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Protecting The Children

CHILD abuse complaints have skyrocketed across NSW with an average of 500 calls a day being made to a State Government emergency helpline.
Figures obtained by The Daily Telegraph reveal that since 1996 there has been a 461 per cent increase in the number of reported child protection complaints, including sexual and physical abuse.
Department of Community Services Helpline workers are being swamped with calls from police, health workers and the public with reports of child abuse or neglect.
Of the cases reported, it was found 13,000 children in the past year had been subjected to actual physical or sexual abuse.
The alarming rise in complaints comes after a man was recently charged with the murder and sexual assault of a three-year-old boy from the innerwest who was allegedly electrocuted and sexually abused in 2003. The alleged attacker is believed to be a friend of the child's mother.
A second man suspected of being involved has not been charged.
Community Services Minister Reba Meagher said the figures were disturbing and reflected the importance of mandatory reporting.
"Sadly these disturbing figures underpin our commitment to, and the need for, early intervention," Ms Meagher said.
"Those who work with children have a legal obligation to report concerns about child abuse.
"Mandatory reporting means that those who work directly or indirectly with children have a legal obligation to report concerns about children who may be neglected or abused."
Ms Meagher congratulated those members of the community who were acting on their concerns.
The figures show that last year there were more than 185,000 reports on child protection concerns.
Part of the rise is being attributed to the mandatory reporting brought in in 2000 under which police, teachers, health workers or anyone involved with children has a legal duty to report suspected abuse or neglect.
However, there has been a significant rise in community reports.

AAP (18-3-2005)
Simon Benson

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