National data show that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are over-represented in various aspects of child safety compared with their non-Indigenous counterparts. In particular, Indigenous children have higher rates of hospitalisations and deaths due to injury, and more frequently come into contact with child protection and youth justice systems.

Indigenous children have higher hospitalisation and mortality rates for injury

The rate of injury hospitalisations among Indigenous children aged 0–17 was 1.3 times that for non-Indigenous children between July 2010 and June 2012. The most common cause of these hospitalisations were accidental falls, followed by transport accidents and assault. The hospitalisation rate for assault for Indigenous children was more than 5 times the rate for non-Indigenous children.

In 2007–2011, more than one-quarter (26%) of all deaths among Indigenous children aged 0–17 were due to external causes of injury. The death rate due to external causes of injury for Indigenous children was more than three times the rate for non-Indigenous children (21 deaths per 100,000 children compared with 6 per 100,000).

They are more likely to be victims of child abuse, neglect and sexual assault

During 2011–12, Indigenous children aged 0–17 were nearly 8 times as likely as non-Indigenous children to be the subject of substantiated child abuse or neglect (42 per 1,000 children compared with 5 per 1,000).

In 2012, rates of sexual assault reported to police among Indigenous children aged 0–9 in New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and the Northern Territory were 2 to 4 times higher than rates among non-Indigenous children in these jurisdictions.

They are over-represented among specialist homelessness services clients and in the youth justice system

In 2012–13, almost 1 in 3 (31%) children aged 0–17 who received assistance from a specialist homelessness agency was Indigenous; by comparison, Indigenous children comprise 5.5% of the total Australian child population.

On an average day in 2012–13, 39% of all males and 45% of all females aged 10–17 under youth justice supervision were Indigenous. Over-representation was highest in younger age groups; of all children aged 10–13 under supervision, 61% were Indigenous.

Indigenous young people aged 10–17 were 17 times as likely to be under youth justice supervision as non-Indigenous young people. This over-representation was even higher for those in detention-Indigenous young people were 28 times as likely to be detained as non-Indigenous young people.

However, their rate of youth justice supervision has fallen over time

In 2012–13, Indigenous young people aged 10–17 were supervised at a rate of 225 per 10,000, down from 233 per 10,000 in 2008–09.