Child abuse

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

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.

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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 your physical, psychological or emotional health or development at risk.

Child abuse can be:

  • physical abuse, including punching, hitting, strangling, slapping, kicking, shaking, biting, throwing, burning or any other action that results in your body being harmed;
  • emotional or psychological abuse, including constant criticism, controlling behaviour, teasing, ignoring, yelling, rejection, exposing you to violence between parents or other household members, or exposure to drug use;
  • neglect, including failing to meet your basic needs for proper supervision, food, clothing, shelter, safety, hygiene, medical care or education; 
  • sexual abuse, including 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 one event that happens to you or it can be lots of things that happen over a 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 if it is ‘reasonable’, such as a smack, to discipline you. 

However, if your parents are using more force  than is necessary at any time, this can 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, it’s important that you talk to a trusted adult about this.

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 or feel unsafe, it’s important to talk to an adult you trust, like a close friend, your doctor or a teacher. It’s important to know that people like teachers, doctors and police may be required by law to make a report to child protection authorities if they think you are experiencing or are at risk of experiencing child abuse. 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:

We have provided you with a list of important contacts below if you need to talk to someone else. 

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:

They also have an online chat service at:

Strong Families Safe Kids

Strong Families Safe Kids provides child protection services and advice. You can call their advice and referral line on 1800 000 123. 

For more information, see: 

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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