Notes on the data: Aboriginal early childhood development

Australian Early Development Census indicators, 2009, 2012 and 2015


Policy context:  The Australian Early Development Census (AEDC) is a population census of children's health and development in their first year of full-time school. The AEDC is collected every three years in schools across Australia [1]. It provides a picture of early childhood development outcomes for Australia and was conducted nationwide in 2009, 2012, and 2015 [1]. In the 2015 data collection, information was collected on 302,003 Australian children (96.7 per cent of the estimated population) in their first year of full-time school [3]. Data are collected for individual children and then reported for a group of children at community, State/Territory and national levels. In addition, small numbers of children were combined so that more communities could have their results released. Initiated in 2007, the Indigenous Australian Early Development Index (Indigenous-AEDI) project adapted the AEDI to take into account Aboriginal cultural differences in the influences on child development [2]. An adapted Early Development Instrument was integrated into the national Early Development Instrument in 2009 with the following modifications:

  • use of Indigenous school personnel to work as cultural consultants with teachers in completing the Early Development Instrument for Indigenous children;
  • inclusion of contextual information in the online teacher guide so that cultural considerations can be taken into account on certain Early Development Instrument questions;
  • inclusion of additional Early Development Instrument items of relevance to understanding the particular circumstances of Indigenous children that may affect attendance and performance (cultural, sickness or other); and
  • use of home language, history of otitis media or hearing difficulties.

These modifications were included for all children in the 2009, 2012, and 2015 data collections [2].

The results from the AEDC provide communities and schools with information about how local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children have developed by the time they start school across five areas of early childhood development: physical health and wellbeing, social competence, emotional maturity, language and cognitive skills (schools-based), and communication skills and general knowledge.

In 2015, 42.1 per cent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were considered to be developmentally vulnerable on one or more domains of the AEDC. The corresponding figure for all children was 22.0 per cent [3].


  1. Australian Early Development Census (AEDC). Why participate in the AEDC? [Internet]. 2015 [cited 30 Jan 2017]. Available from:
  2. Australian Early Development Census (AEDC). The AEDI and Indigenous children. [Internet]. 2015 [cited 30 Jan 2017]. Available from:
  3. Australian Early Development Census (AEDC). Findings from the AECD [Internet]. 2015 [cited 30 Jan 2017]. Available from:

Notes:  The AEDC results report on the number of children scoring in the following percentile ranges: 0 to 10th percentile (developmentally vulnerable), 11th to 25th percentile (developmentally at risk) and above the 25th percentile (developmentally on track).

The PHIDU data are presented for children identified as being of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander origin who were:

  • Developmentally vulnerable (0 to 10th percentile) on one or more domains
  • Developmentally vulnerable (0 to 10th percentile) on two or more domains

and who were assessed as being developmentally vulnerable (0 to 10th percentile) in the following domains:

  • Physical health and wellbeing
  • Social competence
  • Emotional maturity
  • Language and cognitive skills (school-based)
  • Communication skills and general knowledge

Data are not shown for areas where one or more of the following have been met:

  • less than fifteen children had valid AEDC scores;
  • less than two teachers had completed the AEDC instrument for children in that location;
  • the AEDC instrument was completed for less than 80% of all non special needs children;
  • three or fewer children had been assessed;
  • 90 per cent or more of a population group is considered developmentally vulnerable in any domain or subdomain; or
  • for New South Wales only, data are not shown where the number of developmentally vulnerable children number is between one and five inclusively.

Additional minor suppressions have also occurred where necessary to preserve confidentiality of related suppressed cells.


  1. The data supplied for Boulia - Diamantina - Winton and Carpentaria - Burke - Mornington were grouped communities, as were the raw data for Ceduna and Ceduna - West Coast. The data presented here are of these grouped communities.
  2. In the raw data provided, where 90 per cent or more of a population group is considered developmentally vulnerable in any domain or subdomain, the number and percentage of children vulnerable was grouped to ‘90 per cent and over’. This applies to Domain Indicators (developmentally vulnerable category) and Vulnerability Summary Indicators (DV1 and DV2) and is to prevent the identification of individual children as developmentally vulnerable. In these instances, PHIDU have not shown data for these areas.  
  3. Data for 2015 are new, while data for 2009 and 2012 are revised.

Geography: Data available by Indigenous Area, Indigenous Quintiles and Indigenous Remoteness Areas


Numerator:  Aboriginal children who were developmentally vulnerable on one or more/ two or more domains; and Aboriginal children in each domain who were assessed as being developmentally vulnerable


Denominator:  Aboriginal children assessed in the AEDC


Detail of analysis:  Per cent


Source:  Compiled by PHIDU based on data from the 2009, 2012 and 2015 Australian Early Development Censuses, provided by the Australian Government Department of Education and Training.


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