The intent of the Committee is to improve the safety and wellbeing of children and young people in South Australia. One of the ways it does this is by identifying opportunities for prevention and intervention through the systematic collection, analysis, and dissemination of information about child deaths.
This page includes a summary and overview of child deaths in South Australia. The analysis presents the principal factors known to be associated with the risk of child death and with discrepancies in rates of child death between different parts of the population.
The dropdown menu below can be used to switch between a five-year summary of child deaths (2016–2020; Figure 1), a breakdown of deaths by category of death and age group over this same period (Figure 2), and a breakdown of child deaths by year and age group since 2005 (Figure 3). Note that the five-year summary can be filtered by broad age categories: All (birth to 17 years inclusive), Children (1 to 17 years), and Infants (birth to 11 months) – the distribution of deaths amongst causes and other demographic factors can differ widely between infants and children.
Please explore the interactive figures below. Note that you can hover over (or tap) the coloured bars to view further information including numbers and death rates. Some key points are discussed further down this page.
The most common cause of death category is natural causes (Figure 1). This is particularly true of infants, 86% of whom die of natural causes, commonly while less than 28 days of age and from disorders relating to gestation length and congenital abnormalities (Figure 2). Deaths from “undetermined” causes are prominent in infants aged 1 to 11 months, which include SIDS and other sudden unexpected deaths in infancy (SUDI). External causes of death become more common with increasing age, with suicide and transport-related deaths particularly prevalent between the ages of 15 to 17 years.
There is an overrepresentation of child deaths in areas of the state with the greatest socio-economic disadvantage (SEIFA quintile 1). This is true in both absolute and relative terms; although a larger proportion of children live in quintile 1 areas than in any other single quintile, the rate of child death is also highest in these areas (Figure 1).
It should be noted that while the number of deaths of Aboriginal children is much lower than non-Aboriginal children, the rate of death is much higher. It is important to consider both the number and rate of deaths in relation to other factors, too.
Thirty-one percent of children who died, or a member of their immediate family, had had contact with the child protection system in the three years prior to their death. Note that an equivalent population statistic is not available so the death rate by child protection contact status cannot be computed.
There has been a small, steady decline in the yearly number of child deaths over time (Figure 3). There were relatively large drops in deaths in both 2019 and 2020 compared with previous years. These were largely due to fewer neonatal deaths in these years – see the Committee’s analyses of the 2019 and 2020 data for further information.
Data definitions and detailed methodological information can be found in the Committee’s latest annual report.