Developmental Disability among Aboriginal Children in Western Australia (DDACWA)

Project Details

Aboriginal children with intellectual disability and/or autism spectrum disorder (‘developmental disability’) in Western Australia (WA) are less likely to access disability services early than non-Aboriginal children. However, it is not known how much this varies by region and across families. The reasons children do not access services in early childhood are also poorly understood; they may include delays in diagnosis, barriers to accessing services and inappropriate services.

Aboriginal families affected by developmental disability (among the children or parents) have high levels of contact with the child protection system as Aboriginal children, children with developmental disability and children with parents with intellectual disability are all over-represented in the system. The experiences of these families are not known, nor is it known if receipt of disability services reduces the likelihood of child removal.

The aims of this study are to use linked, population-based data to:

1. identify regions of WA where health services are making early diagnoses and children are accessing disability services in early childhood;

2. identify characteristics of children and families where children are diagnosed early and receive services early (e.g. parental age and level of contact with healthcare services). This will inform pathways to increase early diagnosis and identify possible barriers to accessing services; and

3. examine the relationship between developmental disability and the child protection system and how this varies with access to disability services and other strengths and vulnerabilities within the family.


Dr Alison Gibberd

Prof Sandra Eades

Prof Anne Kavanagh

Assoc Prof Helen Leonard

Assoc Prof Roz Walker

Jenny Bourke

Dr Melissa O’Donnell

Dr Robyn Williams


Seed funding from the Melbourne Disability Institute – Developmental Disability among Aboriginal Children in Western Australia (DDACWA).

Research Group

Indigenous Epidemiology and Health

Faculty Research Themes

Child Health

School Research Themes

Disparities, disadvantage and effective health care

Key Contact

For further information about this research, please contact the research group leader.

Department / Centre

Melbourne School of Population and Global Health

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