Keeping kiwi kids safe

How are children being harmed?

Every child has the right to a childhood free from harm, but Aotearoa has unacceptably high levels of child abuse.

Child abuse isn’t just physical violence. It may be facing constant criticism, being degraded, or feeling fearful at home. It could be failing to receive medical care, being left alone unsupervised, or receiving excessive discipline. It might also be inappropriate touching, or adults initiating sexual conversations with children.

Most child abuse occurs within the family environment but it can happen anywhere - at school, in the larger community, or online. The signs of child abuse are not always obvious, and abuse frequently goes undetected and unreported.

What's the situation in New Zealand?

New Zealand has one of the worst records of child abuse in the developed world.

Violence against kids often begins as physical punishment, and then evolves into full-scale abuse. This can cause prolonged and severe damage to young developing brains. Children under five years, and particularly infants and newborns, are most at risk of violence and maltreatment in New Zealand.

Experiencing or witnessing abuse in the early years is linked to learning and anxiety disorders, mental and physical health problems, drug and alcohol abuse, insecurity and depression, low self-esteem, and early pregnancy.

Every year the Ministry for Vulnerable Children receives more than 150,000 reports of concern relating to children.

Our child abuse statistics

On average, a New Zealand child dies every five weeks as a result of violence. Children under 12 months old make up the majority of this statistic, and 90% of the time they have been killed by a parent or family member.

Exposure to violence

A 2012 survey found 7% of youth had witnessed adults at home physically hurting each other and 14% had witnessed adults physically hurting children.

Victims of violence

In 2015, there were 14 victims of homicide aged under 14 years. Eleven of those victims were aged under five years old.

Assaults on children

In 2015, there were 6,491 recorded instances of common and serious assaults on a child and 1,982 for sexual assaults on a child.

Sexual abuse of children

20% of girls and 9% of boys in New Zealand report unwanted sexual touching or being forced to do sexual things.

What are the costs of child abuse?

A culture that abuses children's rights costs us all. An Infometrics survey commissioned by Every Child Counts estimated the cost of child abuse in New Zealand to be around 3% of GDP, approximately $6 billion per year. 

This cost is made up of increased health costs, welfare payments, remedial education, justice expenditure and lower productivity.

We need to support all kiwi kids

We must work together to end violence against children.
New Zealand has a woeful record of child abuse at the hands of parents and family members, often as a result of punishment that went too far.

Helping parents understand their child’s development, and how to manage and discipline children without hitting them is part of creating a society with less violence in the home. For more information about positive parenting, visit
UNICEF wants a future free of violence against all children. In New Zealand, we advocate for child rights, and support positive parenting strategies with zero tolerance for physical punishment.

We also advocate for programmes that address poverty and economic inequalities, and focus on reducing alcohol and drug abuse. Read more about what our dedicated Advocacy Team are doing in New Zealand here.

Getting help

Children have the right to be protected and receive support when they are victims of violence and neglect.

In New Zealand there are many organisations that provide help, counselling and information to children and families in domestic abuse situations. If it’s an emergency and you think a child is at immediate risk of serious harm, call Police on 111.

If you are a young person worried about what is happening at home, you can call 0800Whatsup, a counselling helpline that supports children affected by violence and abuse.

Other organisations that provide free help and consultancy are:

Child Youth and Family Helpline 0508 326 459
Child Abuse Prevention Parent Helpline 0800 568 856