Tuesday 19 May 2015

National Children’s Commissioner Megan Mitchell will hold an expert roundtable in Melbourne today to examine the impact of domestic and family violence on children.

“Every child has the right to live free from violence, but the confronting reality for many children in Australia is that domestic and family violence is a very real part of their everyday lives,” Commissioner Mitchell said.

“The experience of children witnessing or being exposed to domestic and family violence has been increasingly recognised as a form of child abuse, with correlations to incidences of self-harm, suicide and child sexual abuse.

“This roundtable seeks to better understand the experiences of children who have been exposed to or are a victim of such violence, and to ensure the voices of children are an explicit focus in our broader national conversation about domestic and family violence.”

The Melbourne roundtable forms part of the Commission’s national consultation currently underway. Submissions have also been sought from children’s rights experts and community organisations.

“Children and young people have directly raised with me the importance of living free from domestic and family violence,” Commissioner Mitchell said.

“We need to listen to their voices, learn from their experiences and develop the right prevention and reporting measures to keep all children safe.”

Prevalence estimates from the 2012 Personal Safety Survey by the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that children’s exposure to family and domestic violence is widespread in Australia and is predominantly associated with violence against women. According to 2012 estimates, 17% of women and 5% of men in Australia over 15 years had experienced violence by a partner. Much of the violence was seen or heard by children in their care.

While there is no national data on the proportion of child protection notifications that relate to family and domestic violence, it is estimated that family and domestic violence is present in 55% of physical abuses and 40% of sexual abuses against children.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has reported during 2013–2014 there were 40,844 substantiated child protection notifications in Australia, with 40% for emotional abuse, 19% for physical abuse and 14% for sexual abuse.

The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child has previously expressed grave concerns about the exposure of Australian children to family and domestic violence.

“The right of every child to live free from all forms of violence is one of the fundamental principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child,” Commissioner Mitchell said.

“The Convention also requires the protection of children who are exposed to and witness family and domestic violence.

“We as a nation need to do far more to ensure we are meeting our international obligations and are, most importantly, protecting our kids from being subject to violence.”

Findings of the roundtable and national consultation will be the subject of the Children’s Rights Report 2015.

Media enquiries: The expert roundtable is not a public event and is closed to the media. Commissioner Mitchell is available for interviews – contact Angela Dorizas on 0430 366 529.

Media are also encouraged to provide readers and viewers with contact information for
Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 or