Child Abuse and Neglect in Australia
Child abuse and neglect is Australia's most significant social problem. Last year over 30,000 Australian children were proven to have been abused or neglected.
The term 'child abuse' includes:
- Physical abuse: non-accidental aggressive act towards a child including slapping, shaking, punching, kicking etc. *
- Psychological abuse: includes rejecting, ignoring, terrorising and/or not providing emotional support and care. *
- Sexual abuse: any sexual activity between a child and an adult or older person (5 or more years older). Includes fondling, oral or anal and vaginal penetration, exposing or involving a child in pornography, voyeurism etc. *
- Neglect: failure to provide for a child's basic needs, including not enough food, shelter, clothing, supervision, medical attention etc. *
- Witnessing Family Violence: a child being present, either hearing or seeing, while a parent or sibling is subjected to physical, sexual or psychological abuse or is exposed to damage caused by the abuser. *
*AIFS National Child Protection Clearing House
Child abuse is rarely a one off incident and is always harmful. Hundreds of children are killed, and tens of thousands are psychologically and/or physically damaged each year. Far too often that damage lasts a lifetime.
Child abuse is known to increase the risks of:
• substance addiction
• poor physical health
• educational failure
• poor employability prospects
• depression and suicide.
As a result, past victims of abuse and neglect are grossly over-represented in the populations of our prisons, as perpetrators of crime and violence, and amongst the economically and socially disadvantaged members of our society.
Given the size of the problem, and the psychological, emotional and physical damage that can result, child abuse and neglect represents one of the greatest barriers and threats to the wellbeing of Australian children, young people and the next generation of children and adults. It affects mental, emotional and physical health, levels of violence and crime, addiction, educational attainment and employment. The consequences can be lifelong and it has been found that the perpetration of violence and abuse can also be passed on to future generations (Tomison, 1996). Proven cases of abuse and neglect affecting Indigenous children average six times greater than the broader population.