Identifying signs of child abuse


​​​Critical information

​As an early childhood​ staff member:

​Following these actions will support you to best protect children in your care and meet your legal obligations and duty of care.

This resource uses the term child to refer to any person under the age of 18.

​As an early childhood service staff member, you have a critical role to play in protecting children from abuse and may be the best-placed, or only adult in a child's life who is in a position to identify and respond to signs that a:

  • child is impacted by, or at risk of abuse
  • community member (including a staff member) may be a perpetrator of child abuse.

In this section


This content may be distressing for some staff members. These sections include explicit descriptions of abuse and may be distressing to engage with for some staff members, including those who have experienced, or are experiencing abuse.

Recognising the signs of child abuse

This section will help you to recognise the signs of child abuse and includes definitions and physical and behavioural indicators, including:

When identifying child abuse, it is critical to remember that:

  • the trauma associated with child abuse can be catastrophic to the wellbeing and development of a child, and can continue after the abuse has ended
  • all concerns about the safety and wellbeing of a child, or the conduct of a staff member, contractor or volunteer should b​e acted upon as soon as practicable. Early intervention can save lives.

If physical and/or behavioural indicators lead you to suspect that a child has, or is being abused, or is at risk of abuse, you must respond as soon as practicable by following: Four Critical Actions For Early Childhood Services  

If you believe that a child is not being abused, but you still hold concerns for their safety or wellbeing,  to determine who to consult with, when to make a report and when to engage other wellbeing professionals, see: Responding to concerns about the wellbeing of a child


If you need to talk to someone, it is recommended that you speak to your manager/service provider about arranging appropriate support. You can also talk to your GP or another allied health professional, and report historical or current experiences of abuse to Victoria Police.

You can also contact Life Line on 13 11 14 or chat to someone online at Life Line​