Sunday Herald Sun (Melbourne)
13 September 2009, Page 35Mums lead abuse shame
By Laurie Nowell
Child abuse is rising dramatically in Australia, according to the first in-depth study to be released on the issue in a decade.
Data shows cases of abuse against children rose more than 50 per cent between 2006 and 2008.
In the 37 per cent of cases in which a parent was the perpetrator, mothers were responsible for 73 per cent of abuse cases while fathers were the cause of 27 per cent.
The data, the first of its kind to emerge since 1996 and obtained under Freedom of Information (FoI) laws, was compiled by the Western Australia Department of Child Protection.
The figures present a disturbing snapshot of soaring child abuse and its perpetrators. Experts say the data can accurately be applied across Australia.
Applications under FoI for similar data from all other states were refused.The statistics come as the Federal Government has signalled it may roll back the "shared parenting" amendments to the Family Law Act, brought in under the Howard government to give fathers greater access to their children in custody battles.
The data shows fathers are most responsible for sex abuse against children - accounting for more than 85 per cent of cases.
But mothers carry out more than 65 per cent of cases of emotional and psychological abuse and about 53 per cent of physical abuse. They are also responsible for about 93 per cent of cases of neglect.
There were 1,505 cases of abuse of children in WA in 2007-08 - 427 of them were carried out by mothers and 155 by fathers.
In other cases in which the gender of the perpetrator was determined, 463 cases were carried out by women and 353 by men.
A comparison with 2005-06 data shows the number of total cases of abuse had risen more than 50 per cent from 960. In 2005-06, mothers carried out 312 acts of abuse and fathers 165.University of Western Sydney lecturer Micheal Woods said the findings "undermined the myth that fathers were the major risk factor for their children's wellbeing".
"While there are some abusive fathers, there are in fact a larger proportion of violent and abusive mothers," Mr Woods said.