Protecting Australia's Children: Research and Evaluation Audit, 2011-2015 - Overview of findings

This page presents an overview of findings from the Protecting Australia's Children: Research and Evaluation Audit (2011-2015). The Audit informed the production of the Protecting Australia's Children: Research and Evaluation Register, a searchable database of 943 research and evaluation projects conducted between 2011 and 2015.

An earlier Register that compiled research and evaluation projects undertaken between 1995 and 2010 is also available.

Number of projects

Comparison of number of projects identified in prior audits

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NB. The 2006-2010 audit included some projects that were not yet complete at the time of the audit (n=82) that may have been included in the 2011-2015 audit.

The number of Australian research projects focussed on child protection has increased by more than 77% in the five years from 2011 to 2015 compared with the previous five-year period (2006-2010). This increase is significantly higher than between the two five year periods before (21.5% between 2001/2005 and 2006/2010 and 12.6% between 1995/2000 and 2001/2005).

Sample sizes

Sample sizes by audit (where identified) - percentage of total identified

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Sample sizes have increased over successive audits, improving the reliability of the data. Although, it is important to note that it was not always possible to determine sample size, given projects were usually classified by their abstracts only. 47.6% of studies that identified their sample sizes in the most recent audit had 100+ participants, although less than half of the projects had sample sizes identifiable in the abstract.

Types of research included

Total projects identified, by type (2011-2015)

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The vast majority of projects were research only (88%) compared with evaluation projects (9%) and research and evaluation projects (3%).

Location of research

Distribution of projects by state or territory (for projects where a location was identified, n=655, 2011-2015)

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The majority of Australian research was conducted in Victoria (22%), New South Wales (21%), Queensland (15%) or Nationally (11%).

Supporting Outcomes addressed in the research

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A large majority of projects (82.9%) were related to topics addressing Supporting Outcome 4 of the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children. This is consistent with the prior 15 year period (83.9%) however there were increases in research focussed on all other Supporting Outcomes, particularly numbers 1 (from 2.7% to 8.7%), 2 (from 17.4% to 31.1%) and 3 (from 10.7% to 23.9%), perhaps indicating a shift towards prevention and early intervention in the field. Research focussing on Indigenous children and their families (Supporting Outcome 5) experienced an almost 6 fold increase, however still remains fairly modest at 7.5%.

Types of abuse

Distribution of projects by type of child abuse and neglect (where identified), by Audit - percentage of whole

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NB: Projects could address more than one type of abuse, and therefore percentages may total greater than 100%

* Female genital mutilation

** 2006-2010 figures also include those identified in the Audit (ranging 1995-2010) that did not specify a year, or were not yet complete.

Most projects (69%) for years 2011-2015 did not specify a type of abuse, but of those that did, the majority was focussed on sexual abuse (17.2%). This trend is consistent with earlier audits.

Topics of research

Distribution of projects by Topic (2011-2015)

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Projects were fairly evenly distributed across the eight topic areas that were used for classification, with slightly less devoted to Topic 1 (Safe communities) and Topic 7 (Support for children who have been abused or neglected). The concentration of projects in the vulnerable families, child protection services and other child protection areas (including legal matters) to some degree explains why many projects could not be identified as pertaining to any one type of abuse (69%), as these are macro level topics.

A total of 295 (31.3%) of projects related to out of home care in the most recent audit. This is consistent with the two prior audits (32.1% for 2006-2010 and 29.9% for 2001-2005) and covers a wide variety of sub topics.

Evaluation projects breakdown

Distribution of evaluation projects by type of program evaluation - 2011-2015 (N,%)

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NB: Percentages may total more than 100% as projects may address more than one program type.

Of the 115 program evaluation projects found, the majority were either family support programs, parent education programs/services or “other” which included alternative dispute resolution programs, supported playgroups, assessment tools and legal programs amongst others. Just under 10% of program evaluations related to out-of-home care. These covered a broad range of program types including those designed to assist with the transition out of care, those evaluating models of therapeutic care, programs for parents with children in care and programs for kindship carers.

Participant types

Almost 80% of total projects were focussed on five main participant types:

Children and young people, 21%. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, 19.4%. Professionals, 18.3%. Parents, 13.6%. Carers, 6.3%.

However, some groups continue to be underrepresented in Australian research and evaluation projects, including:

Culturally and linguistically diverse, 4.2%. Rural and remote, 4.1%. Children with a disability, 2.9%. Parents with a disability, 1%. LGBTIQ, 0.1%.

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