Why is Backpacks 4 SA Kids needed?

Making a Difference

In 2019–20, about 174,700 children aged 0–17 received child protection services.

These include investigations (which may or may not lead to substantiated cases of child abuse or neglect), care and protection orders and/or out-of-home care placements (Figure 1). This equates to a rate of 31 per 1,000 children.

More than half (57%) of these children were the subject of an investigation only and were not subsequently placed on a care and protection order or in out-of-home care.

A small proportion (7.2%) were involved in all 3 components of the system.

(Data from Child protection - Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (aihw.gov.au))


The number of children receiving child protection services continues to rise.

Over the 4-year period from 2016–17 to 2019–20, the overall number of children who received child protection services in Australia rose by 3.8% - from around 168,300 children (31 per 1,000) to around 174,700 children (31 per 1,000) (Figure 2). The fall in the number of children receiving services between 2016–17 and 2017–18 resulted from a change in the definition of child protection investigation for New South Wales and substantiations data for New South Wales being unavailable in 2017–18.

Increases over time in the number or rate of children receiving child protection services or support might relate to changes in the underlying rate of child abuse and neglect, increases in notifications and access to services, or a combination of factors.

(Data from Child protection - Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (aihw.gov.au))

Figure 1

Approximately 44,000 other children become homeless every year, often leaving in a hurry with their mums' due to family violence

Mission Australia 2017

What all these children have in common is that they leave home with no or little notice and often have no clothing or other essential items beyond what they are standing up in. All these children need our help and support. We can’t help them all, but at Backpacks 4 SA Kids, we constantly strive to help as many as we can.

We work across South Australia, in conjunction with child welfare, child protection, family violence and homelessness agencies, and organisations such as SAPOL who have responsibility for removing vulnerable children from unsafe homes and assisting those made homeless as a result of family conflict. We provide as many displaced children as possible with an age-appropriate backpack containing a range of items including two sets of clothes (four for the babies), pyjamas, underwear, socks, toiletries and comfort items (such as a cuddle toy),a book and a toy, colouring pencils and colouring books for the younger kids and some school stationery supplies for the older ones, plus nappies, bottles, a dummy etc for babies.

We commenced in 2012, assisting 540 children in that year, and currently assist over 6,500 children per year, and around 1000 carers in South Australia alone, as demand for our service increases year by year. In 2024 we anticipate requests for backpacks will increase again.

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In addition, we have three other programs under the Backpacks 4 SA Kids banner. The first is our Home Starter Packs, which go to families which have left a violent relationship at home and need to start again. The families, overwhelmingly women with children, can access assistance via homelessness and support organisations to find a rental property, but usually do not have any essential items to move in with. The Home Starter Packs contain items such as sheets, towels, pillows, quilts, and kitchen necessities such as plates, cups, bowls, pans and utensils for them and their children. We find this program is necessary because in many instances, women don’t leave an abusive relationship because they fear that even if they are able to find accommodation, they won’t have these essential starter items to give their children a reasonable life while they get themselves established. The Home Starter Packs assist with this initial establishment and hence make it just a little less daunting for these women as they try for a better life for their kids.

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The second program is our Anchor Packs, which are designed for young people aged 12-24 who are experiencing primary, secondary or tertiary homelessness. These packs contain essentials such as a sleeping bag, toiletries, towel, torch, drink bottle, sunscreen, first aid kit, plus a Metro Card, power bank and USB. These items help to keep them as safe as possible until they can be connected with agencies to assist them into accommodation and support services. We are extremely pleased to be able to now provide our Anchor Packs, given that between the last two Census periods, homelessness rose by just over 10%. Every night in Australia, over 105,000 people are homeless, and 25% of these are young people aged 12-25 years. Our consultations with the Youth and Homelessness sectors demonstrated that these vulnerable young people represent a gap in the services sectors – that is, their immediate needs for safety and survival are not being met. Since 2017 we've packed over 2,500 Anchor Packs which are distributed through Youth Homelessness agencies.

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While these three programs represent the bulk of our work, we also conduct our third program - a Christmas Drive to give gifts to each child and young person going into emergency care or accessing homelessness services over the Christmas period.

Demand is, unfortunately, very high. In 2021, we supplied over 7,030 gifts to displaced kids, distributed through Child Protection and Homelessness agencies as they placed these kids in care and demand is higher every year than the one before.