The Evidence Portal

Preventing child maltreatment: Core components

These five core components describe the common activities used to deliver  programs that prevent child maltreatment. 

In 2020, an evidence review was conducted to understand what works to prevent child maltreatment. 32 evidence-informed programs were identified. A content analysis identified 5 commonalties across these programs.  

These five core components are the common activities across evidence-informed programs that have been shown to prevent child maltreatment. 

Who do they work for?

These core components are relevant to services working with families and carers of children 18 years and under to prevent child maltreatment.

Core Components

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How services engage with families is crucial to ensuring parents/carers participate and remain in a program until they have achieved their goals. 

Flexible activities include:

Activities to engage families include building trust and being flexible in delivery to meet the needs of clients.

Understanding and addressing the needs of families is crucial to improving outcomes. This includes providing material, emotional and practical support to parents/carers, particularly those in crisis or chaotic environments.

Flexible activities include:

Activities supporting case management range from family driven goal setting to coordinated support. These activities can be delivered with different levels of intensity and for short or long periods of time. 

Parenting education, coaching and modelling ensures parents have the skills and knowledge to meet their children’s needs. It may include practical advice about routines or typical infant and child behaviour. It may also include resolving family conflict or practicing positive parenting behaviours. 

Flexible activities include:

Activities to provide parenting education and improve skills focus on a range of topics from prenatal behaviours to family problem solving. These activities can be delivered in a number of ways including parenting classes, home visiting programs and one-off multimedia sessions. 

Ensuring that parents/carers have their mental health, physical and personal needs met is very important. Parents may be unable to meet the needs of their children if they are struggling with their own issues.

Flexible activities include:

Activities to support parental self-care range from counselling to addressing parental risk factors. These activities have been delivered in a number of ways including individualised support to group sessions. 

Supportive relationships between parents/carers and their families ensure that children have a number of adults with their best interest at heart. Supportive relationships also enable parents/carers to seek advice and respite from others when needed. 

Flexible activities include:

Activities to support parents to build supportive relationships and social networks range from social outings with other families to group session on conflict resolution and communication. 


To learn more about core components see: How do core components work?

What should I consider when working with Aboriginal communities?

Culturally safe services are critical when supporting the wellbeing of Aboriginal children, young people, families and communities. You should look for guidance from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, families and communities on how to provide the service or activity so that they feel respected and safe.

There is great diversity in the cultures of Aboriginal people across NSW and Australia, which is not yet reflected in the thin evidence base available, however it is clear that cultural safety needs to be relevant to the specific communities in which the service is operating.

Cultural safety has been defined as:

An environment that is spiritually, socially and emotionally safe, as well as physically safe for people; where there is no assault, challenge or denial of their identity, of who they are and what they need. It is about shared respect, shared meaning, shared knowledge and experience of learning together (Williams 1999, cited in Bin-Sallik, 2003).

Cultural safety needs to be considered holistically, at all levels of service provision, from the individual practitioner, to organisational approaches, as well as systemically.

Cultural safety becomes embedded through an ongoing process of self-reflection and improvement; it is not culturally safe to adopt a ‘tick-a-box’ approach to embedding cultural safety.

Aboriginal workers’ expertise includes understanding Aboriginal ways of communication, the history of personal and intergenerational trauma, and community dynamics. It is critical that Aboriginal workers do not feel powerless or over-burdened in carrying out their work and are supported effectively (Zon et al, 2004).

It is the right of the Aboriginal client receiving services to determine if they were culturally safe or not, and it is the responsibility of the service provider to seek this feedback from Aboriginal clients to assess whether their services are experienced as culturally safe.

​​The research describes service access as a vital element of cultural safety. Service co-design with Aboriginal community members is a good way of achieving this. Inflexible delivery of externally developed programs that do not respond to local service needs is identified in the literature as culturally unsafe (Freeman et al, 2014).

A Cultural Safety and Wellbeing evidence review conducted in 2021 identified the following six critical elements as common across the evidence:

  • Recognising the importance of culture;
  • Self-determination;
  • Workforce development;
  • Whole of organisation approach;
  • Leadership and partnership;
  • Research, monitoring and evaluation.

These critical elements should be embedded in organisations’ way of working in order to deliver culturally safe services which contribute to improve outcomes for Aboriginal people. See the Cultural Safety and Wellbeing Evidence Review for further information on these critical elements and examples of the ways in which they can be implemented.

What else should I consider?

When using the core components and flexible activities above, to design or implement a program, it must be tailored to fit the needs and characteristics of the target group.

Last updated:

12 Dec 2022

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We acknowledge Aboriginal people as the First Nations Peoples of NSW and pay our respects to Elders past, present, and future. 

Informed by lessons of the past, Department of Communities and Justice is improving how we work with Aboriginal people and communities. We listen and learn from the knowledge, strength and resilience of Stolen Generations Survivors, Aboriginal Elders and Aboriginal communities.

You can access our apology to the Stolen Generations.

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