There is arguably nothing more important than the protection of children. Children who are exposed to abuse and neglect can be permanently affected by the physical, emotional and behavioural impacts, which is why mandatory reporting of child abuse and neglect is important.
What is mandatory reporting of child abuse and neglect?
In a nutshell, mandatory reporting is when legislation requires certain people to report actual or suspected abuse and neglect of children up to the age of 16-18 to relevant authorities. Although the details of mandatory reporting differ in Australia, every jurisdiction in the country have various laws in this area – and yet still, research shows that not all known or suspected cases of child abuse and neglect are reported.
Mandatory reporting of child abuse and neglect across Australia
Every state and territory in Australia has mandatory reporting requirements. Across the spectrum, certain people are required to make a report if they believe ‘on reasonable grounds’ that a child is either being harmed or at risk of being harmed.
This sort of ‘harm’ extends all the way from physical and sexual abuse to the child not having physical, psychological and medical needs met. Also covered by most Australian jurisdictions is child abuse and neglect relating to education, exposure to domestic violence, and many other aspects of physical and emotional wellbeing.
Who must report child abuse and neglect?
One of the main ways in which mandatory reporting requirements across Australia differ is on who is required to report. For example, in Queensland, the list of required reporters is more limited than in Western Australia. In the case of suspected or actual sexual offences against children, every adult is actually a mandated notifier in Victoria and the Northern Territory.
Most professions that are in regular contact with children almost certainly involve mandatory reporting, including teaching, doctors, nurses and the police. During the course of these professionals’ paid work, if they believe that abuse or neglect is taking place or is likely to take place, they must make a report.
In addition to state laws, the federal Family Law Act (1975) applies mandatory reporting requirements on those working in the Australian Family Court and Magistrates Courts.
The mandatory reporter’s rights
The identity of the person making the report is protected in every Australian jurisdiction. As long as the report is made ‘in good faith’, the reporter is protected from both the civil and criminal legal systems.