Bird's-eye-view of Australia's children


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Content type
Family Matters article

November 1990


A number of key statistics on Australian children and adolescents are presented including facts on the child population, smoking, suicide, school retention, birth rates and death rates.

There are currently 3.75 million children aged less than 15 years in Australia, a figure which is projected to rise to 4.71 million by 2031 if present birth and immigration rates are maintained. Under the same assumptions, the proportion of the total population who are children will fall from 21.9 per cent in 1990 to 17.6 per cent in 2031. Some other facts about Australia's children are set out below.

  • At the 1986 Census, 59 per cent of children lived in major urban areas, 24 per cent in other urban areas and 17 per cent in rural areas.
  • New South Wales (34 per cent) and Victoria (25 per cent) together account for 59 per cent of Australia's children.
  • Eighty-two per cent of children live with both their own parents, 6 per cent in step-families and 12 per cent in one- parent families.
  • In 1988, about 360,000 (10 per cent) of Australian children were living in families with incomes below the poverty line.
  • In 1986, 26 per cent of children lived in rented accommodation.
  • One in every five Australian children are now born to parents who are not married.
  • About one in five children can expect to experience the divorce of their parents before they reach majority.
  • About one in every three children can expect to spend a part of their childhood years in a one-parent family.
  • In 1890, 20 per cent of children died before their 20th birthday; now this figure is less than 2 per cent.
  • If present birth rates are maintained, 13 per cent of children will have no siblings, 26 per cent will have one sibling and 61 per cent will have two or more. That is, almost two-thirds of all children will come from families of three or more children.
  • In 1987, 30 per cent of children in one-parent families and 14 per cent in two-parent families had moved house in the preceding 12 months.
  • In 1989, 51 per cent of children aged 0--14 years had both parents employed, 42 per cent had one parent employed and, for 7 per cent, neither parent was employed.
  • In 1985, 20 per cent of boys and 31 per cent of girls aged 14 years were regular smokers.
  • In the early 1960s, the death rate from suicides among 15- -24 year-old males was 10 per 100,000; in 1988, it was 28 per 100,000. In the same period, the rate for females of the same age remained constant at 4 per 100,000.
  • Australian children watch more than 13,000 acts of violence on television over a ten-year period.
  • Twelve per cent of students aged 5--14 years lose at least one day of school in a two-week period through illness or injury.
  • Sixty per cent of children now complete high school compared to 38 per cent ten years ago.
  • In 1989, 93 per cent of Australian children had been born in Australia.


  • Australian Bureau of Statistics (1990), Australia's Children 1989: A Statistical Profile, Catalogue No.4119.0.
  • Szwarc, Barbara (1989), Australia's Children: Approaching the Nineties: Some Facts and Figures, The Children's Bureau of Australia Inc., Canberra.