majority of young people in the youth justice system were unsentenced, and the number of First Nations young people under community supervision had fallen over this time period.

Read the full report here

Adverse childhood experiences and adult mental health outcomes

This study from the University of Iceland explores the correlation between adverse childhood experiences and poor mental health in adulthood when there are existing psychiatric disorders within families. Exposure to negative, emotionally impactful events in childhood, such as exposure to emotional, physical, and sexual abuse, are known to increase the risk of psychiatric disorders in later life, but to what extent do genetics also influence this likelihood? Examining twins data to assess familial confounding, this research explores the ways that targeted interventions might reduce future risk of mental ill health for those with adverse childhood experiences.

Read the full article here

Family and community

Silenced and sidelined: Systemic inquiry into victim participation in the justice system

Released this month by the Victims of Crime Commissioner (Vic), this report reflects on the trauma that victims of crime can experience and the ways in which the criminal justice system can exacerbate that trauma for victims (‘secondary victimisation’).  Around three-quarters of victims who shared their experiences with the inquiry said they were either never treated as a participant or only sometimes. The report identifies that despite initial reforms by the Victorian government, and the efforts of people working in the justice and victim support systems, Victoria must continue to do more so that victims can meaningfully participate in the justice system.

Read the full report here

The value of housing co-operatives in Australia

This research from Western Sydney University funded by the Australian Research Council, brings together data from four states on the benefits of affordable rental housing-cooperatives, or ARCHs. The research shows the intrinsic value of this model of social housing, which offers improved outcomes for tenants’ health and wellbeing, sense of belonging and connectedness, and agency and empowerment. Though this model of housing is still only on a small scale in Australia, it provides an opportunity for policymakers to consider how it could offer a sense of stability, security, and safety to those community members on very low to moderate incomes.

Read the full report here


Pathways, engagement and transitions: Experiences of early school leavers

This is the latest report in the Pathways, Engagement and Transitions (PET) research series by The Smith Family exploring the post-school pathways of young people experiencing disadvantage. The report focuses on the experiences of young people who have not completed their final year of secondary school in Australia (Year 12), and the impact of not finishing their formal school education on engagement in work and/or further study opportunities, which factors influence their next steps or pathways, and ways to strengthen post-school outcomes.

Read the full report here

Refugee students’ views about how schools can foster resilience: What helps, what hinders and what needs to change

The University of South Australia has published the results of their Refugee Student Resilience Study, exploring what resilience means for students who might be newly arrived in Australia following potentially traumatic experiences in their home countries.  For the purposes of this research, resilience is consistent with socio-cultural, rather than psychological, conceptions. The report highlights the voices and the lived experience of students, their specific needs, and the importance of recognising the unique experiences of refugee-background young people.

Read the full report here

Spreading success: Why Australia should trial multi-school organisations

This report from the Grattan Institute looks at the multi-school organisation (MSO) model which has successfully changed the educational landscape in America and England. These schools are fully government funded, fee-free, and open to all students. MSOs offer a chance to improve outcomes for Australian schools which are struggling, providing a more collaborative approach to providing poorly performing schools with an opportunity to strive for excellence and equity.

Read the full report here

Audits, enquiries and investigations

Australian government progress update on the Disability Royal Commission

The Department of Social Services has this month released their progress update on The Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability. The Progress Update provides an overview of how the Australian Government is considering the Final Report, and what processes and consultations will occur prior to DSS formally responding to the 222 recommendations of the Final Report. It also outlines some of the key actions the Government has taken to address issues raised during the Royal Commission’s inquiry.

Read the full report here

Close the gap: Voyage to voice, treaty, truth and beyond

Following the result of the Voice referendum in late 2023, there is much to consider for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non-Indigenous Australians. The themes of this year’s Close the Gap report are Progressing Voice, Treaty, and Truth; Leadership and Governance; and Building our Economies. These themes are explored through nine case studies. The themes speak to the economic, social, political and cultural determinants of health which are crucial to commitments by Australian governments to closing the gap.

Read the full report here

Recognising, valuing and supporting unpaid carers

The Centre’s submission and contribution to the final report by the Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs has been recognised by the Inquiry into the recognition of unpaid carers in Australia. The report makes 22 recommendations, including in relation to the definition of ‘carer’ (to be made more inclusive of the diverse range of caring roles that are being undertaken) and explicit recognition of First Nations carers and young carers – two points the Centre advocated for in our submission to the committee.


Putting outcomes into practice: The implementation of a framework of outcome measures within a child and family service

This University of Dublin study uses two online focus group discussions with frontline workers and managers respectively to explore the barriers to and enablers of implementation of an outcomes framework for a specific national child and family service in Dublin. Their recommendations include having champions embedded within organisations to support staff in outcomes measurement, providing sufficient resourcing to undertake this work, making sure the purpose of data collection is articulated clearly, and involving staff in the discussions around the framework.

Read the full report here

Mental health care for children and young people in out-of-home care

ACU is conducting a PhD research project on mental health care for children and young people in OOHC and needs practitioners with whom to test their research and share insights. The project aims to use evidence-based findings to improve mental health outcomes and guide recommendations for OOHC and health departments. It will also aid in creating resources for practitioners interested in mental health/OOHC best practice. If you or your colleagues can spare 45 minutes to share your experiences and contribute to this project, please register your interest for participating in an interview. $20 gift cards are available for all interviewees!

Find out more here

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