Media Release by The Hon Larry Anthony MP

Report shows more needs to be done to protect our children

Preliminary figures released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) tell an alarming story about the numbers of Australian children who suffer child abuse or neglect Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Larry Anthony, said.

Child Protection Australia 2001-2002 First National Results shows an increase of more than 22,000 notifications in the period 2000-01 to 2001-02, totalling 137,938 notifications last financial year. There was also an increase of more than 3,000 substantiated cases in 2001-02 taking the total to 30,473 substantiated cases of child abuse or neglect.

“A staggering 20,557 children are on care and protection orders, up from 15,718 in 1997. This is a vast increase in the number of families considered unfit or unable to care or protect their children.

“The situation for indigenous children continues to be particularly bad. At 30 June 2002, the rate of indigenous children on care and protection orders was nearly six times the rate of other Australian children. The rate of substantiations for indigenous children in Victoria and Western Australia was nearly eight times that for other children.

“The report shows that 51 per cent of children in out-of-home care are in foster care. Unfortunately, despite the excellent care that most foster carers provide children leaving foster care are much more at risk of poor outcomes than other children.

“At a meeting I recently convened on foster care with state and territory Ministers, agreement was reached to develop a National Plan for Foster Carers and Children with a focus on training, research, uniform data collection and support.

“We will also be showing the way in the development of a National Agenda for Early Childhood that will help give every child a good start in life, especially children who are most vulnerable.

“This preliminary report is a timely reminder of how all State and Territory Governments are struggling with the problem. I am pleased the Prime Minister has put child protection on the agenda at the Council of Australia Governments (COAG) meeting at the end of this week.

“These figures are shocking and send a strong message to all levels of Government that a lot of hard work still needs to be done. But Governments alone can not solve the problem, we all have a responsibility to care and protect our children and young people,”
Mr Anthony said

The Final Report by the AIHW will be released in March/April 2003.