Australia is failing young people when it comes to reading, mathematics and HIV infections: New UNICEF report

SYDNEY, Wednesday 6 March 2018:  According to UNICEF’s report Progress for Every Child in the Sustainable Development Goal Era 2030, released today, the proportion of Australian children achieving at least minimum proficiency in reading or mathematics by 2030 will not be met, nor will the target associated with the number of new HIV infections among 15-19 year old boys and girls.
“Children in Australia are being left behind, particularly in literacy and numeracy among children at lower secondary level,” said Amy Lamoin, Director of Policy and Advocacy, UNICEF Australia.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have been put in place by the UN as a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity – to meet the needs of today without compromising the needs of tomorrow. They contain an expansive monitoring framework of 17 goals, 169 targets and 232 indicators.
“For millions of children, the extent to which the world delivers on the SDG promise will determine the course of their lives – affecting their chances of surviving their early years, growing and thriving physically, learning and developing their overall potential,” said Ms Lamoin. “This is of critical importance, because we have obligations to children and their lives determine the future of this planet.”
The report finds that, globally, most countries have insufficient data to be able to measure their progress against achieving the targets across the 44 internationally agreed SDG indicators, to be met by 2030. This accounts for over half a billion children. Australia is one of these countries.
Australia’s lack of available data is most pronounced across the ‘protection’ and ‘fair chance’ dimensions. For protection, relevant goals and indicators include intimate partner violence against girls, sexual violence perpetrated on girls and boys, and child labour. For a fair chance, goals and indicators include extreme poverty and living below that national poverty line.
Australia has met its targets on a number of measures to do with ‘survive and thrive’ and ‘environment’. For survive and thrive, these include neonatal mortality rate, the proportion of the target population covered by all vaccinations covered in the national programme and the proportion of births attended by skilled health professionals. For environment, they include the proportion of the population using basic sanitation or basic drinking water services, the mortality rate attributed to household and ambient air pollution, and the proportion of the population with primary reliance on clean fuels and technology.
Global projections show that between now and 2030:
- 10 million additional children would die of preventable causes before their fifth birthday;
- 31 million children would be left stunted due to lack of adequate nutrition;
- 22 million children would miss out on pre-primary education;
- 150 million girls will marry before their 18th birthday;
- 670 million people, many of them children, will still be without basic drinking water. 

While each government is ultimately accountable to generate the data that will guide and measure achievement of the goals, the international community has an obligation to partner with them to make sure the SDG targets are met. Australia must do better for its children where it is not meeting minimum standards of the SDGs, and act as a leading global citizen to support the most vulnerable children worldwide.
Country specific data is available here.
Notes to Editors
The report ranked countries from highest to lowest using the World Bank Statistical Capacity score which assesses capacity in terms of:
- Methodology - how major indicators are measured
- Source data - what surveys and administrative data systems are functioning well
- Periodicity- how frequently the statistics are collected and released
Of the 44 indicators linked to nine SDGs specific to children, 39 were assessed for data availability and progress. On average, 75-80 percent of indicators in countries either have insufficient data or show insufficient progress.
For more information, please contact:
Brinsley Marlay, UNICEF Australia, 0403 604 182,