Mandatory reporting

Mandatory reporting laws differ between states and territories so this topic provides a general introduction.

Mandatory reporting is when a person in a specific profession is required by law to report a risk of serious harm to a child or young person to a child protection agency.

Peer navigators are not one of the specified professions required to make this kind of report. In some states (e.g. NSW) only professionals who work with children and young people (0-15y) are required to report. In others (Vic) any person in a specified profession must report.

However, a peer navigator may be subject to the laws if you have additional training such as social work, casework or youth work. In addition, your manager/supervisor might work in one of the specified professions.

For these reasons, HIV peer navigators should be aware of mandatory reporting laws.

Who must report

In New South Wales, mandatory reporters are people who deliver the following services, wholly or partly, to children as part of their professional work or other paid employment, and those in management positions in these services:

  • Health care — registered medical practitioners, specialists, enrolled and registered nurses, registered midwives, occupational therapists, speech pathologists, psychologists, dentists and other allied health professionals working in sole practice or in public or private health practices.
  • Welfare — registered psychologists, social workers, caseworkers and youth workers.
  • Education — teachers, counsellors, principals,
  • Children’s services — child care workers, family day carers and home-based carers.
  • Residential services — refuge workers, community housing providers.
  • Law enforcement — police.
  • Disability services – disability support workers and personal care workers.
  • A person in religious ministry or a person providing religion based activities to children (e.g. minister of religion, priest, deacon, pastor, rabbi, Salvation Army officer, church elder, religious brother or sister)
  • Registered psychologists providing a professional service as a psychologist to adults.

In Victoria however, mandatory reporters include any person working in the following roles:

  • registered medical practitioners
  • nurses
  • midwives
  • registered teachers and early childhood teachers
  • school principals
  • school counsellors
  • police officers
  • out of home care workers (excluding voluntary foster and kinship carers)
  • early childhood workers
  • youth justice workers
  • registered psychologists
  • people in religious ministry.

In Queensland the following groups are mandatory reporters:

  • teachers
  • doctors
  • registered nurses
  • police officers with child protection responsibilities
  • a person performing a child advocate function under the Public Guardian Act 2014
  • early childhood education and care professionals

What must be reported

In general, risk of serious harm (or serious harm that has already occurred) must be reported. However, the states and territories differ on what must be reported. For instance:

  • NSW requires reporting of concerns that a child faces a risk of serious harm that includes neglect, physical, sexual or emotional abuse, or domestic or family violence.
  • Victoria requires reporting of belief on reasonable grounds that a child is in need of protection from physical injury or sexual abuse.
  • Queensland requires reporting of a reasonable suspicion that a child has suffered, is suffering or is at an unacceptable risk of suffering significant harm caused by physical or sexual abuse, and may not have a parent able and willing to protect them.

It is important to find out who must report and what must be reported for your own state or territory.

Non-mandatory reporters

Regardless of the state or territory, any person can make a report to a child protection agency if they have concerns about the welfare of a child.

Exercise

Find the mandatory reporting legislation in your own state or territory. Also look up the relevant policy/procedures within your organisation. Refer to these in your answer to the scenario below.

In the case of Michael Neal, an HIV-positive man who was prosecuted in Victoria for attempt to transmit HIV and other offences, the case first came to the attention of police because a mandatory report was made about an alleged sexual encounter with an underage person.

  • Can you imagine another scenario where you might form the belief that a child was at risk of serious harm from physical or sexual abuse? How would you proceed if you are not a mandatory reporter under the law?