Sunday, 13 March 2011

SIDS: Australia: statistics

 NOEL TOWELL, 10 Mar, 2011
The deaths of hundreds of children in the territory, going back to 2004, will be examined by a new committee to be set up by the ACT Government.
The Legislative Assembly voted yesterday to approve the establishment of the committee, which will bring the territory into line with other jurisdictions around Australia.

The committee, which will be supported by a small bureaucracy, will examine trends surrounding child deaths and to advise on safety measures to prevent future tragedies.

The idea of a death review committee was first raised in the 2004 Vardon report, a devastating critique of child protection services in the ACT.

But questions remained yesterday about the size and composition of the committee, the cost of establishing the body and its supporting bureaucracy, and how it would cope with investigating the deaths.
Information from the ACT Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages indicates that the number of registered child deaths have fluctuated since 2003, ranging from a maximum of 36 in 2008 to a minimum of 26 deaths the following year.

The sponsor of the legislation, ACT Greens leader Meredith Hunter, said the committee was an exercise in risk reduction.

''This committee will look at children and young people deaths, they will unpack the contexts around these deaths and hopefully what that will provide will be trends and patterns around the risks to young people and children and how we might prevent deaths and injuries in the future,'' she said.

''We will be able to sit at the table with those jurisdictions and share our data not only with Australian jurisdictions but with New Zealand.''

Ms Hunter said the committee would not undermine the role of the Coroners Court or other mechanisms for investigating deaths.

''This does not impact on the coronial process, because the coronial processes will have to be completed before the matter goes to the committee ,'' she said.

The most recent in-depth work on children's deaths, an ACT Health report finalised in 2006 concerning a review of ACT child deaths from 1992 to 2003, found there were 400 deaths of children and young people aged 0-17 years in the ACT during the period.

It found that more than 60 per cent of the deaths were of infants aged less than 12 months and the most common killers were conditions originating just before or after birth, congenital malformations or sudden infant death syndrome.

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