How to keep children and young people safe
Help is available if you or someone you know has experienced, are experiencing, or are concerned a child or young person may be at risk of harm including child sexual abuse. If you need assistance or support, our Get support page provides a list of dedicated services. If you need information or resources for reporting child safety concerns, please visit our Make a report page.
If you or a child are in immediate danger, call Triple Zero (000).
Child abuse is preventable, and all adults have a responsibility to help protect children and young people. The safety of children and young people should always be a priority and this means listening to children and young people, and valuing their views, experiences and participation.
We all have a role to play
Every adult in Australia has an important role in creating a safe environment for children and young people.
Alison Geale, CEO of Bravehearts, talks about the important role adults have in understanding the problem, dispelling the myths, and becoming educated on how they can protect children and young people.
Read the transcript
My name is Alison Geale and I'm the CEO of Bravehearts. There are many myths and misconceptions about child sexual abuse, and depending on how you see it and from which angle, they vary, but generally it is mostly that this cannot happen in my family, this is something that is perpetrated by strangers, that it only is ever impacted in lower socioeconomic groups, or that when children disclose child sexual abuse that they're confused or they might not be telling the truth, and all of which are not true.
Protecting children from child sexual abuse starts with a conversation. It starts with adults in children's lives taking up the mantle, understanding the problem, dispelling the myths, and becoming educated on how they can protect their children.
Child sexual abuse is preventable, which means right now change is possible. You can make a change in your family, in your community, in our country. We have the opportunity to change our thinking and to use all of the information that we have at hand right now to change the course of these statistics.
Steps we can all take to create safer environments for children and young people include:
- respecting children and young people and listening to their views and voices
- talking to children and young people about their rights, including their rights to speak up and make a complaint when they feel unsafe or uncomfortable
- ensuring the organisations we engage with promote a culture of child safety and wellbeing, including by implementing the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations
- talking to children in an age appropriate way about body boundaries and understanding and using the correct names for body parts
- understanding what child sexual abuse is and where it occurs
- recognising when a child may be at increased risk, and how we can increase protection
- recognising how a child or young person may behave, talk or change if they have experienced child sexual abuse
- knowing what to do if we think a child or young person is, or is at risk of, being sexually abused
- believing and responding to any direct, indirect or suspected disclosure of child sexual abuse.
Our National Strategy
The National Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Child Sexual Abuse 2021-2030 provides a framework for federal, state and territory governments to address child sexual abuse and drive change. The strategy has five themes:
- Awareness raising, education and building child safe cultures
- Supporting and empowering victims and survivors
- Enhancing national approaches to children with harmful sexual behaviours
- Offender prevention and intervention
- Improving the evidence base
You can read the National Strategy for more information about what we’re doing to keep children and young people safe. There is also a Guide to the National Strategy for children and young people, designed to assist children and young people to understand child safety and child sexual abuse, recognise the signs of child sexual abuse, and keep themselves and their friends safe.
Our website contains a number of resources designed to keep children and young people safe, including the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations, Keeping Our Kids Safe and Speak up and make a complaint. The Guide to the National Strategy for children and young people also contains information about talking with children and young people about body boundaries and using the correct terminology.
Visit the Australian Childhood Foundation website for resources that can help build your ability and confidence to protect children. Their resources include programs designed to support parents to build strong and nurturing relationships with their children.
We spend time online every day, and children and young people in Australia are using devices and apps for messaging, education, video games, and more. Many businesses and organisations are also online to interact with children and young people.
When online, children and young people are at risk of being exposed to cyberbullying, inappropriate or harmful content, sextortion and other unwanted contact from strangers. It is important that children and young people, their carers and organisations are equipped to manage and respond to these risks, and prevent harm to children online.
The National Office for Child Safety works with several key government agencies, including the eSafety Commissioner and federal, state and territory police, to help keep children safe online.
Helpful online safety resources
Their resources include:
- tips to stay safe online
- how to respond to cyberbullying
- identifying and responding to unwanted contact
- sharing personal information online.
The eSafety Commissioner also provides resources for organisations, such as the Toolkit for Schools, to support them in creating safer online spaces.
The eSafety Commissioner can also help take action against cyberbullying and online abuse against children, image-based abuse and illegal and harmful online content. More information about what you can report to the eSafety Commissioner is available on eSafety Commissioner website.
The Australian Federal Police (AFP) leads the ThinkUKnow program, which includes a suite of useful resources and information about staying safe online for children, young people and parents and carers. ThinkUKnow also deliver online child safety program in schools and organisations to parents and carers, teachers and students from the first year of school to Year 12.
Jack Changes the Game is a picture book developed by the AFP ThinkUKnow program in partnership with the AFP-led Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation. Jack Changes the Game supports parents, carers and teachers in discussing some issues around online safety.