Child social exclusion (CSE) is a complex and multi-dimensional measure of social and material disadvantage in which children lack the opportunities and resources to participate fully in their communities and feel connected. The aim of this article is to provide an update of the risk of child social exclusion at small area level in Australia in 2016 and compare the trends and patterns to 2011. We found that many children are experiencing disadvantage on multiple fronts and are unable to participate fully in their community. Australia’s capital cities paint a contrasting picture having clear clusters of neighbourhoods at risk of high but also low levels of child social exclusion. Areas outside capital cities have much lower proportions of children experiencing the lowest levels of social exclusion. We found that from 2011 to 2016, the geographical patterns of the least and most excluded areas remain largely unchanged over time, with 73 per cent of the small areas in Australia remaining in the same quintile in 2011 and 2016. Of the local communities having the highest risk of child social exclusion in 2011, 87% were still in the most excluded quintile in 2016. Between 2011 and 2016, 279 small areas (14%) improved their CSE quintile, but 268 local communities shifted into a more socially excluded quintile. The key drivers of improvement in child social exclusion were ‘above-average’ improvement in the socio-economic well-being of families in these areas and in their educational attainment, and reduced exposure to increases in housing stress.