This report is based on the following three national child protection data collections:

  • child protection notifications, investigations and substantiations
  • children on care and protection orders
  • children in out-of-home care.

These data are collected each year by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) from the relevant departments in each state and territory. Most of the data in this report cover the 2004-05 financial year, although data on trends in child protection are also included.

Each state and territory has its own legislation, policies and practices in relation to child protection, which accounts for some of the differences between jurisdictions in the data provided. Australian totals have not been provided for those data that are not comparable across the states and territories.

Notifications, investigations and substantiations

  • Over the last 6 years the number of child protection notifications in Australia more than doubled from 107,134 in 1999-00 to 252,831 in 2004-05. From 2003-04 to 2004-05 the number of notifications increased in all jurisdictions (Table 2.3). Some of this increase reflects changes in child protection policies and practices in the jurisdictions and could also reflect increased public awareness of child abuse.
  • The number of substantiations in most jurisdictions also increased over the last 6 years, the most notable being Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory (Table 2.4). Again, this increase is affected by changes in policies and practices in the various jurisdictions. It is also an indication of a better awareness of child protection concerns in the wider community and more willingness to report problems to state and territory child protection and support services.
  • Rates of children aged 0-16 years who were the subject of a child protection substantiation in 2004-05 ranged from 2.3 per 1,000 in Western Australia to 14.1 per 1,000 in Queensland (Table 2.6).
  • Although the quality of the data on Indigenous status varies between states and territories, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were clearly over-represented in the child protection system.

Children on care and protection orders

  • There were more children on care and protection orders in 2004-05 than 2003-04 in every jurisdiction that provided data (Table 3.5).
  • At 30 June 2005 the rates of children aged 0-17 years per 1,000 on care and protection orders ranged from 3.7 in Western Australia to 7.0 in the Northern Territory (Table 3.9).
  • Across Australia the rates of Indigenous children on care and protection orders were higher than for non-Indigenous children.

Children in out-of-home care

  • Nationally, the number of children in out-of-home care rose each year from 1996 to 2005, the period for which national data have been collected. The numbers in care increased by 70% from 13,979 at 30 June 1996 to 23,695 at 30 June 2005 (Table 4.3).
  • Only 4% of children in care at 30 June 2005 were in residential care, with 54% in foster care and 40% in relative or kinship care (Table 4.4).
  • The rates of children in out-of-home care in Australia increased from 3.0 per 1,000 at 30 June 1997 to 4.9 per 1,000 at 30 June 2005 (Table 4.7).
  • At 30 June 2005 there were 23,695 children in out-of-home care in Australia (Table 4.3).
  • This compares with 21,795 children who were in out-of-home care at 30 June 2004, an increase of 9%.
  • In 2004-05 the rates of children in out-of-home care ranged from 3.8 per 1,000 in Victoria and Western Australia to 5.8 per 1,000 in New South Wales and Queensland (Table 4.7).
  • The rate of Indigenous children in out-of-home care was over 6 times the rate of other children (Table 4.8).