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The number of Australian children subject to a substantiation of a notification of child abuse or neglect has declined, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

The report, Child protection Australia 2009-10, showed that in the last 12 months the number of children subject to a substantiation of a notification across Australia decreased by 4%, to around 31,300 children. This decrease confirms a trend that has been emerging over the last few years.

‘There has been an overall decrease of 8% in the number of children who were the subject of a substantiation over the six year period from 2004-05 to 2009-10,’ said Mr Tim Beard of the AIHW’s Child and Youth Welfare Unit.

‘Although a decline in substantiations may reflect a genuine decrease in substantiated cases of child abuse and/or neglect, other factors impact the data,’ Mr Beard said.

‘These factors include changes in community awareness regarding child abuse and neglect and/or changes to policies, practices and reporting methods.’

A rise in the number of children on care and protection orders and the number of children in out-of-home care is also outlined in the report.

‘In the last 12 months, the number of children on care and protection orders has increased by 7% to just over 37,700 and the number of children in out-of-home care has risen by 5% to around 35,900,’ Mr Beard said.

The report also examines the number of foster carer households across Australia. At 30 June 2010, there were over 8,000 foster carer households with one or more children placed in the household.

‘Of the foster carer households, 48% had one foster child placed with them, 47% had between two to four foster children placed and 5% had five or more children,’ Mr Beard said.

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children remain over-represented in all areas of the child protection system, with Indigenous children almost 8 times as likely to be the subject of substantiations as their non-Indigenous counterparts.

The rate of Indigenous children on care and protection orders was 9 times that of non-Indigenous children. For out-of-home-care, this rate was almost 10 times that of those children not of an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander background.

‘The reasons for this are complex and include the inter-generational effects of separation from family and culture, perceptions arising from cultural differences in child-rearing practices, and the relative socio-economic disadvantage of Indigenous Australians,’ Mr Beard said.

Canberra, 19 January 2011

Further information: Mr Tim Beard, tel. (02) 6244 1270, mob. 0407 915 851

For media copies of the report: Publications Officer 02 6244 1032

Child protection Australia 2009-10