Child Abuse

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 and burning;
  • 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 adequate supervision, food, clothing, shelter, safety, hygiene, medical care and education;
  • sexual abuse: 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 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 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, 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 once the authorities are contacted?

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.
  • 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).
  • 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 help, counselling, information and recommending you to health or other services.
  • 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.


Important contacts


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 email them at:

They also have an online chat service at:



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



State Child Protection Hotline

This hotline provides child protection services and advice. You can report the abuse yourself by contacting your State’s Child Abuse Hotline.


South Australia


Department for Families and Communities – Child Abuse Report Line

131 478 (24 hours)



1800 numbers operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and are free* if you call from a landline.

You do not have to give them your name. If you are worried about privacy, you could have a look at this short article on ‘Looking after Personal Privacy’ at:


* If your mobile phone service provider is part of the Optus network, including Virgin, calls to the Kids Helpline are free. But if your mobile phone service provider is from other networks, calls may cost money and be listed on your phone bill.

If you don’t want to spend a lot of money on a call to an 1800 number from your mobile you can:

  • check if the service you are calling has a local number; or
  • call the service from your mobile and ask them to call you back.

For any legal questions you have, write us a Lawmail and we can give you free legal advice, information and referrals to local services. 


Disclaimer: This is legal information not advice specific to you. If you would like specific advice about a legal question that you have please send us a Lawmail.

Last updated 1 June 2012