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Child Abuse

Child Abuse - South Australia

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. The law can protect you if you let the authorities know about what is happening. 


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 be:

  • physical abuse: punching, hitting, strangling, slapping, kicking, shaking, biting, throwing, burning or any actions that leads to your body  being harmed;
  • emotional or psychological abuse means: constant criticism, controlling behaviour, teasing, ignoring, yelling, rejection, exposing you to violence between parents or other household members, or exposure to drug use;
  • neglect means: failing to meet your basic needs for adequate supervision, food, clothing, shelter, safety, hygiene, 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 be a single thing or lots of things that have happened over a longer period of time. It 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 reasonable physical punishment to discipline you, such as a smack. If your parents use more force than is necessary under the circumstances, 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 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, so they can make sure you are OK.

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 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 Child Abuse Report Line, they can come and investigate what is happening. Remember, information you give them is kept confidential – the person who hurt you will not know 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.
  • If the authorities 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.
  • The authorities can seek a ‘court order’ to prevent the person from hurting you (this is when a judge says that someone must not hurt you or else the court can punish them). This may happen by a ‘domestic violence order’ which can forbid them from being near you.
  • If the situation is more serious, they may create a plan to protect you. This may happen by an ‘intervention order’ or a ‘care and protection order’. 
  • 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.


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:

South Australia Department for Education and Child Development
131 478 (24 hours)

If you are having problems at home, please send us a Lawmail and we can give you free advice and information. Everything you tell us is confidential and we will not tell anyone, including your parents.
This page was last updated 28 May 2015.