It is now mandatory for Educators in Victoria to report suspicions of sexual abuse as part of Victoria's government's response to the child sex abuse royal commision.
As a mandatory reporter, if you believe on reasonable grounds that a child has suffered or is likely to suffer significant harm as a result of physical injury or sexual abuse, you have a legal obligation to report.
For Victorian mandate reporters, it is a criminal offence failing to report any reasonable belief that a child under 16 has been sexually abused.
A ‘reasonable belief’ is not the same as having proof. A ‘reasonable belief’ is formed if a reasonable person in the same position would have formed the belief on the same grounds.
For example, a ‘reasonable belief’ might be formed when:
- a child states that they have been sexually abused
- a child states that they know someone who has been sexually abused (sometimes the child may be talking about themselves)
- someone who knows a child states that the child has been sexually abused
- professional observations of the child’s behaviour or development lead a professional to form a belief that the child has been sexually abused
- signs of sexual abuse lead to a belief that the child has been sexually abused.
A person will not be guilty of the offence if he or she has a reasonable excuse for not disclosing the information. A reasonable excuse includes:
- fear for safety
- where the information has already been disclosed.
The maximum penalty for failing to disclose child sexual abuse is 3 years imprisonment.
- If you need to report an offence that requires immediate police attention, please call Victoria Police: 000
- If you suspect on reasonable grounds that a child is suffering abuse or neglect or you wish to discuss your concerns about a child or young person, you should telephone:
- Your local Child Protection office, click here for further information and contact numbers.
- Child Protection Crisis Line: 131 278. This is an emergency service after-hours line. Opening hours: 5 pm- 9 am, Monday- Friday. During Saturday, Sunday and public holidays the line is open 24 hours.
- National Child Abuse Helpline: 1800 99 10 99. This helpline operates Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm AEST.
The planned new rules on Educators and other people working with children are part of a raft of government responses to the federal government’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, which was set-up in 2013 and published its final report in December 2017.
Towell, Noel and Cunnigham Melissa "Mandatory Child Abuse Reporting For Victorian Childcare Workers", The Age, 10th July 2018
"What Does Mandatory Reporting Mean For Early Child Care Workers", Meridian Lawyers Australia
"State Legislation and Reporting - Victoria", Child Wise
"Betrayal of Trust - Factsheet", Failure To Disclose, Victoria State Government