Death and Disadvantage

More children die in areas of South Australia where there are greater levels of social disadvantage. The Committee has documented this association over the past 12 years and published data showing this relationship in its 2016-17 Annual Report.

In countries like Australia, this relationship between child death and social disadvantage is well known:

‘Relative poverty is highlighted as the most important social determinant for child deaths in high-income countries. The authors identify a persistent – across all causes and in time – inverse association between socioeconomic status and child mortality in high-income countries.’ The Lancet V p830. Child deaths: inequity and inequality in high-income countries.

The relationship between South Australian child deaths and disadvantage, across different categories of death, can be explored in more detail in this interactive visualisation. This includes all deaths of children in the listed categories that occurred in South Australia between 2005 and 2016 inclusive.


The Committee’s analysis shows that, between 2005 and 2016 and across all categories of death:

  • There is a broad pattern of increasing deaths with increasing levels of disadvantage across all age groups.
  • A consistent pattern of low numbers of deaths in the age range 5 to 14 years, and two peaks, one in the youngest age group and one in the oldest.
  • An increase in the number of deaths at younger and older ages is greater at higher levels of socioeconomic disadvantage. The impact of this disadvantage is demonstrated by the particularly high number of deaths in children under one year of age at higher levels of SEIFA.

Some key points to notice about disadvantage and different categories of death:

  • There is a strong association between social disadvantage and children dying from natural causes and in transport crashes. But these two categories are mirror opposites with respect to age, with natural causes involving greater numbers of younger children and transport related deaths involving greater numbers of older children.
  • Fire-related deaths, drowning and deaths resulting from the deliberate act of another person all involved greater numbers of children from areas of greater social disadvantage.
  • The distribution of deaths in these three categories also highlights the vulnerability of toddler and pre-school aged children since they had more deaths in the 1 to 4 age range than any other age.
  • Suicide deaths stand out because there is the least evident effect of social disadvantage.

Go to the Committee’s latest Annual Report to learn more about how the Committee defines ‘disadvantage’ and ‘categories of death’ and what the Committee is doing to address issues arising from the deaths of children in South Australia.

Child Death and Serious Injury Review Committee Annual Report 2016-17

In its twelfth Annual Report, the Committee has reported that the rate of child deaths has, on average, slowly decreased since 2005.  However, higher rates of death are still occurring for children living in the State’s most disadvantaged areas and for Aboriginal children.

Several of the Committee’s in-depth reviews have focused on young parents whose infants have died and led to recommendations about:

  • The importance of timely cross-border information-sharing.
  • The need to support young people under guardianship through the provision of appropriate, trauma-informed services and the extension of guardianship arrangements beyond 18 years.
  • The provision of ante-natal, birthing and parenting support services for young people.

The Committee has recommended the appointment of a strong and influential advocate for Aboriginal children and young people.

The Committee has provided the Minister for Education and Child Development with a list of the fundamental building blocks for services for children with disability that include respect for the centrality of the child, stable care, active case management, the presence of an advocate and end-of-life planning.

To enhance the safety of children, the Committee has recommended changes to the Plumbing Code that could help prevent serious scalding accidents and an infant safe sleeping campaign that provides information, support and access to portable infant safe sleeping devices.

The 2016-17 CDSIRC Annual Report is available for download.