Governments must transition away from Residential Care

Content warning: This post contains information about child sexual and physical abuse

CREATE is deeply concerned by the story on ABC’s 7.30 last night about the sexual exploitation of children in residential care in Victoria.

7.30 revealed that in the last nine months, there have been 125 reports made to the commission of children and young people in Victoria about children in the residential care system being subjected to sexual assault and abuse.

It is distressing to hear about the large volume of reports to the Victorian Commission and this issue requires an urgent and collaborative response to ensure accountability for the perpetrators and prevent further abuse of children and young people.

CREATE supports the Victorian Commissioner for Children and Young People in her individual inquiry into the conditions and circumstances that led to a 12 year-old girl in state care, who had experienced physical and sexual abuse, being charged with murder.

CREATE believes that all state and territory governments should be putting in place strategies to transition away from the use of residential care, in favour of increased investment in early intervention programs and alternative models of care that better meet the relational and developmental needs of children, especially small children.

Alternative home-based care arrangements, such as professionalised foster care and home-based Intensive Therapeutic Support, should be established and expanded to replace the need for residential care for young people that require more intensive support in the long term.

This could also be supplemented by more targeted and place-based recruitment drives to increase the number of foster carers entering the system to provide targeted trauma-informed care for young people with high needs through evidence-based models of care.

CREATE acknowledges the transition will be a long term process and calls on governments to adequately fund the residential care sector in the interim to ensure that fully therapeutic models of care are provided to all children and young people in those settings.


CREATE Foundation is the national consumer body representing the voices of children and young people with an out-of-home care experience (including kinship care, foster care and residential care). CREATE develops policy and research to report on and advocate for a better care system. 

Key evidence about residential care in Australia

  • Nationally, residential care comprises 7.6% of the care population. Large variations exist across Australia in its use, (e.g., from 3.6% in NSW to around 15% in QLD and SA). Costs for these services range from 8X (SA) to 18X (WA) the expenditure on home-based care (AIHW, 2022; Productivity Commission, 2022).
  • CREATE’s national survey of out-of-home care (McDowall, 2018) found that children and young people in residential care experienced more instability than those in home-based care and only 69% felt safe and secure in their residential placement compared with 93% in foster or kinship care.
  • McDowall (2020) reported that young people who have experienced residential care in Australia are less likely, compared with those in home-based placements, to complete year 12 education (41% vs. 67%), and were more likely to be involved with youth justice (56% vs. 25%). Care-criminalisation in residential placements must be avoided (McFarlane, 2016).


Australian Institute of Health and Welfare [AIHW]. (2022). Young people under youth justice supervision and their interaction with the child protection system 2020–21. No. CSI 29. AIHW.

Productivity Commission. (2022). Report on Government Services.

McDowall, J. J. (2018). Out-of-home care in Australia: Children and young people’s views after five years of National Standards. CREATE Foundation.

McDowall, J. J. (2020). Transitioning to adulthood from out-of-home care: Independence or interdependence? CREATE Foundation.

A purple image with white text that says Residential Care in Australia. There is an icon of a house and a heart