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How to prevent child abuse

If a child is in immediate danger, phone Triple Zero (000) immediately.

If child abuse is recognised and dealt with early:

  • further abuse can be prevented
  • children can recover from being harmed
  • most people who have harmed a child can be helped to become better parents.

If you suspect harm or abuse

When a child is being abused, the abuse does not go away and usually becomes more serious.

If you suspect that a child is at risk of harm or abuse, find out how to report abuse.

You should also:

  • know the signs of abuse and neglect
  • write down any changes in their behaviour, ideas, feelings and the words they use
  • talk with the child in a gentle, non-judgemental way. If you tell the child that you are worried because they look sad or unwell it could encourage them to open up about what’s happening to them
  • let the child know that they can come and talk to you, and listen to them when they do
  • get expert advice by contacting Child Safety Services.

You should avoid:

  • pressuring the child to respond
  • asking questions that ‘put words into the child's mouth’.

Recognise risk factors

These factors don’t mean that a child has been harmed, but it can make you aware of the possibility that a child may be at risk.

Parenting issues

Caring for children can feel overwhelming, especially if the parent or carer:

  • doesn’t get enough support from family, friends or the community
  • feels stressed because of money problems, job worries or medical problems
  • expects too much from a child and doesn’t know what a child should be able to do at a certain age
  • doesn’t know how to help children learn and behave in a positive way
  • has problems with drugs or alcohol
  • doubts their ability to be a good parent and doesn’t seek help and support
  • was abused as a child.

Understanding the possible triggers doesn’t justify child abuse. Parents are responsible for the care of their children and need to recognise when they need help before harm occurs.

Given the right skills and resources, most people who have harmed a child can learn to parent in a positive way.

Community attitudes

Some community attitudes can also make it easier for abuse to take place. These include:

  • accepting violence in the community
  • thinking physical punishment of children is acceptable
  • believing parents have the right to treat their children as they see fit
  • racism
  • not seeing men and women as equals
  • not understanding the effects of child abuse.

Referring your concerns

If you have concerns for a family or child, you can refer them to the community service Family and Child Connect. This service works with vulnerable families by connecting them to the right support services.

Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Australia (CC BY 3.0)
Last updated:
18 January 2017
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