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The latest data on three areas of child protection services - child abuse and neglect; children on care and protection orders; and children in out of home care - are contained in Child protection Australia 1996-97, to be released by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare on Friday.

The report includes data from all States and Territories, but does not include national data for child abuse and neglect. One of the report's authors, Ms Helen Johnstone said that this is because data from New South Wales were not available for the full period covered by the report and differences between States in policies and practices affect the comparability of data. 'It's very important that people take great care when comparing data for the different states and territories.'

The number of substantiated cases of child abuse and neglect in 1996-97 did not vary significantly from the previous year. The number of substantiated cases, excluding New South Wales, was 16, 310 in 1996-97, an increase of 3% compared with 1995-96. Of these, 32% were physical abuse, 26% emotional abuse, 13% sexual abuse and 29% neglect.
As at 30 June 1997, 15,700 children were on care and protection orders, the majority of them (75%) were on guardianship or custody orders, with the remaining on supervisory, interim, temporary and other orders. There were 14,100 children in out of home care at 30 June 1997, 89% were in home based care. The majority of children in out of home care were also on a care and protection order.

Indigenous children were over-represented in each of the child protection services. For example, the rate of Indigenous children in substantiated cases of child abuse and neglect was 26 per 1,000 and 12 per 1,000 in South Australia and Queensland respectively, compared with less than 6 per thousand and under 4 for other children.

Overall, 3.3 children per 1,000 were on care and protection orders in Australia at 30 June 1997. The rate for Indigenous children was almost 15 per thousand. Of children in out of home care, the rate for Indigenous children at 30 June 1997 was around 16 per thousand compared with 2.5 for other children.

Ms Johnstone said the differences between the rates of Indigenous and other children represented in the data could not be attributed to any single cause. 'As the literature shows, there are many and complex reasons for this over-representation. Poverty and unemployment, parental health problems, and lack of adequate support services for Indigenous families could be some of the reasons.'

28 August 1998


Further information: Helen Johnstone, ph. 02 6244 1157.
For media copies of the report: Lena Searle, ph. 02 6244 1032.
Availability: Child protection Australia 1996-97.