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Mandatory reporting

Date of Advice: 5 November 2012


Advice no: 1122

This advice is endorsed by the: Assistant Director, Child Protection Policy, Practice and Planning.
This Advice is current only if the date of Advice in this document matches the date of Advice in the online
version. Check the date of Advice on line before relying on this printed copy.

Introduction and purpose


Mandatory reporting
This Advice provides information regarding the statutory requirements of mandatory reporting to the Child
Protection service.
Doctors, nurses, midwives, teachers and principals, and police are specifically compelled to report if they
believe on reasonable grounds that a child is in need of protection from physical and sexual abuse.
Legislation regarding mandatory reporting was first introduced in Victoria in the early 1990s. This followed the
identification of incidents where children were subject to significant abuse, and despite the involvement of
professionals, were not reported to the statutory child protection system.

Other required reporting


There are also circumstances in which the Family Court or Federal Magistrates Court personnel are required to
report. For details regarding these requirements see Advice Number. 1141, 'Reports and requests from the
Family Court or Federal Magistrates Court' – Related links on right of screen.

Legislation
Note: Use the Legislation link on toolbar to access full text versions of the legislation. Any sections of an Act
noted in this Advice are partial references only and should not be relied on. Practitioners should refer to the Act
for full details.

Children, Youth and Families Act


Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 (CYFA)

• s. 183 Report to protective intervener


• s. 184 Mandatory reporting

Department of Human Services

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• s. 186 Grounds for belief
• s. 182 Who is a mandatory reporter?
• s. 189 Reporters protected
• s. 191 Confidentiality

Standards and procedures


Requirements under the mandatory reporting legislation
Under the CYFA, mandated professionals are legally compelled to make a report to Child Protection if they form
a belief on reasonable grounds that a child is in need of protection from physical injury (s. 162(c), CYFA) or
sexual abuse (s. 162(d), CYFA).

Mandated professionals
Doctors, nurses, midwives, teachers and principals, and police are mandatory reporters under s. 182, CYFA.
These are the only groups currently mandated. Although the Act makes provision for a number of other
professional groups to be mandated, the date that these provisions will commence has not yet been proclaimed.

Forming a belief
To form a belief, the reporter must be aware of matters and hold any opinions in relation to those matters that
lead them to reasonably believe a child is in need of protection (s. 186, CYFA).

Reasonable grounds
A 'belief on reasonable grounds' is formed if a reasonable person in the same position would have formed the
belief on the same grounds. (s. 184(4), CYFA)

For example, there may be reasonable grounds when:

• a child states that they have been physically or sexually abused


• a child states that they know someone who has been physically or sexually abused (sometimes the
child may be talking about themselves)
• someone who knows the child states that the child has been physically or sexually abused
• professional observations of the child’s behaviour or development leads the mandated professional to
form a belief that the child has been abused or is likely to be abused
• signs of physical or sexual abuse leads to a belief that the child has been abused.

Reporting a belief
Section 184(1), CYFA, requires mandated reporters to report their belief, when the belief is formed in the course
of practising their profession. A report must be made as soon as practicable after forming the belief, and on
each occasion on which they become aware of any further reasonable grounds for the belief.
There may be times when two or more mandated professionals, for example a teacher and a principal, or a
doctor and a nurse, have formed a belief about the same child on the same occasion. In this situation it is
sufficient that only one of the mandated professionals make a report. The other is obliged to ensure that the
report has been made and that all the grounds for their own belief were included in the report made by the other
person (s. 184(2)).
In the case where one mandated professional directs another mandated professional not to make a report, and
one professional continues to hold the belief that a child is in need of protection, then that professional is legally
obliged to make a report to Child Protection.

Department of Human Services


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Protection for reporters
If a report is made in good faith (s. 189, CYFA), then

• it does not constitute unprofessional conduct or a breach of professional ethics


• the reporter cannot be held legally liable
• it does not constitute a breach of s. 141 of the Health Services Act or s. 120A of the Mental Health Act
A reporter who makes a report in accordance with the legislation is not liable for the eventual outcome of any
investigation.

Confidentiality for reporters


Confidentiality is provided for reporters in the CYFA (ss. 190 and 191), and prevents the disclosure of the name
or any information likely to lead to the identification of a person who has made a report in accordance with the
legislation except in very specific circumstances.
The identity of a reporter must remain confidential, unless:

• the reporter chooses to inform the child or family of the report


• the reporter consents in writing to their identity as the reporter being disclosed
• a court or tribunal decides that it needs this information in order to ensure the safety and wellbeing of
the child
• a court or tribunal decides that in the interests of justice the evidence needs to be given.
For detailed information, refer to Advice Number 1090 ‘Information sharing in Child Protection practice’ - see
Related links on right of screen.

Failure to report
A mandated professional who fails to report a 'belief based on reasonable grounds that a child is in need of
protection' because of physical or sexual abuse is liable to be prosecuted under s. 184(1), CYFA.

Considerations for good practice


Note: Use the Practice Resources link on the toolbar to access further Practice Guidance and Research.
• At intake it is critical to ensure accurate identification of reports that require further investigation and
effective diversion of reports that may be safely managed in the community.
• To have reasonable grounds to believe a child is in need of protection, the mandated reporter should
believe both that there is risk of significant harm as a result of physical injury or sexual abuse, and
that the parents cannot or will not protect the child.
• Reporters do not need to prove that a child is in need of protection or that abuse has taken place, or
to investigate their concerns.
• From an ethical point of view, it is important to communicate to professionals that a child may also
need protection from other types of harm and that all professionals have a duty of care to the children
with whom they work, beyond the mandatory reporting requirements.
• Professional education and development, ongoing liaison and consultation with key professionals and
organisations within your region will assist in ensuring effective reporting of significant concerns for
children’s safety, stability and development to Child Protection, and referral of significant concerns for
wellbeing to Child FIRST or other appropriate services.
• There are statewide protocols for police, schools and the Royal Children’s Hospital outlining
responsibilities in relation to mandatory reporting and providing important information and guidance
regarding ongoing relationships with these professionals. There may be regional protocols with
hospitals for example, which provide further information in relation to mandated professionals.

Department of Human Services


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Contact for further procedural advice
• Supervisor
• Team Manager

Related content and external links


Note: Advice, Protocols and Policy Documents directly related to this Advice are listed below. To access the full
range of Protocols and Policy documents use the Protocol and Policy links on the Home Page.

Related Content:
1090 - Information sharing in Child Protection practice
1141 - Family Court or Federal Magistrates Court - reports and requests
1154 - Receiving and processing reports
Any region specific protocol
Protocol between Child Protection and the Royal Children's Hospital 2005 [PDF, 1.4 MB]
Protocol between Child Protection and Victoria Police [PDF, 402.6 KB]
Protecting the safety and wellbeing of children and young people: a joint protocol of the Department of Human
Services Child Protection, Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, Licensed Children's
Services and Victorian Schools [PDF, 1.3 MB]
Step by step guide to making a report to Child Protection or Child FIRST [PDF, 326.4 KB]

External Links:
Child Protection and Care, 2002,
'Responding to child abuse' , Victorian Government Publishing Service, Melbourne
Child Protection and Care, 2001, 'Safe From Harm: The role of professionals in protecting children and young
people' , Department of Human Services, Melbourne (a professional development kit)

Checklist of required standards


For this Advice, there are no required standards.

Department of Human Services


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