In Australia, state and territory governments are responsible for statutory child protection. Relevant departments support vulnerable children who have been, or are at risk of being, abused, neglected or otherwise harmed, or whose parents are unable to provide adequate care or protection.
In 2021–22, around 1 in 32 (178,000) Australian children aged under 18 came into contact with the child protection system. Contact includes investigations (which may or may not lead to substantiated child maltreatment), care and protection order and/or out-of-home care placements.
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.
When a department responsible for child protection is contacted regarding allegations of child abuse, neglect, child maltreatment or harm to a child, this is called a 'notification'. Notifications are investigated to determine the level of intervention required (if any). Investigations aim to obtain more detailed information and 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.
Some groups of children are over-represented in Australia’s child protection system. For example, Indigenous children are more likely to be the subject of substantiations, on care and protection orders, and in out-of-home care than non-Indigenous children.
The AIHW has been the authoritative source of national child protection data and reporting since 1991, providing valuable insights into child safety and child protection services.
The AIHW collaborates with states and territories to manage the national child protection data collection. This collection is drawn from state and territory administrative data sets and is reviewed annually to improve data quality and comparability. The 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.
The National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2009–2020 was Australia’s first long-term plan to promote and enhance the safety and wellbeing of Australia’s children. A successor plan, Safe and Supported: The National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2021–2031, was released 10 December 2021.
In 2021–22, about 178,000 children came into contact with the system, a decrease from about 179,000 in 2020–21
Between 2017–18 and 2021–22, the rate of children with substantiations remained relatively stable around 8 per 1,000
Between 30 June 2018 and 30 June 2022, the rate of children in out-of-home care remained stable around 8 per 1,000
Compared to 2020–21, the number of children with a substantiation of abuse in care decreased by 6% from 1,300 to 1,200