Media Release by The Hon Julie Collins MP

New report on child protection in Australia

The Australian Government today welcomed a new report which shows the number of children subject to a substantiated child abuse and neglect across Australia has fallen by 4 per cent in the last year.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report, Child Protection Australia 2009-10, found the number of children who were the subject of a substantiated notification decreased by 4 per cent from 32,641 to 31,295 children from 2008-09 to 2009-10.

The report found the number of substantiated notifications of child abuse or neglect declined by 15 per cent from 2008-09 to 2009-10, from 54,621 to 46,187 substantiated notifications

The report also found the number of children subject to a notification of child abuse or neglect in Australia fell by 10 per cent, from 207,462 in 2008-09 to 187,314 in 2009-10.

This decline coincided with a rise in the number of children on care and protection orders, which increased from 35,409 in 2008-09 to 37,730 in 2009-10, or 7 per cent.

“Every child has the right to a safe, healthy and happy childhood. The AIHW report shows the number of substantiated child abuse and neglect across Australia has fallen but there is still more to be done,” the Parliamentary Secretary for Community Services, Julie Collins said.

“Protecting children and their right to a safe and healthy life is one of the most important responsibilities of all governments.”

Ms Collins said the Australian Government had worked closely with the states and territories, the non government sector, academics, carers and young people to develop the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children (2009-2020) to help reduce child abuse and neglect.

The National Framework is an ambitious, long-term approach supported by all levels of government to ensure the safety and wellbeing of Australian children.

“We want to ensure that every child living in out-of-home care is enjoying a safe, happy and healthy life. The new national standards for out-of-home care safeguard the health, safety and wellbeing of children, no matter where they live,” Ms Collins said.

The new standards will be rolled out from 1 July this year.

In addition, the number of children in out-of-home care increased by 5 per cent, from 34,069 in 2008-09 to 35,895 in 2009-10.

The Australian Government is also ensuring that children are better cared for by state and territory child protection agencies by improving information sharing between agencies.

“Improved information sharing helps child protection agencies locate high-risk families where there are concerns about a child’s welfare, particularly when families move across states and territories,” Ms Collins said.

“Since the protocol was introduced in January 2009, there have been 14,181 requests by child protection agencies for information from Centrelink, Medicare and the Child Support Agency.”

Ms Collins said the Australian Government had introduced a range of other measures to ensure children were better cared for in their homes, including 45 Communities for Children services and 8 Communities for Children Plus services across the country.

These programs bring together existing local services to provide better targeted and tailored prevention and early intervention to families who are at risk of disadvantage and who remain disconnected from childhood services.

“To date, we have delivered 45 Communities for Children sites across the country and are establishing eight Communities for Children Plus sites, of which three are up and running in Ipswich in Queensland; Kempsey in New South Wales and Cardinia in Victoria,” Ms Collins said.

The Australian Government is committed to working with the states and territories to address child abuse and neglect, so that all children, no matter where they live, grow up safe, healthy and happy.