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Almost 220,000 NSW students in low socioeconomic areas face potential losses of up to $16.3 billion in lifetime earnings due to missing an average of 15 weeks in face-to-face learning during the pandemic, according to new research.

Western Sydney children face the biggest losses, with the Local Government Areas of Fairfield, Blacktown and Canterbury-Bankstown topping the list – potentially losing a collective $3.1 billion in earnings across the lifetime from the long-term impacts of interrupted learning.

These are some of the shocking findings from the fourth and final report in the Aftershock series, a study examining the impact of events of the past two and a half years on people in NSW.

The Impact Economics and Policy research, commissioned by NCOSS and other peak bodies including Fams and AbSec, finds that NSW has faced unprecedented disruptions from bushfires, floods and the pandemic since 2020.

According to the research, children have faced some of the greatest upheavals which will have lifelong impacts if urgent action is not taken.

The report also reveals that an additional 13,400 children were at “risk of significant harm” between 2018-19 and 2020-21 – which risks an increase in the lifetime costs associated with child abuse and neglect of $7.8 billion.

NCOSS CEO, Joanna Quilty, said the final report of the Aftershock series must spur on the NSW Government to address these issues head-on.

“Children have faced some of the greatest upheavals, with the closure of schools and early learning centres having a profound impact on their safety, social development and education,” Ms Quilty said.

The international evidence also tells us children exposed to disasters are at heightened risk of post traumatic stress symptoms, depression, altered brain functioning and inhibited learning processes.

And we know that adverse childhood experiences increase the probability of poor mental and physical health in adulthood, lower employment prospects and lower lifetime earnings.

“Without intervention, our children stand to pay the highest price for the disruptions caused by the pandemic and natural disasters.

“This report shows that children in Western Sydney will be most affected – potentially losing billions of dollars in the course of their lifetimes due to lost educational opportunities.

“This Aftershock series has lifted the lid on the impact of the past few years – but we cannot simply talk about these issues with no follow through – we need action now. Without investment in targeted supports and services, the long-term consequences will be severe.

“It is incumbent on the NSW Government to step up for our most vulnerable citizens.”

Fams CEO, Susan Watson, said: “The alarming number of children identified as at risk of harm, particularly the over representation of Aboriginal children, calls for urgent attention by the government. We need a significant investment into early intervention, if we are to reduce the number of children ending up in out of home care.”


Other evidence from this report which highlights the impact on NSW children includes:

  • A 36 per cent increase in the number of contacts to the Kids Helpline, including increases in the number of children seeking counselling for abuse and suicide prevention.
  • An increase during 2020-21 of 32 per cent in the number of children presenting at emergency departments with mental health concerns – five times the previous annual growth rate.
  • A 13 per cent increase in the number of children from low SES areas developmentally vulnerable at the start of school.
  • Lifetime fiscal and social costs of $1.1 million per person associated with non-school completion and disengagement.
  • Aboriginal children being twice and likely as non-Indigenous children to start school developmentally vulnerable.


The report recommends the following steps to be taken by the NSW Government to ameliorate these impacts and bolster child wellbeing and development:

  • Provide ongoing funding to support evidence-based, high-quality school tutoring programs
  • Integrate whole-of-family, early intervention health and social services into the school environment in at-risk communities
  • Expand early intervention and child protection services, including growing the provision of culturally appropriate support and service provision, led by Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations and multicultural services.


For more information, and to read a copy of the report, visit

Table 1: Potential reduction in lifetime earnings across NSW due to losses in educational outcomes amongst children attending low SES schools - top 10 impacted LGAs


Local Government AreaLifetime Earning Losses ($m)
Fairfield, City of                               1,222
Blacktown City Council                               1,062
Canterbury-Bankstown, City of                                  866
Central Coast Council                                  829
Campbelltown, City of                                  796
Liverpool, City of                                  755
Penrith, City of                                  741.
Cumberland City Council                                  584
Lake Macquarie, City of                                  567
Maitland, City of                                  461


Media contact: Mia Burns 0431 465 306