Birth Registration: Citizenship is not derived by birth in the country. Children are citizens if at least one parent is a citizen or permanent resident at the time of the child’s birth. Children born in the country to parents who are not citizens or permanent residents acquire citizenship on their tenth birthday if they have lived most of their life in the country. Births generally were registered promptly.
Child Abuse: State and territorial child protection agencies investigate and institute prosecutions of persons for child neglect or abuse. All states and territories have laws or guidelines that require members of certain designated professions to report suspected child abuse or neglect. The federal government’s role in the prevention of child abuse is limited to funding research, carrying out education campaigns, developing an action plan against the commercial exploitation of children, and funding community-based parenting programs.
According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, there were 31,527 substantiated cases of child abuse and neglect from July 2010 to June 2011 (the latest available data). These included physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and neglect.
Child Marriage: The legal minimum age of marriage is 18 years for both boys and girls. A person who is between 16 and 18 years may apply to a judge or magistrate in a state or territory for an order authorizing his or her marriage to a person who has attained 18 years of age. However, the marriage of a person under age 18 requires parental or guardian consent. Two persons under age 18 may not marry each other. While no statistics were available, marriages involving a person under age 18 were rare.
Harmful Traditional Practices: Female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) is a crime under the laws of all states and territories, and medical policy prohibits the practice. While the number of residents born in countries where the practice is common was growing, there were no widespread reports of FGM/C during the year. On September 13 in Sydney, authorities charged a local Islamic leader, a retired nurse, and the girls’ parents with allegedly performing FGM/C on two young girls, ages six and seven at the time, in the state of New South Wales between October 2010 and July 2012. On September 19, authorities arrested an additional four female relatives allegedly present at one or both of the procedures. Following a November local court hearing, the court magistrate continued bail for the eight accused and adjourned the case until February 2013.
In December the government announced it would immediately implement measures to boost community awareness and education campaigns and review the country’s legal framework in an effort to eliminate FGM/C. Measures included A$500,000 ($520,000) in grants to fund organizations to run education and awareness campaigns, new research and data collection efforts on the practice of FGM/C, and scheduling of a national summit on FGM/C in 2013.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law provides for penalties of up to 25 years’ imprisonment for commercial sexual exploitation of children. There were documented cases of children under age 18 engaged in prostitution.
The law prohibits citizens and residents from engaging in, facilitating, or benefiting from sexual activity with children under age 16 overseas, and provides for a maximum sentence of 17 years’ imprisonment upon conviction. During the year the government continued its awareness campaign to deter child sex tourism through the distribution of materials to citizens and residents traveling overseas.
The legal age for consensual sex is 16 in the Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales, the Northern Territory, Victoria, and Western Australia, and 17 in Tasmania and South Australia. In Queensland the age of consent for anal sex is 18, while the age of consent for all other sexual acts is 16. Maximum penalties for violations vary across jurisdictions. Defenses include reasonable grounds for believing that the alleged victim was above the legal age of consent and situations in which the two persons are close in age.
All states and territories criminalize the possession, production, and distribution of child pornography. Maximum penalties for these offenses range from four to 21 years’ imprisonment. Federal laws criminalize using a “carriage service” (for example, the Internet) for the purpose of possessing, producing, and supplying child pornography. The maximum penalty for these offenses is 10 years’ imprisonment and/or a fine of A$275,000 ($286,000). Federal law allows suspected pedophiles to be tried in the country regardless of where the crime is committed. The AFP worked with its international partners to identify and charge persons involved in the online exploitation of children.
The government largely continued federal emergency intervention measures initiated in 2007 to combat child sexual abuse in 73 Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory. These measures included emergency bans on sales of alcohol and pornography, restrictions on the payment of welfare benefits in cash, linkage of support payments to school attendance, and medical examinations for all indigenous children under age 16 in the Northern Territory. The federal minister for families, community services, and indigenous affairs stated that proven cases of abuse had doubled for indigenous children in the Northern Territory since the start of the emergency intervention, which reflected increased investment in child protection services. On June 29, Parliament passed legislation extending most of the intervention measures for 10 years.
While public reaction to the intervention remained generally positive, some Aboriginal activists asserted there was inadequate consultation and that the measures were racially discriminatory, since nonindigenous persons in the Northern Territory were not initially subject to such restrictions.
International Child Abductions: The country is a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. For information see the Department of State’s report on compliance at www.travel.state.gov/abduction/resources/congressreport/congressreport_4308.html.