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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 4 Hansard (10 April) . . Page.. 954 ..

MR CORNWELL (continuing):

bordering upon hysteria-in an attempt to assuage their own guilt for failure to be responsible for and to their children.

Thank you again for the invitation and the opportunity to comment.

Hopefully, that will put it into a little better perspective than what was put forward in the Canberra Times.

I would like to refer to a couple of matters in a little more detail than I already have in that letter. The first question that needs to be addressed is whether we are looking at child abuse as a general problem or whether we are looking at a specific part of that problem, which is child sexual abuse. If we are looking at child abuse, then it covers mental, physical and sexual abuse, and it also covers neglect, although I would stand corrected by my lawyers here. I thought the word "neglect" had been removed from the lexicon and replaced by "children at risk", but I may be wrong. Nevertheless, four areas are covered.

Unfortunately, the figures from the Kids First Foundation are very tragic, but I think they need to be recorded in Hansard. One in 170 Australian children under nine years of age is a proven victim of abuse and neglect. Of these children, 93 per cent are harmed by someone they know and trust and 71 per cent are harmed by their natural parent. We are talking about broad child abuse. We are talking about mental and physical abuse and neglect.

More damning is that research completed in June 2001 showed that over 60 per cent of children counselled in services supported by the Kids First Foundation had experienced domestic violence and almost 60 per cent had experienced more than one form of abuse. In addition, 18 per cent of those who had been sexually abused were under the age of four. An additional 50 per cent of those who had been sexually abused were between five and 10 years of age.

Mr Speaker, that shows that 68 per cent of those children were no older than 10 years of age. With 68 per cent of those children no older than 10 years of age, we simply cannot blame the majority of cases on institutions. We cannot say that the children were in choirs, in church or at boarding school. The fact of the matter is that the majority of these children must have been at home, whatever that home was.

The problem is that we have seen too much evidence already. I have some more details here from the Daily Telegraph of 26 September. It is not just one of their stories on the front page. It is headed "Modern perils in a lucky country". It talks about the state of the nation. It was a general article. It says that there were many things that had improved in this country, but then they come to another point and say:

So, in reviewing our nation's progress, there are many positive stories. But there are also trends that do not bode well for the future. At the heart of these are crime, drug use and the wellbeing of children.

Taking the last of these first, statistics on child abuse and neglect show that children in non-intact families, that is living apart from one of the natural parents, are at statistically eight to ten times greater risk of child abuse and neglect than children living with both of their natural parents.

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