The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has released its latest data on child abuse and neglect notifications made to State and Territory community service departments.
Child abuse and neglect Australia 1995-96 presents statistics on notifications, finalised investigations and substantiations by State and Territory, type of abuse and neglect, Aboriginality, age and sex of child, and type of family in which the child resides.
Report author Anne Broadbent warned that the statistics 'only represent the number of children who come into contact with community service departments as being in need of care and protection-they do not measure the actual incidence of child abuse and neglect in the community'.
'The figures could be inflated because some jurisdictions include general child welfare concerns other than abuse or neglect in their statistics. On the other hand, there is an unknown level of unreported abuse and neglect in Australia.'
'We should also be aware that individual abuse and neglect notifications and substantiations can cover a wide range of severity of injuries, emotional abuse and neglect, so that no one incidence is necessarily the same as another.'
Findings of the report include:
- In 1995-96 State and Territory community service departments recorded 91,734 notifications of child abuse and neglect, of which 61,383 resulted in a finalised investigation and 29,833 in a substantiation. The number of substantiations is 3% below the number in the previous year, due at least in part to changes in legislation, policy and practices in some States and Territories.
- Of those notifications that were substantiated 8,467 (28%) were for physical abuse, 9,265 (31%) for emotional, 4,802 (16%) for sexual abuse and 7,299 (25%) for neglect.
- In 1995-96, 16.3 children per 1,000 aged 0-16 years were the subject of a child abuse and neglect notification, 11.6 per 1,000 were the subject of a finalised investigation and 5.8 per 1,000 were the subject of a substantiation.
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are over-represented in the statistics. Cultural differences in attitudes to child rearing, higher rates of unemployment and poverty, higher incidences of health problems and lack of access or inability to access parental support services all contribute to this over-representation. Similar factors contribute to the over-representation of children from single female parent families in the statistics on notifications, investigations and substantiations.
- Most notifications of abuse or neglect were from friends/neighbours, parents/guardians, school personnel and the police. Notifications from the police or the subject child were most likely to be substantiated while, in particular, a low proportion of notifications from anonymous sources were substantiated.