WA’s violent future

New Australian Bureau of Statistics analysis has highlighted WA’s lack of support and services for those affected by child abuse.

Parkerville Children and Youth Care director of therapeutic services and advocacy Amanda Paton said despite current efforts from the government, more specialised and targeted responses were needed in WA.

The ABS analysis released last month showed people who experienced childhood abuse were more likely to experience violence later in life.

ABS director of the national centre for crime and justice William Milne said 71 per cent of people who experienced childhood abuse also experienced violence as an adult.

Graph showing whether those who experienced adult violence were also subject to childhood abuse. Photo: Australian Bureau of Statistics’ 2016 Personal Safety Survey.

Ms Paton said this impact of child abuse across WA was significant and widespread as modest estimates suggested that one in four girls and one in six boys would experience abuse.

“Many will experience trauma as a result and will be devastated by long term issues such as depression, anxiety, sleep disturbance [and] difficulties with emotional regulation,” she said.

“Many will also go on to develop post-traumatic stress disorder and other significant mental health conditions requiring specialised and long term intervention.

“Long after the abuse has ended children, young people, parents, families and the wider community continue to feel the broader impacts of child abuse.”  

Department of Communities assistant director general Jackie Tang said the government currently used a range of strategies to reduce the effects of child abuse.

“Communities funds early intervention and family support services that aim to divert families from having contact with the child protection system,” she said.

Department of Communities in Myaree. Photo: Nicole Lyttle.

However, Ms Paton said more policy and legislative changes were needed to reduce the gaps in services across Australia for those who had already experienced abuse. 

“These are complex issues that require significant government funding and a joined up sector wide approach,” she said.

“[This] includes building community awareness, improved safety education within schools, early intervention programs for those children and families identified as at risk, and targeted forensic and psychological response to those experiencing abuse.”

Telethon Kids Institute senior research fellow Melissa O’Donnell said children and young people who had experienced childhood abuse needed to be fully supported to achieve positive physical, educational, and social outcomes.

“You need to address not just the individual factors that place an adult at risk but also community level factors that result in disadvantaged and unsafe communities,” she said.

“Community level strategies include addressing poverty, ensuring comprehensive mental health and substance use treatment and providing social housing for vulnerable people in our community.” 

Ms Tang said this intervention and prevention of ongoing effects could not be achieved simply by one service or approach. 

“Everyone has a role to play including all levels of government, community organisations, the broader community and parents,” she said.

Overview of Perth; “Everyone has role to play …” said Ms Tang. Photo: Nicole Lyttle.

Ms Paton said the way to prevent the increased risk of adult victimisation altogether was with more early intervention and prevention programs to reduce the incidents of child abuse.

“For many this may mean not turning a blind eye next time you see a parent strike their child at the shops or thinking twice before you admonish your own child with words that can hurt,” she said.

“For others it may be through policy design and innovation, or through donations of money, time or spirit.

“We all have a responsibility to protect children, to keep them safe from harm, to ensure they reach their full potential, to support their development into healthy, happy and contributing members of our community.”

If in need or crisis call the National Sexual Assault, Domestic and Family Violence Counselling Service on 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732) or Lifeline 131 114.