Children and young people

Key statistics and how do children and young people tend to experience violence, harassment and bullying?

All types of violence, harassment and bullying are harmful and unacceptable. The Committee on the rights of the child has clearly stated that there are no exceptions to this. To emphasise this he UN Committee on the Rights of the Child[33] defines violence as including all forms of physical and mental violence including forms of violence that may be legal:

In Australia children and young people experience violence, harassment and bullying in a wide range of contexts and places these include:

  • Abuse and neglect includes physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse and neglect.[34] In 2009-10 there were 31 295 substantiated reports in Australia.[35]
  • Physical assault can occur in a range of contexts. Some reported incidences of physical assault that impact on children and young people are included in child protection statistics on abuse and neglect.[36] Girls and boys often experience physical assault differently. For example, young men are most commonly assaulted by a male stranger while young women are more likely to be assaulted by a man they know.
  • Sexual violence, abuse or assault can occur in a variety of contexts, including sexual harassment, sexualised bullying, unwanted kissing and sexual touching, sexual pressure and coercion, and sexual assault including rape.[37] In 2003, 7,500 children aged 0 – 14 years were reported as victims of sexual assault.[38]
  • Domestic violence occurs when children are abused at home as well as when children are present when violence happens at home this includes sexual violence and physical assault. Exposure to violence at home can have a negative impact on children’s development.[39]
  • Corporal (or physical) punishment is any type of punishment that uses physical force and is intended to cause pain or discomfort, however light. It includes hitting (“smacking”, “slapping”, “spanking”), with the hand or other implement, kicking, shaking or throwing, scratching, pinching, biting, pulling hair or ears, forcing children to stay in uncomfortable positions, burning, scalding or forced ingestion (eg washing children’s mouths out with soap). Some physical punishment of children is legal making its extent difficult to measure.[40]
  • Bullying is someone (or a group of people) with more power, repeatedly and intentionally using negative words and/or actions against someone, causing distress and risking wellbeing.[41] It can occur directly (such as hitting and teasing) or indirectly (such as spreading gossip, deliberately excluding someone or sending hurtful text messages).[42] Bullying in schools is widely recognised as a problem.[43]
  • Racism is an overt way that migrants, refugees and Indigenous people may be ‘othered’ and therefore excluded from a sense of belonging at school, in public, on the sporting field and in the wider community. Young people affected may feel excluded, fearful of physical or verbal attack, and be reluctant to go to school.[44]


[33] Committee on the Rights of the Child, General Comment no. 13- Article 19: The right of the child to freedom form all forms of violence,UN Doc CRC/C/GC/13 (2011) para 16.
[34] DEECD, The State of Victoria’s Young People: a report on how Victorian young people aged 12-24 are faring, Victorian Government Department of Education and Early Childhood Development and the Department of Planning and Community Development (2008). At (viewed 22 February 2010).
[35] Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Child Protection in Australia 2009-10, Child Welfare Series Number 51, January 2011.
[36] See for example Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Child Protection in Australia 2009-10, Child Welfare Series Number 51, January 2011.
[37] Australian Institute of Family Studies, Australian Centre for the Study of Sexual Assault, ACSSA Wrap No.6 Responding to young people disclosing sexual assault: A resource for schools. (2008).
[38] Australian Institute for Health and Welfare (AIHW)
[39] Domestic Violence and its Impact on Children’s Development, an edited version of a presentation at the Department of Community Services’ Fourth Domestic Violence Forum, NSW Parenting Centre, Old Bidura House Ballroom, Glebe, 24 September 2002.
[40] Prue Holzer, Alister Lamont, Corporal punishment: Key Issues, National Child Protection Clearinghouse, Australian Institute of Family Studies (2010), p 3 (viewed 9 September 2010).
[41] Drawn from Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), Teens Tips and Advice, Cyberbullying. At (viewed 8 February 2011); Drawn from definition on the National Centre Against Bullying website. At (viewed December 2010).
[42] DEST 2007, Cyber bullying.
[43] AIHW, A Picture of Australia’s Children (2009) p 107.
[44] Mansouri, F.,Jenkins, L., Morgan, L & Taouk, M., The impact of racism upon the health and wellbeing of young Australians, The Foundation for Young Australians (2009).