Armidale Regional Council Greens' councillor Dorothy Robinson calls for joint task force on child mortality rates

ARMIDALE region had the highest child mortality rate in NSW, a 2018 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report found.

Greens MP and Child Protection spokesperson David Shoebridge is calling for a taskforce to address the issue.

“In a wealthy country like Australia, we should never accept such rates of child mortality, so it is essential we act,” he said.

“The local council has the on-the-ground knowledge that when combined with resources and skills of NSW Health will enable the taskforce to design practical interventions to address the issues.”

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At Thursday’s Armidale Regional Council meeting, Cr Robinson brought up the child mortality rates in a discussion about council’s risk management framework.

Cr Robinson asked council to consider the risks of not meeting national air quality standards and its potential relationship with high child morality rates.

The AIH report shows that from 2011 to 2015, Armidale region had the highest child mortality rate, with 26 deaths.

But, a high mortality rate does not necessarily imply there are a large number of deaths in the area.

Armidale Regional Council mayor Simon Murray said he wanted more evidence.

“I question how she [Dorothy Robinson] can draw a link between child mortality rates in this hospital boundary and air quality,” he said.

“My understanding is that we can get more specific information to narrow down the area then see if our LGA has the high mortality rates as in the report.

“What happened if following more investigation it turns out that our LGA actually has low mortality figures, and I’m not trying to treat this insensitively, what would be the benefit of ARC joining a task force?”

The Armidale region depicted in the report includes Armidale, Uralla, parts of Tamworth and Walcha, areas that do not statistically have the Armidale township levels of wood smoke pollution.

The AIHW report outlined the causes of death for Armidale, 73 per cent died of natural causes.

Of those, 26 per cent were related to conditions arising in the perinatal period, 23.1 per cent were due to external factors and 3.9 per cent due to SIDS and other unknown causes.

Regardless, Cr Robinson said it’s a contest she doesn’t want to win.

“Being listed as the council area with the highest childhood mortality rates in NSW should be enough to make Armidale Regional Council look for solutions,” she said.

"Other health statistics are also of concern. New England North West has the third lowest life expectancy in NSW.

“I know residents who are really concerned about children's health, and the health of our entire community.

“We need to understand the relative contributions of our high air pollution levels, disadvantage and poor housing," Cr Robinson said.

The Express asked Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall about the issue, who said he didn’t wish to comment.

This story Greens call for taskforce on Armidale’s child mortality rate first appeared on The Armidale Express.