Children have the right to protection from violence, abuse and neglect, and from being hurt or mistreated, physically or mentally.

- Article 19, Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989

In a world with heightened conflict and more frequent disasters, where mobility and migration are on the increase and where technology can strip away privacy, children are at risk. 

UNICEF works to protect children from exploitation, abuse and violence, especially children made vulnerable because of their gender, race or socio-economic status. UNICEF knows Indigenous children, children living with a disability and children without the care and protection of their family are at greater risk. 

Exploitation, abuse and violence against children includes sexual abuse, armed violence, trafficking, child labour, gender-based violence, bullying and cyber-bullying, gang violence, female genital mutilation or cutting, child marriage and physically or emotionally violent child discipline. 

UNICEF works to end violence against children, support children at risk and assist children who have been subjected to violence to reconnect with families and rebuild their future.

UNICEF Australia currently supports the following child protection programs:

  • Protect children from violence, abuse, exploitation, and unnecessary family separation in Cambodia (supported by the Australian Government)
  • Strengthening community based child-protection services for vulnerable children in Lao PDR (supported by the Australian Government)
  • An integrated child protection system for the prevention and response to violence against children in Myanmar (supported by the Australian Government)
  • Supporting accelerated implementation of the Child Protection Act and National Child Protection Policy in Papua New Guinea
  • Child Protection in Timor-Leste

Program snapshot: Keeping children in families

Institutionalised care has become an alternative and accessible solution for Cambodian families hoping for a better life for their children. Rather than an option of last resort, in Cambodia institutions have become a desirable –though ill-informed – choice for families living in poverty. 

A lack of support and protection for children in these institutions has proved a greater danger than many families would wish for. This, coupled with a volunteer tourist market unwittingly offering temporary help, has created a market for these institutions to thrive, regardless of their standards of care.
“Institutions are not - ever - a better environment for children than a loving family.”
UNICEF has been working with the Cambodian Government and other organisations to stop the reliance on institutionalised care among families and discourage volunteer tourists from lending financial and physical support to institutions that aren’t properly accredited or registered.

UNICEF’s focus has been to educate and train communities on the importance of keeping families together and support the appropriate care, welfare and community development to sustain vulnerable families.

Young girl with bike in Cambodia

Above: Sreynich, 11, wants to be a doctor. Her mother, Kheum, 33, wants the very best for her too, and when ill health forced her to stop the work she was doing in a Cambodian garment factory she worried she couldn’t afford her daughter’s schooling. A single mum, Kheum considered placing her daughter in institutionalised care. However, with the support of a UNICEF Australia-funded program, she was able to provide her daughter with books to attend school, along with the nutritious food and access to clean water she’ll need to stay strong and healthy to learn. Sreynich loves maths and is one of the top three students in her class.