Got a question? Ask Lawmail

Send your questions to Lawmail

Can't find the info you are looking for?Got a problem you can’t solve?

If you're under 25, or an adult asking on behalf of a person under 18, you can send your questions to Lawmail and we will email an answer to you in under 10 days. Urgent matters are dealt with more quickly.

Go to Lawmail. It’s free and confidential.

All donations over $2 are tax deductible.

Child Abuse

Child Abuse- Australian Capital Territory

What is child abuse?

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

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

What happens after someone reports child abuse?

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

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. We explain who you can talk to later on in this factsheet.

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 be:
  • physical abuse: 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: constant criticism, controlling behaviour, teasing, ignoring, yelling, rejection, exposing you to violence between parents or other household members, or exposure to drug use;
  • neglect: failing to meet your basic needs for proper supervision, food, clothing, shelter, safety, hygiene, medical care or education; 
  • sexual abuse: 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 event or many things that happen over a 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.

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 than a little bit of force, or they hurt you more than they should for someone your age or maturity, 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 any 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 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, 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 Office for Children, Youth and Family Support, the authorities can come and investigate what is happening. Remember, information given to them is kept confidential – the person who hurt you will not be told who contacted them.  There are a few different things that might then happen when the authorities investigate.

  • If you are in immediate danger, they can move you to a safe place.
  • 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 and your family help, counselling, information and recommending you to health or other services.
  • If the situation is more serious, they might go to the court to get a ‘Care Order’ to protect you from harm. These orders can make rules about lots of different things including specific things your parents have to do to be better parents, who you can spend time with or who you have to live with if your home isn’t safe. If your parents don’t follow the order, they will have to go back to court.
  • If the court decides to make an order, they will also make sure that there is a ‘care plan’ for you. This will help make sure you are kept safe.
  • You will only be removed from your family as a last resort, and only if you are considered to be at risk of serious harm.

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

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

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

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

Kids Helpline is also free from mobile phones with Telstra, Optus or Vodafone.   1800 numbers are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and are free if you call from a landline or a payphone. 

If you call someone, you do not have to give them your name.  If you are worried about privacy, you can clear your internet and call history.

You can also call from a payphone if you are worried about your privacy.

Report child abuse

You can report any child abuse yourself by contacting:

Office for Children, Youth and Family Support - Child Abuse Hotline
1300 556 729 (24 hours)   

This page was last updated 3 February 2016.