Why children’s fundamental movement skill development is important, how Aussie kids are doing and how allied health practitioners can help.

A/Prof LM Barnett

Deakin University

A/Prof Barnett will firstly provide an overview of the Australian context of sport and physical activity for children, including the notion of physical literacy. Many Australian children do not meet physical activity guidelines, are not cardio-vascularly fit and are overweight or obese. Then she will give data on Australian children’s fundamental movement skills. Around half of Australian children are not competent in basic movement skills; e.g. the ability to catch, run and jump. Even in adolescence, when we would expect these skills to be mastered, movement skill competency is low. She will then use a lifespan approach to discuss the importance of children’s movement skill competence to future health. A/Prof Barnett will present a range of her studies covering the age period from pre-school to upper high school, and the key work of others in the field, to demonstrate the current state of evidence in this area and the remaining research questions to be answered. Importantly, there is now compelling evidence demonstrating that poor childhood movement skill competence and poor perceptions of movement competence, links to subsequent reduced physical activity and health-related physical fitness, and a higher chance of becoming overweight/obese. Finally she will discuss which children are most at risk of poor skill.

 Key Practice Points

Allied health practitioners have a crucial role to play. For example, paediatric physiotherapists and podiatrists have the opportunity to screen and promote movement skill competency in children and youth. This presentation will give practitioners a fresh perspective on the importance of movement skill development for all children.


A/Prof Barnett had over 10 years in Health Promotion before entering academia. She completed a Bachelor in Social Science (Edith Cowan University), a Master’s in Public Health (University of New South Wales) and her PhD (2006-08, University of Sydney). She was then successful with prestigious research fellowships to engage in research full time: a NHMRC Early Career Fellowship from 2011-14, and an Alfred Deakin Research Fellowship from 2015-2016. Currently she is Course Leader of Honours in Health Promotion, Public Health and Health Science, Deputy Leader of the Health Undergraduate Team and a Member of the Institute for Physical Activity and Nutrition Research at Deakin University. She is President Elect of the International Motor Development Research Consortium, and a Sports Medicine Australia Fellow. She is internationally recognized in the assessment of children’s actual and perceived movement skill competency and the relationship between these skills and health behaviours. She has a career total > 125 publications. She has been awarded close to 4 million dollars of research funding, including competitive, international and government. Recently she was one of the three lead investigators to develop the Australian Physical Literacy plan.