Child abuse

Child abuse is against the law. You have the right to be safe from abuse and neglect. You do not have to put up with child abuse. It is OK to complain and to talk to someone.  You can make sure it stops by letting someone know what’s happening.

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 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 such as physical abuse, emotional or psychological abuse, neglect and sexual abuse:

  • physical abuse means: hitting, punching, slapping, kicking, shaking, biting, strangling, throwing,  and burning or any actions which result in a child’s body being harmed;
  • emotional or psychological abuse means: constant criticism, controlling behaviour, teasing, ignoring, yelling, rejection, exposing a child to violence between parents or other household members, or to drug use;
  • neglect means your parents or guardian fail to give you basic things such as food, shelter, safety, medical care and education;
  • sexual abuse means any sexual act or threat 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 happen anywhere: at school, at a child-care centre, in the community or at home. It could be done by any adult, like a parent, a caregiver, a teacher or a family friend.

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. If your parents use more force than is necessary, could cause long term harm or hits your head or neck in a harmful way 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 an injury after being hit, you should contact someone 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 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, so they can make sure you are OK.

If you are being abused you should talk to an adult you trust, like a close friend, your doctor or a teacher. They have to report what is happening to the authorities, but the person who hurt you will not be told who reported it. We have provided you with a list of important contacts to call at the end of this page if you need to talk to someone else.

What happens after someone reports child abuse?

If someone contacts either the police or the Child Protection Helpline, they can come and investigate what is happening. Remember, information you give them is kept confidential – the person who hurt you will not be told who contacted them.  There are some different things that might then happen when the authorities investigate.

  • If you are in immediate danger, they can move you to a safe place.
  • The authorities can seek a special court order to stop the person from hurting you again (this is when a judge says that someone must not hurt you or else the court can punish them).
  • If they think that there is a chance you might be harmed, they will work with you, your family and other professionals to make sure you are safe. This might include giving you help, counselling, information and recommending you to health or other services.
  • If the situation is more serious, they might create a plan to protect you called a care plan. This gives someone else the responsibilities your parents had if they have abused you.
  • You will only be removed from your family as a last resort, and only if you are considered to be at an immediate risk of serious harm.

Helpful contacts

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.

You can also email them by going to:

They also have an online chat service at some times of the day:

1800 55 1800
If you’d like some help reporting child abuse or need more information you can call the Child Abuse Prevention Service 1800 688 009

You can report any abuse yourself by contacting:

New South Wales Department of Human Services (Community Services) – Child Protection Helpline

132 111 (24 hours)

1800 212 936 (TTY)

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.

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