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Reporting obligations

Services need to be familiar with their reporting obligations in relation to children and adults exposed to sexual, domestic and family violence

 

Check policies and laws regularly

In most states and territories, there are legal requirements for service sectors. In addition, departmental policies may require staff to report children or adults who are targets of domestic and family violence to the police or child protection agencies. Managers should be familiar with all relevant reporting policies and laws. Staff should be updated regularly. Many services have ongoing supervision or case conferencing around these issues.

 

Keep a record

Appropriate record-keeping relating to disclosures of sexual, domestic and family violence is important for service risk management. Detailed records also support information sharing processes and potential legal actions relating to criminal charges or family law parenting matters.

Privacy is always an issue to consider. You should take into account privacy laws, other laws (for example, the Family Law ACT 1975) and confidentiality policies. Also be aware of limits to confidentiality for:

  • Child protection purposes
  • Reporting of serious injuries where a criminal offence may have been committed
  • Information sharing for the purpose of promoting client safety, where this is appropriate under state or territory laws or local Memoranda of Understanding (MOU)

Other confidentiality issues include:

  • The potential use of service or professional records as evidence in criminal or family law proceedings
  • Security of storage, including electronic or cloud storage
  • Therapeutic or service needs

Mandatory reporting

  • Mandatory reporting is when the law requires you to report known or suspected cases of abuse and neglect
  • It mainly relates to children, but can also relate to adults if the person involved is living in a residential service, such as psychiatric, aged care, or other government-run facility
  • The laws around who is required to report and in what circumstances are different in each state and territory
  • If you are unsure about your mandatory reporting requirements it is best to get personal advice. Search our Service directory for legal services that can provide free advice, or contact 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or through online chat for a referral.

Mandatory reporting requirements

Most states and territories have laws requiring certain workers and professionals to report if they suspect child abuse.

In some cases, workers and professionals are also required to report instances of exposure to sexual, domestic and family violence, in recognition of the seriousness of this type of harm to the developing child.

In the Northern Territory, reporting is mandatory for any adult who believes a child has been, or is likely to suffer harm or exploitation, or be a victim of a sexual offence. Harm is defined to include exposure to domestic and family violence, along with other forms of abuse or neglect. The Northern Territory law also requires all adults to report serious domestic and family violence to the police.

In New South Wales and Tasmania, reporting where children are exposed to domestic or family violence is also mandatory. In South Australia and Tasmania, psychological and emotional abuse also fall under mandatory reporting, which can include a child witnessing violence or abuse in the home.

For more information on mandatory reporting requirements for child abuse and neglect see the Australian Institute of Family Studies Mandatory Reporting Resource Sheet.

What about abuse and neglect of adults?

Some states also have mandatory reporting laws for abuse and neglect that takes place in residential services, such as psychiatric, aged care, and other government-run facilities. This applies even if the person who has experienced the abuse is an adult. In some cases, having a reasonable suspicion that abuse has or may take place is enough to require you to report it.

If you are at all unsure about your mandatory reporting requirements, it is best to get personal advice. Search our Service directory for a legal service in your state or territory that can provide free advice on your mandatory reporting requirements.

Check your organisation's policies and procedures

Many organisations have their own policies and procedures around reporting when children are at risk of harm, including harm from exposure to domestic and family violence. An organisation may require that at risk children be reported to child protection authorities, even where there is no legal requirement to do so in that state or territory.

Information on mandatory reporting in your state or territory

 

 

Information contained on this page was current at January 2016. It provides a general guide only,

services will need to check key provisions in their own state and territory on the relevant Departmental website.