Two: Reporting to authorities


Critical Information

As soon as immediate health and safety concerns are addressed you must report all incidents, suspicions and disclosures of child abuse as soon as possible. Failure to report physical and child sexual abuse may amount to a criminal offence.

If the source of suspected abuse comes from within the school (this includes any forms of suspected child abuse involving a school staff member, contractor or volunteer) you must:

  • contact Victoria Police (via your local police station)

  • ALSO report internally to:
    • School Principal/Leadership Team (all instances)

    • Government Schools: Employee Conduct Branch and Security Services Unit

    • Catholic Schools: Diocesan education office

If the source of suspected abuse comes from within the family or community you must:

  • report to DHHS Child Protection (see contact details) if a child is considered to be:
    • in need of protection due to child abuse

    • at risk of being harmed (or has been harmed), and the harm has had, or is likely to have, a serious impact on the child's safety, stability or development.

  • ALSO report suspected sexual abuse (including grooming) to Victoria Police

  • ALSO report internally to:
    • School Principal and/or leadership team (all instances)

    • Government Schools: DET Security Services Unit

    • Catholic Schools: Diocesan education office

    • Independent Schools: School Principal and/or school chairperson.

You should consider reporting to Child FIRST if you have other reasonable concerns for the wellbeing of a child, such as concerns due to conflict within a family, parenting difficulties, isolation of a family or a lack of apparent support.

You must identify a contact person at the school for future liaison with Victoria Police and/or DHHS Child Protection and seek advice about contacting parents/carers. See: Action Three

Following any incident, suspicion or disclosure of child abuse you must make a report as soon as possible. Failure to report physical and sexual child abuse may amount to a criminal offence.

This section steps you through the process for:

  • Reporting when the source of the suspected abuse is within the school
  • Reporting when the source of suspected abuse is within the family or community
  • Making Additional Reports (in circumstances where a report has already been made)

Reporting when the source of suspected abuse is within the school

If the source of suspected abuse comes from within the school (this includes any forms of suspected child abuse involving a school staff member, contractor or volunteer) you must:

  • contact Victoria Police via your local police station (it is important that you first contact your local police station, where appropriate they will refer you on to the local Sexual Offences and Child Abuse Investigation Team)

  • ALSO report internally* to:
    • School Principal/Leadership Team (all instances)
    • Government Schools: Employee Conduct Branch and Security Services Unit
    • Catholic Schools: Diocesan education office  

You must also identify a contact person at the school for future liaison with Child Protection and Victoria Police and seek advice about contacting parents/carers.  For further advice, see Step Four

* Please note that reporting internally does not mean that mandatory reporting obligations have been met. The staff member who has formed a reasonable belief regarding child abuse or neglect must also report to DHHS Child Protection or Victoria Police if the child is in immediate risk of harm.

Reporting when the source of suspected abuse is within the family or community

If the source of suspected abuse comes from within the family or community you must:

  • report to DHHS Child Protection (see contact details) if a child is considered to be:
    • in need of protection due to child abuse
    • at risk of being, harmed (or has been harmed), and the harm has had, or is likely to have, a serious impact on the child's safety, stability or development.
  • ALSO report suspected sexual abuse (including grooming) to Victoria Police
  • ALSO report internally* to:
    • School Principal and/or leadership team (all instances), highlighting:
      • the details of the suspected child abuse or risk of abuse including the name of those involved
      • any immediate actions taken to protect the safety of the child
      • your report or intention to report to DHHS Child Protection, Victoria Police and/or Child FIRST
      • possible steps that can be taken to contact parents (if appropriate) and support the student
  • Government Schools: DET Security Services Unit on (03) 9637 2934
  • Catholic Schools: Diocesan education office, including:
    • Archdiocese of Melbourne: Office of Professional Conduct, Ethics & Investigation on (03) 9267 0228
    • Diocese of Sale: Child Protection Officer on (03) 5622 6600
    • Diocese of Ballarat: Child Safety on (03) 5337 7135
    • Diocese of Sandhurst: Child Protection Officer on (03) 5443 2377
  • Independent Schools: School Principal and/ or school chairperson.

If you believe that a child is not subject to abuse, but you still hold significant concerns for their wellbeing (e.g. concerns due to conflict within the family) you should consider making a referral to Child FIRST. In some circumstances you may still need to contact DHHS Child Protection and/or Victoria Police (e.g. extreme risk taking behaviour, harm to an unborn baby).

For further advice, see: Responding to other concerns about the wellbeing of a child

*Please note that reporting internally does not mean that mandatory reporting obligations have been met. The staff member who has formed a reasonable belief regarding child abuse or neglect must also report to DHHS Child Protection or Victoria Police if the child is in immediate risk of harm.

Reporting if the incident, suspicion or disclosure relates to an international student

If the incident, suspicion or disclosure relates to an international student you will most likely be required to make an additional report: 

  • Government schools must also contact International Education Division on (03) 9637 2990
  • Catholic and independent schools will need to contact the VRQA on (03) 9637 2806 or via email at vrqa.schools@edumail.vic.gov.au if your school has issued a Confirmation of Appropriate Accommodation and Welfare (CAAW) letter in relation that student (thereby assuming responsibility for approving the child's accommodation, support and general welfare).

How should you proceed if the Principal/leadership team advise you not to make a report?

In some circumstances the Principal and/or leadership team may advise you not to proceed with reporting suspected abuse.

Regardless of this advice, if you hold a reasonable belief that a child has been, or is at risk of being abused you must still make a report to DHHS Child Protection and/or Victoria Police. This report may be critical in protecting a child from abuse.

If you fail to report you may not discharge your duty of care and in some circumstances this can result in criminal charges.

If you decide not to report, this decision should be documented within: Responding to Suspected Child Abuse: Template (docx - 67.41kb).

For advice on the actions that must be taken in the event that a report has already been made, see: Making Additional Reports.

Making Additional Reports

Reporting further reasonable grounds for belief

You must make a new report in any circumstance where you become aware of any further reasonable grounds for the belief. Every report is critical to protecting a child by building evidence and enabling authorities to gain a clearer understanding of the risks.

This means that you must make a report to protect a child even if:

  • DHHS Child Protection or Victoria Police were previously involved or are already involved with the child and/or their family
  • staff are aware that another party, such as a family member, has already raised concerns with the relevant authorities.

What if another person has already made a report?

Once you form a reasonable belief that a child has been, or is at risk of being abused, your obligation to report is separate from the obligations or actions of other people.

In addition, it is important to consider that other people may not have access to the specific detail you have. The information you provide through your report may assist the relevant authority to take further action to protect the child.

However, there may be times when two or more school staff members, for example a teacher and a Principal, have formed a belief about the same child on the same occasion and based on the same information. In this situation it is sufficient that only one of the staff members 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.

In instances where two staff members form different views about whether or not to make a report, if one staff member continues to hold a reasonable belief that a child is in need of protection, then they are legally obliged to make a report.

What if you don't think the child is at risk of abuse but you still hold concerns about a student's wellbeing?

If you believe that a child is not subject to child abuse, but you still hold significant concerns for their wellbeing, you may still need to contact DHHS Child Protection and/or Victoria Police and/or make a referral to Child FIRST.

For further advice, see: Responding to other concerns about the wellbeing of a child