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, 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, please 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 young person under 18 years of age that harms or puts at risk your 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 or burning;
  • emotional or psychological abuse includes constant criticism, controlling behaviour, teasing, ignoring, yelling, rejection and exposing a child to violence between parents or other members of your family, or exposure to drug use ;
  • neglect includes failing to meet your basic needs for adequate supervision, food, clothing, shelter, safety, hygiene, medical care or education
  • sexual abuse includes 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 be a one-off thing or continue over a long period of time. Child abuse can happen anywhere. 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.

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 to ask someone for help like a teacher, the police or a trusted adult.

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 it is important to go to a doctor or hospital, so they can make sure you are okay.

Tell someone

If you are being abused you should talk to an adult you trust like a close friend, your doctor or a teacher. They might have to report what is happening to the authorities, but the person who hurt you will not be told who reported it, they will only be told the nature of the report so that they can respond to the allegations. In the Northern Territory, all adults are mandatory reporters and must make a report to the authorities if they reasonably believe a child has been harmed or is likely to be harmed. 

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: https://www.kidshelpline.com.au/get-help/email-counselling

They also have an online chat service at: https://www.kidshelpline.com.au/get-help/webchat-counselling

Child Abuse Hotline

This hotline provides child protection services and advice. You can report the abuse yourself by calling them on 1800 700 250 (available 24 hours). 

For more information, see: https://nt.gov.au/law/crime/report-child-abuse

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 are not legally required to make a report to authorities like doctors, teachers and police are.

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