Calls for national taskforce to end child maltreatment
The Sector > Research > Calls for a National Taskforce to end child maltreatment as study shows depth of issue

Calls for a National Taskforce to end child maltreatment as study shows depth of issue

by Freya Lucas

July 03, 2023

The Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare (the Centre) has joined Federal and State Government and social services sector leaders in calling for a National Taskforce to end child maltreatment after a study released earlier this year showed the full extent of the issue in Australia. 


This story contains information about child abuse and neglect which may be distressing to some people in the community. A list of support services and contact details has been provided at the conclusion of the piece. 


The Australian Child Maltreatment Study (ACMS) was undertaken by a consortium of research led by the Queensland University of Technology, and found that child maltreatment is widespread in Australia, and is having devastating consequences for their mental health and health risk behaviours now, and as adults. 


Centre CEO Deb Tsorbaris said that while the nation has “long known and struggled” with the fact that many children in Australia experience abuse and neglect in childhood, the extent of the problem was, up until now, not as widely understood.


The study showed that 62.2 percent of Australians reported experiences of child maltreatment in their childhood, with almost half (48 percent) of these Australians meeting the criteria for at least one of the four mental health disorders measured – major depressive disorder, generalised anxiety disorder, alcohol use disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. 


Child maltreatment disproportionately affects girls, with more than one in three experiencing childhood sexual abuse, at twice the rate of young boys. More than one in three also experienced emotional abuse, 1.4 times more than their male peers.


The flow on effect of this maltreatment is seen in the ‘concerning’ rates of self harm among young adults, with those who experienced any form of child maltreatment being 3.5 times more likely than their peers to have self-harmed in the previous year, and 4.5 times more likely to have attempted suicide. 


“For a country that prides itself on being progressive and punching above its weight in so many different cultural and sporting arenas internationally, Australia performs poorly when it comes to child maltreatment rates,” Ms Tsorbaris said. 


“We will continue to fail our children and young people if we can’t respond quickly to these findings.” 


The Centre is calling for a national, coordinated approach to ensure we are raising children who are safe, nurtured, and able to thrive. 


“Given the vulnerability of girls to sexual and emotional abuse, we need to strengthen our approach to the teaching of respectful relationships,” Ms Tsorbaris noted. 


“We need a reset of gender norms that spreads beyond schools and deep into our communities, and we need to look at the relationships and attitudes to women we are modelling to young people – in our media, in parliament, in workplaces, and in homes.” 


“Thanks to this study we know exactly where to direct our energy, where the most urgent needs lie, and where we can have the most immediate short and long-term impacts.” 


Access the study here. For more information on the work of the Centre see here


If the themes in this piece have affected you, and you need support, a range of resources are available including: 


Blue Knot 


The Blue Knot helpline is available to help adult survivors of childhood trauma and abuse, parents, partners, family and friends as well as the professionals who work with them. You can call the Blue Knot Helpline and Redress Support Service on 1300 657 380. 




1800RESPECT is the national domestic, family and sexual violence counselling, information and support service. If you or someone you know is experiencing, or at risk of experiencing, domestic, family or sexual violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or chat via their website ( 


Kids Helpline 


Kids Helpline is Australia’s only free and confidential, 24/7 online and phone counselling service for young people aged 5-25 years. Free call 1800 55 1800 or 


13 YARN 


13YARN is the first national crisis support line for mob who are feeling overwhelmed or having difficulty coping. We offer a confidential one-on-one yarning opportunity with a Lifeline-trained Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Crisis Supporter. If you, or someone you know, are feeling worried or no good, we encourage you to connect with 13YARN on 13 92 76 (24 hours/7 days) and talk with an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Crisis Supporter. 


Lifeline Australia


If you or someone you know needs crisis support, please phone Lifeline on 13 11 14 

Download The Sector's new App!

ECEC news, jobs, events and more anytime, anywhere.

Download App on Apple App Store Button Download App on Google Play Store Button