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Research Review  – May 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. Sign up here.

May was a bumper month for research! Social Ventures Australia released its detailed research mapping the geographic spread of early childhood socioeconomic disadvantage across Australia; the Australian Institute of Family Studies published its latest practice guide on understanding concerning behaviours displayed by children with disability and a separate study on vaping and its association with risk-taking behaviours in Australian men. The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare released a report on the health and wellbeing of First Nations people in prison. Settle back and enjoy our annotated guide to these and more studies.

The Research Reviews are sponsored by OPEN (Outcomes, Practice and Evidence Network). OPEN supports Victoria’s child, youth and family services to use evidence from research, practice and client experience to deliver better outcomes for children, young people and families. To tap into all that OPEN has to offer become a member – it’s free!

Children and young people’s wellbeing

Stronger Starts, Brighter Futures II: Exploring trends to promote the early development of children from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds in Australia

This study from the University of South Australia shows that children from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds are more likely to be developmentally vulnerable when they begin school than other children. Socioeconomic disadvantage is a significant contributor to developmental disadvantage. This study shows that governments and policymakers must do more to support the access and participation of CALD children in early learning settings.

Read the full study here


Mapping child and family hardship across Australia

Social Ventures Australia has produced a detailed geographical map showing significant areas of childhood socioeconomic disadvantage in Australia. The interactive map spotlights the 706 communities ranked according to the extent of socioeconomic disadvantage and childhood vulnerability. Close to 107,000 children aged birth to six-years-old across Australia are experiencing significant hardship, and are living in communities with high levels of disadvantage.

Explore the data and interactive map here


Understanding behaviours of concern for children with disability

This practice guide from the Australian Institute of Family Studies aims to support the child and family services workforce who do not have specific backgrounds in working with disability. It brings together broad research and evidence and practitioner experience to provide guidance and support, including insights into current and emerging modes of disability.

Read the full practice guide here


Keeping siblings in care connected: Improving relationship stability via the Mockingbird Family model

The Mockingbird Family model, which consists of a social network model of kinship and foster care households in micro-communities or constellations providing a collective approach to caring, has previously been evaluated and found to be effective. These latest findings by a group of researchers at Flinders University and Life Without Barriers highlights effective strategies for keeping siblings in care connected even when they are not placed in the same home.

Read the full report here.


Using data to enhance equity in child welfare: Findings from an environmental scan

This United States Department of Health and Human Services research brief by the Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation (OPRE) highlights the importance of implementing equity-centred data practices to achieve greater equity throughout the continuum of child welfare services. The study examines emerging data practices, including problematic ones, across five stages of data planning, data collection, data access and management, data analysis and interpretation, and reporting and dissemination.

Read the full brief here.


Family and community

An Indigenous strengths-based theoretical framework

This article by an Indigenous researcher – the Associate Dean Indigenous for the College of Arts, Law and Education at the University of Tasmania – provides a theoretical framework for identifying and highlighting the diverse and collective strengths in Indigenous peoples and communities despite ‘the persisting structures of colonialism’. This strengths-based approach is characterised by six key principles shaped by an Indigenous worldview: celebrate diversity; embrace growth; empower aspirations; foster self-determination and collaboration; utilise resources and embed cultural grounding.

Read the full report here.


The health and wellbeing of First Nations people in Australia’s prisons 2022

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare data on the health and wellbeing of First Nations people in prison in Australia in 2022 show significant overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia’s prisons and the challenges they experience in regard to receiving culturally safe and sensitive care. This data explores attitudes to the healthcare received in prison, and the unique and challenging ways in which incarceration can impact First Nations people.

Read the full report here 


Online dating app facilitated sexual violence victimisation among people with disability

Using the results from a large survey of dating app users, the Australian Institute of Criminology found that 88 per cent of users with a disability had experienced some form of online dating app-facilitated sexual violence. Their research highlights the need to address to keep all dating app users safe, particularly those living with disability who are more likely to experience this form of harmful online-based abuse.

Read the full report here 


Inside the front door: A seven-year longitudinal study of six high volume homelessness services in Melbourne

This longitudinal study by the Unison Housing Research Lab – a collaboration between RMIT University and Unison Housing – explores seven years of administrative data relating to the access and usage of housing services. The data clearly shows that the complexity of challenges faced by individuals and families is growing, with increases in the proportion of households reporting mental health issues, medical and substance misuse problems and family violence. The report suggests trialling the use of new technologies such as machine learning and AI to assess risk and prioritise resources.

Read the full report here.


Associations between vaping, mental health and risky health behaviours over time in Australian men

The Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) has released a research snapshot showing that vaping can be a precursor to further risk-taking behaviour, such as illicit drug taking or tobacco use, particularly in young men. The proportion of current vapers (men who vaped at time of survey) has tripled from 4 per cent (approximately 260,000 men) in 2020–21 to 13 per cent (approximately 760,000 men) in 2022, highlighting the need for targeted public health messaging for this population.

Read the full research snapshot here



Now, more than ever, we need change in Indigenous education

Published during National Reconciliation Week, this article by a group of Queensland researchers as part of the Excellence in Indigenous Education project pilot study, is based on collaborative yarning sessions and a follow-up survey with over 200 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander participants. The researchers highlight the importance of prioritising identity-affirming practices in schools, incorporating Indigenous leadership in school settings, and embedding relational approaches, to help foster an educational environment that promotes holistic success for Indigenous students.

Read the full article here


Audits, inquiries, and investigations

Australian Priority Investment Approach to Welfare: 30 June 2022 Valuation Report

This recently published report based on an examination of insights from the 2022 actuarial evaluation of Australia’s income support and social security system shows that more than half of all Australians have accessed social security support at some point in their lives, mainly for the Age Pension, employment support and family support. A further one in six Australians is projected to start receiving payments in the next five years, mainly for studying, working age payments, supplementary family payments or the Age Pension.

Read the full report here


Sector activity

How child support works for me survey

Swinburne University is conducting a survey of single mothers and parents about their experiences of applying for and receiving child support, and how this has been affected by government benefits and taxation systems. Swinburne is looking for single mothers and parents who have interacted with the Australian Child Support system. Involvement in the research will help identify how government policies and programs help or hinder financial safety.

Find out more and access the survey here


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