Media Release by The Hon Larry Anthony MP

Our children deserve a better deal

The reported increase in the number of children at risk should alarm all Australians the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Larry Anthony, said today.

“The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s report Child protection Australia 2000-01 only paints part of the picture. Each State and Territory handles child protection reporting differently. For example, there are many different definitions of what constitutes ‘abuse’.

“These differences at a very basic level make it difficult to draw concrete conclusions about child protection issues Australia-wide.

“This again highlights the need for uniform child protection legislation across the States and Territories. I believe there is also an urgent need for minimum standards for mandatory reporting and investigation of child abuse and neglect allegations.

“The States and Territories have all made progress recently. Some States are currently conducting investigations into child abuse and how their Government is responding to the problem. I will continue my efforts to work with them and will consult with key stakeholders and my federal parliamentary colleagues on this issue.

“Of substantiated incidences of abuse or neglect, the report shows that:

  • More girls than boys were subject to abuse and neglect;
  • Almost three times as many girls as boys were subject to sexual abuse;
  • The perpetrator of the abuse is most frequently a natural parent;
  • There was a high proportion of children from female-headed one-parent families, and;
  • a low proportion of children in two-parent intact families.

“The report also says there has been an increase of 30 per cent in the number of children going into care between 1997 and June 2001 which is particularly worrying.

“The removal of a child from their family environment because they are at risk of abuse or high levels of family conflict is sometimes the only solution.

“However, children in care often face an uncertain future. A recent report for my Department talked about some of the issues confronting our 8,340 foster families and 38,000 foster children. There is little doubt that Governments and the community have to better support both foster children and parents and there is much more work needed in this area.

“There were 27,367 substantiated allegations of child abuse and neglect. To my mind this means that more than 50,000 parents have failed their children.

“While notifications of child abuse have increased, there is no doubt that just as many incidents of this hideous crime are not reported.

“Child protection is not an issue owned by the Government. We all have a responsibility to ensure that our children are safe. What sort of society are we that allows child abuse to occur at all?” Mr Anthony asked.