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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children face greater risks to their safety-including higher rates of child abuse and neglect, sexual assault, and hospitalisation and death from injury-than non-Indigenous children, according to a paper released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The paper shows that during 2011-12, Indigenous children aged 0-17 were nearly 8 times as likely as non-Indigenous children to be the subject of substantiated child abuse or neglect (42 per 1,000 children, compared with 5 per 1,000).

In New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and the Northern Territory in 2012, rates of sexual assault reported to police among Indigenous children aged 0-9 were 2 to 4 times the rates among non-Indigenous children in these jurisdictions.

'Between July 2010 and June 2012, the rate of injury hospitalisations among Indigenous children aged 0-17 was 1.3 times that of non-Indigenous children,' said AIHW spokesperson Dr Fadwa Al-Yaman.

The most common causes of these hospitalisations were accidental falls, followed by transport accidents and assault. The hospitalisation rate for assault for Indigenous children was more than 5 times the rate for non-Indigenous children.

In 2007-2011, more than one-quarter (26%) of all deaths among Indigenous children aged 0-17 were due to injury, and the death rate due to injury was more than twice the rate for non-Indigenous children (80 deaths per 100,000 children, compared with 34 per 100,000).

The report also shows that Indigenous children are over-represented among specialist homelessness services clients and in the youth justice system.

'In 2012-13, almost 1 in 3 (31%) children aged 0-17 who received assistance from a specialist homelessness agency was Indigenous; by comparison, Indigenous children comprise 5.5% of the total Australian child population,' Dr Al-Yaman said.

On an average day in 2012-13, 39% of all males and 45% of all females aged 10-17 under youth justice supervision were Indigenous, and Indigenous young people aged 10-17 were 17 times as likely to be under youth justice supervision as non-Indigenous young people.

'There is good news however in that the Indigenous rate of youth justice supervision has fallen over time.'

In 2012-13, Indigenous young people aged 10-17 were supervised at a rate of 225 per 10,000, down from 233 per 10,000 in 2008-09.

The AIHW is a major national agency set up by the Australian Government to provide reliable, regular and relevant information and statistics on Australia's health and welfare.

Canberra, 9 July 2014

Further information: Dr Fadwa Al-Yaman, AIHW, tel. (02) 6244 1146

Full publication: Indigenous child safety