‘Middle years’ focus required to prevent teen deaths

Australian and New Zealand authorities have called for an increased focus on the critical role parents and communities can play in educating young people about risk-taking and the risks they face as they approach adulthood.

The Australian and New Zealand Child Death Review and Prevention Group (ANZCDR&PG), comprising statutory bodies responsible for child death reviews in all states and territories and New Zealand, met in Brisbane this week to discuss ways to prevent child deaths.

ANZCDR&PG chairperson and Queensland Commissioner for Children and Young People and Child Guardian, Elizabeth Fraser, said all jurisdictions in Australia and New Zealand had identified a persistent pattern of risk-related preventable deaths that spike in adolescence.

“Risk-taking is a normal part of young people’s lives but it can have detrimental consequences including, in some circumstances, death,” Ms Fraser said.

"For young people the years after age 14 are critical, as we see a dramatic increase in preventable deaths including deaths arising from transport accidents, alcohol-related incidents, suicide and accidental drownings."

The ANZCDR&PG agreed an effective way to build resilience was to engage with children during the period known as the ‘middle years’ (9-14 years).

“Promoting the importance of universal resilience-building activities in schools for children in the ‘middle years’ (9-14 years) can establish a strong foundation for safe play and exploration, which has the potential to lower risk-taking behaviours in later adolescence and early adulthood,” Ms Fraser said on behalf of the group.

“Communities can assist by providing learning and play opportunities that are safe and stimulating, to reduce high risk-taking behaviours and build resilience among young people.”

The ANZCDR&PG will continue to share information on issues in the review and reporting of child deaths, and work collaboratively towards national and international reporting.

For more information contact the ANZCDR&PG Secretariat: (07) 3211 6982.

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