0.1 Child protection substantiations

Children who have been abused or neglected often have poor social, behavioural and health outcomes in childhood and later life.

Child protection substantiations capture cases that have been reported to the state and territory departments responsible for child protection. A substantiation of a notification is the conclusion (following an investigation) that there was reasonable cause to believe that a child had been, was being, or was likely to be, abused, neglected or otherwise harmed.

When interpreting 'abuse type' data, it should be noted that if a child was the subject of more than one type of abuse or neglect as part of the same notification, the abuse and/or neglect reported is the one considered by the child protection workers to cause the most harm to the child.

Trend data: For all indicator displays, the yearly trend is limited to indicators with 3 or more years (including the current year) of comparable time series data. To see the trend click on “Yearly Trend” button on the display. Where 3 or more years of comparable data including the most recent year is not available, a “No time series data” message is shown on the display.

The bar graph shows the rate of children and young people aged 0–17 who were the subject of a child protection substantiation disaggregated by Indigenous status, sex, age group and abuse type.

Source: AIHW Child Protection Collection

See the supplementary data tables for further information and footnotes about these data.

Indicator technical specifications

The information below provides technical specifications for the summary indicator data presented in the quick reference guide.

National Framework Indicator 0.1 Child protection substantiations: Rate of children aged 0-17 years who were the subject of child protection substantiation
  Definition Data source
Numerator Number of children aged 0–17 years who were the subject of child protection substantiations of notifications received in the reference period AIHW National Child Protection Data Collection
Denominator Number of children aged 0–17 years at 31 December AIHW Population Database (sourced from ABS Australian Demographic Statistics)

Explanatory notes

Substantiated abuse

Child abuse may include neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse and emotional or psychological abuse. Abuse is substantiated if, in the professional opinion of officers of the child protection authority, there is reasonable cause to believe that a child has been, is being, or is likely to be abused, neglected or otherwise harmed.

The administrative data reported to the AIHW on child protection substantiations reflects departmental activity. Differences in child protection legislation, policies and practices across jurisdictions and over time can affect the number and rate of children in substantiations and so caution must be used when interpreting the data.

Administrative data captures incidence of substantiations of harm, or risk of harm, rather than prevalence of abuse and neglect.

Substantiations reported for this indicator refer to investigations of notifications received during the financial year (e.g. 1 July to 30 June of the following year) for which an outcome of 'substantiated' was recorded within two months of the end of the financial year (i.e. by 31 August).

Substantiated data generally capture maltreatment by a parent/guardian. Extra-familial maltreatment (i.e. by someone other than a child's parent or guardian) is not within the mandate of most jurisdictions unless the child's parents are not acting to protect the child.

Population data

The COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting Australian Government closure of the international border from 20 March 2020, caused significant disruptions to the usual Australian population trends. This report uses Australian Estimated Resident Population (ERP) estimates that reflect these disruptions.

Accordingly, in the year July 2020 to June 2021, the overall population growth was much smaller than the years prior and in particular, there was a relatively large decline in the population of Victoria. ABS reporting indicates these were primarily due to net-negative international migration (National, state and territory population, June 2021 | Australian Bureau of Statistics (abs.gov.au)).

Please be aware that this change in the usual population trends may complicate interpretation of statistics calculated from these ERPs. For example, rates and proportions may be greater than in previous years due to decreases in the denominator (population size) of some sub-populations.