Child abuse

Child abuse is against the law. 

You have the right to be safe from all types of abuse and neglect, both at home or at school and in the community. You do not have to put up with child abuse. It is OK to complain and to talk to someone and get help. We explain who you can talk to below.

If you are in immediate danger of being hurt or abused call the police on 000 and if you can, try to go to a secure place like to a trusted family friend, your school, a police station, or a medical centre.

For free and confidential legal advice about this topic, please contact us here.

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What is child abuse?

Child abuse is any action towards a child or young person under 18 years of age that harms or puts at risk their physical, psychological or emotional health or development.

Child abuse can cover issues like physical abuse, emotional or psychological abuse, neglect and sexual abuse:

  • physical abuse includes punching, hitting, strangling, slapping, kicking, shaking, biting, throwing,  burning, or any other action that result in a your body being harmed;
  • emotional or psychological abuse includes constant criticism, controlling behaviour, teasing, ignoring, yelling, rejection and exposing you to violence between parents or other household members, or exposure to drug use;
  • neglect includes failing to meet your basic needs for proper supervision, food, clothing, shelter, safety, hygiene, medical care or education; 
  • sexual abuse includes any sexual act, threat or suggestion to you including an adult involving you in a sexual activity by using their power over you or taking advantage of your trust, and deliberate and inappropriate touching or language.

Child abuse can be a one-off thing or continue over a long period of time.  It can happen anywhere: at school, at a child-care centre, in the community or at home. The abuse could be done by any adult, like a parent, a caregiver, a teacher or a family friend.

Child abuse can also include domestic or family violence, for example violence between your parents or other family members.  See our fact sheet on Domestic Violence for more information. 

Is it ok for my parents to physically punish me or hit me if I've done something wrong?

No one is allowed to use extreme force to hurt you, but it is not against the law for your parents to use physical punishment, such as a smack. The physical punishment has to be considered as ‘reasonable’. If your parents use more force than is necessary (including if they use an object to hit you), hit your head or neck in a harmful way or causes harm that lasts for more than a short period, this could be against the law.. 

If you feel that you are being punished too harshly, too often or are constantly scared of being hurt, or you have any injury after being hit, it’s important that you talk to a trusted adult for  help.

What should I do if I’m being abused or scared that I will be abused?

If you are in immediate danger of being hurt or abused, please call the police on 000 and if you can, go to a secure place like to a trusted family friend, your school, a police station, or a medical centre.

If you have been hurt you should go to a doctor or hospital as soon as possible, so they can make sure you are okay. 

Tell someone

If you are being abused or feel unsafe, you should talk to an adult you trust, like a close friend, your doctor or a teacher. They may have to report what is happening to the authorities. People like teachers, doctors and police are ‘mandatory reporters’ and are required by law to make a report about what is happening to the authorities. All reports are confidential, so the person who hurt you will not be told who reported it, they will only be told the nature of the report so that the authorities can investigate. For more information on what happens when the authorities investigate a report, you can visit this website: https://www.communityservices.act.gov.au/ocyfs/keeping-children-and-young-people-safe#_after

Who can I talk to about what’s going on?

Kids Helpline 

To talk about anything that’s troubling you at all call the Kids Helpline. This is a supportive service for people between 5 and 25 years of age. They are available 24 hours and you can call them on 1800 55 1800.  You can also email them by going to: www.kidshelp.com.au/teens/get-help/email-counselling

They also have an online chat service at: www.kidshelp.com.au/teens/get-help/web-counselling.

Child Protection Hotline

You can report any abuse yourself by contacting the Office for Children, Youth and Family Support – Child Abuse Hotline on 1300 556 729 (available 24 hours).

For more information, see: http://www.communityservices.act.gov.au/ocyfs 

It’s important to know that child protection authorities may not respond to every report they receive, so it’s important to make a report every time something happens.

If you are having problems at home, you can get help here and we can give you free advice and information. Everything you tell us is confidential and we will not tell anyone, including your parents. Lawyers are not mandatory reporters, and we are not legally required to make a report to authorities like doctors, teachers and police are.

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