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Child abuse and neglect is one of Australia’s biggest and most misunderstood social problems. Despite being under-reported, Australian authorities confirmed 42,457 children were abused or neglected in one year alone*.  That’s one child every 13 minutes suffering physical, sexual, emotional abuse or neglect, often by someone they know and should be able to trust; most often in their own home. Thousands more cases go unreported, and the number of children and young people in out-of-home care is increasing.

On Tuesday, Gippsland Lakes Complete Health (GLCH) is teaming up with the Gippsland and East Gippsland Aboriginal Co-op, the Victoria Police, the Gippsland Centre Against Sexual Assault, the Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency and the Department of Health and Human Services to host an event in the Nicholson Street Mall in Bairnsdale from 11am to 2pm in conjunction with National Child Protection Week – now in its 26th year.

“Our event aims to raise awareness of all issues connected with child protection and provide an opportunity for community members to be resourced and empowered to take action at a local and individual level,” explained Annette Grant, Manager of Integrated Family Services at GLCH. “We’re inviting people to join us next Tuesday for a barbeque lunch, live music and children’s activities; and learn more about child safety and wellbeing.”

Child abuse and neglect often go undetected due to the private nature of the crime, the difficulties children experience in making disclosures and being believed, and lack of evidence to substantiate the crime (Child Family Community Australia, 2015). Child protection data only include those cases of abuse and neglect that were detected and reported and are therefore likely to be an underestimation of the number of children abused or neglected.

“Child protection is everyone’s business. The responsibility lies with adults in keeping children safe from harm,” said Ms Grant. “This year National Child Protection Week encourages all Australians to play their part to promote the safety and wellbeing of children and young people.”

“All money raised at our National Child Protection Event will be donated to Bravehearts Inc., the first and largest registered charity specifically and holistically dedicated to addressing child sexual assault,” added Ms Grant.  “Everyone is welcome and we look forward to seeing you there.”

*Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Child protection Australia 2014-15.