A new 10 year national strategy to prevent child sexual abuse has been given more than $146 million in funding by the Federal Government.
The extent of child sexual abuse in Australia was revealed by a Royal Commission which recommended that a national strategy be implemented to prevent crimes from occurring.
ABS statistics show that 1.4 million Australians adults experienced sexual abuse in their childhood, 86 per cent of those people knew their perpetrator.
Forrest MP Nola Marino said charges relating to child sexual abuse across the country have increased from 372 in 2018/19, to 2,753 in 2020/21.
"Here in WA, those numbers have risen from 40 to 306 in the same period," she said.
Act For Kids is a national charity which works to prevent and treat child abuse and neglect. Its chief executive Dr Katrina Lines said the number of charges relating to child sexual abuse were nowhere near the number of children who were being sexually abused.
"It has one of the lowest rates of investigation and prosecution," she said.
The Federal Government have committed $40 million to strengthen the Commonwealth's capacity to prosecute offenders and for the Attorney General to expand its legal assistance.
It has also committed almost $60 million to the Australian Federal Police and a further $14 million to disrupt the flow of money behind some forms of child sexual abuse and livestreaming. It will also give authorities more ability to identify and intercept offenders in the community.
Dr Lines said they knew children were being exploited online and that it had increased since the pandemic.
"Some of that is children and young people's lack of understanding about how vulnerable they are online, they participate and send images themselves," she said.
Since the first national lockdown last year, Act For Kids has seen referral rates for their service increase by an average of 30 per cent.
"Referrals have skyrocketed and gone up to 50 per cent in some services," she said.
"There are way more kids at risk of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse because of the lockdown."
Dr Lines said a multifaceted approach was needed to help combat child sexual abuse.
"We know around 60 per cent of people don't actually do anything if a child discloses that they have been sexually abused," she said.
"It is not because they do not want to but that they do not know what to do or it isn't their place to interfere and a whole host of other reasons.
"More education is needed for adults about child sexual abuse and exploitation, as well as better legislation and policy to protect children.
"We also need to teach children to be really assertive in asking for help and about consent and their rights to be safe and not harmed.
"We need a community-wide, anti-stigma approach."
Dr Lines said it was good to see funding for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander healing approaches to support survivors but no other therapy programs were being funded.
"We have healing programs around the country with waiting lists, there is no extra money for on the ground services," she said.
The Federal Government is expected to make further announcements with a final strategy to be released in September. For more information please visit childsafety.pmc.gov.au.
If you need to talk to somebody please contact:
Waratah 1800 017 303; 1800RESPECT 1800 737 732; Beyond Blue 1300 224 636; Bravehearts 1800 272 831 or the Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800.