Child abuse is defined as any assault on a child including sexual assault

The Family Law Act 1975, a law passed by the Commonwealth Parliament, defines child abuse as an assault on a child including sexual assault. Child abuse is also committed when any person has sexual intercourse with a child; or when a child is used as a sexual object. One element of this crime is that there needs to be a power relationship between the child and the person having sexual intercourse with the child.

Under state or territory law, child abuse may also fall under the term ‘family violence’. Family violence includes any actual or threatened conduct which causes any member of the person’s family to fear or be apprehensive about their wellbeing or safety. A person is deemed to be fearful or apprehensive about his or her wellbeing or safety is under the same circumstances, a reasonable man would fear for his or her well-being or safety.

There is a presumption in the crime of family violence that the person committing the family violence and the victim of the violence are in a relationship that may include a legal marriage, a de facto marriage; a relative by blood or by affinity; or when there are court orders placing the victim in the custody of the person committing the family violence.

For the crime of family violence, a relative is a mother, father, grandmother, grandfather, step-mother or step-father; brother, sister, half-brother, half-sister, stepbrother or stepsister, uncle aunt, nephew, niece, cousin.

To protect the victim of the family violence, the courts may issue orders removing the child from the home of the person committing the violence; or, the court may order the person is committing the family violence to leave home. In addition to this, if the victim is a minor child, a parenting order may be issued by the court designating a parent who will take physical and legal custody of the child. In any parenting order issued by the courts, the best interests of the child shall be the measure.

Reference:Australian Government Solicitor (2009). ‘Domestic violence laws in Australia’,

Child abuse in the context of domestic or family violence