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What is child protection?

Child protection at the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) aims to protect children and young people from significant harm caused by abuse or neglect within the family.

DHHS reviews reports from people who believe that a child needs protection. If it believes that a child may be at risk it will investigate and may refer families to community support services for support. They also take matters to court and supervise children where the court has made an order.

Who is a child?

The department cannot file a fresh application with the court once a person turns 17 years old.

For child protection purposes, a child is a person who is under 17 years unless there is already an order in force when the child turns 17. If there already is an order the jurisdiction of the court extends to when the child turns 18 or when the order expires (whichever of these occurs first).

Children who are aged 10 years or older are almost always legally represented separately and directly in proceedings of the Family Division of the Children's Court. This means that the lawyer acts on the child's instructions.

Children aged under 10 and those who are unable to directly instruct a lawyer may be given best interests legal representation in exceptional circumstances.

More information


Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 (Vic)

  • s. 3—defines a child (see sub s. (b))
  • s. 524—legal representation
  • s. 525—proceedings where a child must be legally represented

See Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 (Vic).


Department of Health and Human Services (Vic)

The department changed its name in 2015.

See Department of Health and Human Services—Child protection.