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There is near universal enrolment in school for Australian children aged between six and 15 years. In 2016, almost 3.8 million children were enrolled in more than 9,400 Australian primary and secondary schools.

Australian schools fall under two broad sectors: government and non-government. In 2016, 70.5 per cent (6,634) of Australian schools were government schools and 29.5 per cent of schools (2,780) were non-government schools. Non-government schools are divided into either Catholic or Independent schools. In 2016, 18.5 per cent of all schools were Catholic schools and 11.0 per cent were Independent schools. Almost two-thirds (65.4 per cent) of students in Australia attend government schools.

Every government school and most Catholic schools belong to a system; most Independent schools do not. Each system has its own peak body, administrative arrangements and organisational structure.

The complex arrangements and responsibilities for the regulation, funding and administration of government and non-government schools are shared between the Australian Government and state and territory governments.

Almost one in three of all survivors in private sessions (2,186 survivors or 31.8 per cent) were sexually abused in a school setting as a child. Of these survivors:

  • three-quarters (75.9 per cent) said they were abused in non-government schools, of which 73.8 per cent identified a Catholic school and 26.4 per cent identified an Independent school
  • one-quarter (24.9 per cent) said they were abused in government schools
  • almost three-quarters (71.8 per cent) said they were abused in a religious school, while 4.1 per cent said they were abused in a secular non-government school
  • almost one in three (30.4 per cent) said they were abused in a boarding school setting, of which 96.8 per cent told us it was a non-government boarding school and 3.2 per cent identified a government boarding school. Of the non-government boarding schools, 57.0 per cent identified a Catholic school and 43.2 per cent identified an Independent school.

The abuse occurred in 1,069 schools, of which 55.8 per cent were non-government schools and 44.2 per cent were government schools. With many instances of abuse ‘clusters’ in non-government schools, where a perpetrator or perpetrators would abuse multiple students over time.