Reports of child abuse in Western Australia have risen significantly over the past two years.
In the last financial year, the Department for Community Services received a total of 3,746 allegations of child abuse - up 16 per cent on the previous year. The 3,219 allegations in 1990/91 were 28 per cent more than in 1989/90.
Child abuse involves the neglect, physical, emotional or sexual abuse of children.
Community Services Minister Eric Ripper today highlighted the figures while launching a new Child Protection poster for the Department for Community Services. The launch was part of National Child Protection Week.
Mr Ripper said the increases, while disturbing on the surface, did not necessarily mean that parents were less caring, or children were more at risk than in the past.
"It is more likely this upward trend reflects a welcome and growing recognition, by agencies and the general community, of the need to protect children," the Minister said.
"In other words, more people are coming forward and taking positive action to stop abuse which, in the past, has gone on unnoticed. Contacting the department is the first step in helping the child and supporting the family so that abuse does not continue, so the increasing figures mean more families are receiving help."
Mr Ripper said the figures showed that about 86 per cent of all abuse allegations concerned children younger than 13 years, while 49 per cent involved children younger than six. The most frequent type was neglect and physical abuse (34 per cent), followed by sexual abuse (27 per cent).
The Government's $180 million Social Advantage package includes substantial boosts to community-based initiatives to ensure early intervention and prevention of social problems such as child abuse. The package included significant initiatives to boost parent education, support families and expand community awareness of the needs, rights and value of children in the community.
"The Western Australian community needs to be made more aware of the importance of children, who are our most vital resource, and the importance of ensuring their upbringing is as positive as possible.
Mr Ripper said a community education and information campaign on the value of children, and the importance of their self-esteem, would be launched later this year.