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If you believe a child is in immediate danger or in a life-threatening situation call 000.

If you wish to report a child protection matter, contact the department responsible for child protection in your state or territory.

Child protection in Australia

In Australia, statutory child protection is the responsibility of state and territory governments. Departments responsible for child protection provide assistance to vulnerable children who are suspected of being abused, neglected or harmed, or whose parents are unable to provide adequate care or protection.

Contacts made to these departments regarding allegations of child abuse or neglect, child maltreatment or harm to a child are called 'notifications'. Notifications are assessed to determine the level of intervention required (if any). The aim of an investigation is to obtain more detailed information and to determine whether the notification is 'substantiated' or 'not substantiated'. A substantiation indicates there is sufficient reason to believe that a child has been, is being, or is likely to be, abused, neglected or otherwise harmed.

The relevant department will attempt to ensure the safety of the child through an appropriate level of continued involvement. This may include placing the child on a care and protection order and/or into out-of-home care. The provision of support services to the child and family may also be appropriate.

For more information on the processes of child protection across Australia refer to Child protection Australia 2012–13.

Child protection quick facts 2012–13

Children receiving child protection services

In 2012–13 there were 135,000 children, a rate of 26.1 per 1,000 children, receiving child protection services (investigation, care and protection order and/or in out-of-home care).

Children receiving child protection services in Australia during 2012–13

Diagram showing numbers of children receiving various child protection services

More than half (56%) of these children were subject only to an investigation (that is, they were not subsequently placed on an order or in out-of-home care) and 8% were involved in all 3 components of the system.

Children receiving child protection services by components of service received, 2012–13

Venn diagram showing components and overlapping components of child protection services

Notifications, investigations and substantiations

There were nearly 273,000 notifications of suspected abuse or neglect in 2012–13, involving over 184,000 children.

Of all notifications, 45% were further investigated while the remaining 55% were dealt with by other means, such as being referred to a support service.

In 2012–13 there were around 40,500 children in substantiated abuse or neglect cases. This was around 1 in 128 children aged 0–17 years.

Children aged under 1 were most likely to be the subject of a substantiation (14.4 per 1,000 children) and those aged 15–17 were least likely (3.5 per 1,000 children).

42% of children who were the subject of a substantiation were from the areas of the lowest socioeconomic status.

Emotional abuse was the most common substantiated abuse type, followed by neglect and physical abuse. Sexual abuse was more common among girls; other types of abuse were slightly more common among boys.

Vertical bar chart showing for boys and girls; per cent on the y axis and physical, sexual, emotional, neglect on the x axis.

Care and protection orders

Across Australia, 51,997 children were on a care and protection order during 2012–13, and over 43,100 children were on a care and protection order at 30 June 2013.

Almost 9,800 children were discharged from a care and protection order in 2012–13.

Of these children, 43% had been continuously on an order for less than 12 months; 20% had spent between 1 and 2 years on an order, and 10% had spent over eight years.

Vertical bar chart showing per cent on the y axis and age from less than 3 months to greater than 8 years on the x axis.

Out-of-home care

Nationally, 50,307 children were in out-of-home care during 2012–13, and just over 40,500 children were in out-of-home care at 30 June 2013.

On 30 June 2013, 43% of those in out-of-home care were in foster care, 48% were living with relatives/kin and more than 5% were in residential care.

Out of home care by type PNG

Indigenous children

Indigenous children are over-represented across the child protection system compared with non-Indigenous children. In 2012–13, Indigenous children were 8 times as likely as non-Indigenous children to be receiving child protection services in general or to be the subject of substantiated abuse or neglect, and over 10 times as likely to be on a care and protection order or in out-of-home care.

Collecting national data on child protection

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare collaborates with states and territories to manage the national child protection data collection. This collection is drawn from the state and territory administrative data sets. It is reviewed annually to improve data quality and comparability.

Over the past few years, the AIHW, with dedicated national resources made available through the Australian Government, has worked with all jurisdictions to develop a new Child Protection National Minimum Data Set (CP NMDS) for reporting on child protection. This NMDS, launched in 2013, replaces the existing collection of aggregated data, and for the first time allows for analysis at the child level (unit record).

The establishment of a national unit record data collection is a significant milestone substantially improving the quality of information available on child protection, which will benefit national reporting and research. It provides a more comprehensive and accurate picture of children within the statutory child protection system in Australia than has been previously available.

The national collection provides comprehensive statistical information on state and territory child protection and support services, and some of the characteristics of the children within these systems. States and territories provide annual data for seven national child protection sub-collections:

  • Notifications, investigations and substantiations
  • Care and protection orders
  • Out-of-home care
  • Foster carers
  • Relative/kinship carers
  • Intensive family support services
  • National out-of-home care standards.

Further details including collection specific information and statistics are available in Child protection Australia 2012–13.

How do I report a child protection matter?

If you believe a child is in immediate danger or in a life-threatening situation call 000.

If you wish to report a child protection matter, contact the department responsible for child protection in your state or territory directly:

New South Wales

Department of Family & Community Services

Tel. 132 111


Department of Health and Human Services

Tel. 131 278 (after hours emergency)


Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services

Tel. (07) 3235 9999 or 1800 177 135 (after hours and weekends)

Western Australia

Department for Child Protection

Tel. 1800 622 258
a/h: (08) 9223 1111 or 1800 199 008

South Australia

Department for Education and Child Development

Tel. 131 478


Department of Health and Human Services

Tel. 1300 737 639

Australian Capital Territory

Community Services Directorate

Tel. 1300 556 729

Northern Territory

Office of Children and Families

Tel. 1800 700 250