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 - Western 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?

Child abuse is against the law.

You have the right to be safe from all types of abuse and neglect. You do not have to put up with child abuse. It is OK to complain and to talk to someone.  It is OK to complain and to talk to someone. We explain people you can talk to later in this factsheet .


What is child abuse?

Child abuse is any action towards a 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 means punching, hitting, strangling, slapping, kicking, shaking, biting, throwing or burning;
  • 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 or 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 one off event or it can be lots of things that happen over a period of time.  Child abuse can happen anywhere: at school, at a child-care centre, in the community or at home. It can be done by 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, such as a smack.

If you are hit often or you’re not being hit as punishment but just because your parents lose control, this is against the law.   If this is happening to you, you can contact someone for help like a teacher, the police or a trusted adult.

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 teacher. They might 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 Department for Child Protection, they can come and investigate what is happening. Remember, information you give them is kept confidential – the person who hurt you will not be told who contacted them. 
Different things might then happen when the authorities investigate.

  • If you there is no one looking after you or there is a risk to your wellbeing, the authorities can move you to a safe place.
  • The authorities can seek a ‘court order’ to prevent the person from hurting you and often requiring them to stay away from you. 
  • If they think 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 services.
  • If the situation is more serious, they may create a plan to protect you.
  • 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:

Department for Child Protection
1800 199 008 (24 hours)
(08) 9325 1232 (TTY)

This page was last updated 3 February 2016.