Young Australians, illness and education: report on the national database project

1 Jun 2015

Chronically-ill children who need to take extended absences from school are neither officially acknowledged nor assisted to keep up, according to this report.

Executive summary

Australia’s health system faces many challenges related to chronic and complex health conditions. Major advances in biomedicine mean that children and young people are now surviving conditions that would have meant early death just a short time ago. This has major implications for Australia’s education systems.


A troubling side effect of this success in medicine is the number of children and young people who manage their chronic health conditions, but who can easily remain overlooked in education. In many ways this is a new frontier for teachers, schools and education systems. Never before have so many students been present in our classrooms, who have survived major health challenges, but who are not yet systematically supported to thrive in education.


This report provides a detailed summary of education, health and demographic information about Australian children and young people who live with significant health conditions. This study closely examined an important national database of 2360 such individuals.


This study is contextualised within recent international literature from the fields of education, medicine, oncology, public health, paediatric nursing, psychology, counselling, psychiatry and social policy. Socio-economic indexes developed by the Australian Bureau of Statistics were employed in the analysis of data.


As Australian government figures are not available about these young people as an educational cohort, the major purpose of this study was to provide an empirical base for policy recommendation and further investigation. An important secondary aim of the study was to contribute to the growing body of evidence about pressing educational issues related to these children and young people. Concern about the education of this group is expected to escalate as this cohort of Australian students continues to expand, due to advances in biomedicine.

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