This report presents statistics on state and territory child protection and family support services, as well as selected characteristics of children receiving these services. This includes statistics for 2020–21, and trends over the 5-year period from 2016–17 to 2020–21.

Each year, around 3.2% of all children aged less than 18 years are assisted by Australia’s child protection systems. Children and their families may receive support services to keep children with their families, or be subject to investigations of reports of child abuse/neglect, protection orders, and/or placement in out‑of‑home care. Some children are unable to live safely at home as they may be at risk of being abused or neglected, or their parents may be unable to provide adequate care.

Australia's child protection system provided services to 1 in 32 children aged less than 18 years in 2020–21

State and territory child protection services supported more than 178,800 children in 2020–21. This has increased from about 168,300 in 2016–17. Services range from initial investigations of child abuse or neglect through to care and protection orders, and/or placement in out-of-home care.

Between 2016–17 and 2020–21, notifications increased by 40% (around 379,500 in 2016­–17 to nearly 531,900 in 2020–21) while substantiations increased by only 7.2% (around 68,000 to nearly 72,900). In 2020–21, approximately 293,600 children were the subject of nearly 531,900 notifications and about 49,700 children were subjects of approximately 72,900 substantiations of abuse and/or neglect. Of all children who were subjects of substantiations, 79% had one substantiation, 12% had 2, and 5.4% had 4 or more substantiations of abuse and/or neglect.

1 in 114 children aged less than 18 years were subject to substantiated abuse or neglect

Nearly 49,700 children were subject to substantiated abuse or neglect. Emotional abuse (55%) was the most common primary type of abuse or neglect substantiated through investigations in 2020–21. This was followed by neglect (21%), physical abuse (14%), and sexual abuse (10%). A higher proportion of girls (14%) were subject to sexual abuse than boys (5.8%), while boys had slightly higher proportions of substantiations for neglect and physical abuse.

More than 46,200 children were in out-of-home care

At 30 June 2021, more than 46,200 children in out-of-home care, a 7.3% increased from 30 June 2017 when the number of children was approximately 43,100. At 30 June 2021, 91% were in a home‑based care placement and 68% had been continuously in out-of-home care for 2 years or more.

1 in 23 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were subject to substantiated abuse or neglect

The number of Indigenous children who were the subject of a substantiation has increased by 6.2% between 2016–17 and 2020–21 (from about 13,700 to about 14,600). The most common type of substantiated abuse for Indigenous children was emotional abuse (48%) followed by neglect (31%).

At 30 June 2021, approximately 24,200 Indigenous children were on care and protection orders. Of these children, 69% (around 16,700) were on guardianship or custody orders.

1 in 17 Indigenous children (around 19,500) were in out-of-home care at 30 June 2021, almost two-thirds (63%) of whom were living with relatives, kin or other Indigenous caregivers.

Of the approximately 5,400 children reunified in 2020–21, nearly 1 in 3 (31%) were Indigenous children.