Deakin University
obrien-australias-2010.pdf (2.86 MB)

Australia's response to sexualised or sexually abusive behaviours in children and young people.

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posted on 2010-01-01, 00:00 authored by Wendy O'BrienWendy O'Brien
Responding to children and young people with sexualised or sexual offending behaviours presents significant challenges across the allied health, child protection, education and juvenile justice sectors. This report maps the specialised therapeutic services designed to effect positive behavioural change and thus divert young people with sexualised behaviours from the juvenile justice system. Accurate numbers on children with sexualised or sexual offending behaviours are difficult to determine. There are several factors contributing to this gap in understanding. These include entrenched ideals about children as inherently innocent, widespread ignorance about developmental sexuality, and the tendency of both young people and parents to deny or minimise incidents when they do occur. In Australia, data on children with sexualised behaviours are not collected uniformly and nondisclosure contributes to what might be large numbers of offences going undetected. Mandatory reporting requirements apply where children display sexualised behaviours and are thought to be at risk of harm. Yet a general lack of knowledge as to what constitutes appropriate behaviour means that many may respond inappropriately to incidents of sexualised behaviours. This context of confusion, denial and non-disclosure creates a hidden population of children that continues to be at risk. Attention to redressing the contexts for non-disclosure is urgently required to ensure that children in need are provided with specialised therapeutic care. This report presents qualitative data from interviews with specialised clinicians as well as submissions from service providers in both community and youth justice settings. In mapping the availability of therapeutic services, this report highlights a number of geographic and demographic gaps in service provision, including difficulties with eligibility criteria, referral pathways, funding arrangements and specialised workforce development. There are multiple challenges facing the tertiary services sector, yet the comprehensive provision of specialised services is just one part of the response required. This study emphasises the need for effective primary and secondary prevention to effect a reduction in the numbers of young people requiring counselling in the future. Consistent with the public health model, this report prioritises professional and community education strategies that would ultimately necessitate fewer tertiary services for young people and fewer places in juvenile detention centres.




Open access

  • Yes







Publication classification

A6.1 Research report/technical paper

Copyright notice

2010, Australian Crime Commission


Australian Crime Commission

Place of publication

Canberra, ACT