Duty of Care Obligations

As a school staff member, you have a duty to take reasonable steps to protect children under your care and supervision from harm that is reasonably foreseeable (this applies to all school staff).

The question of what constitutes "reasonable steps" will depend on the individual circumstances of each case.

You may breach your duty of care towards a student if you fail to act in the way a reasonable or diligent professional would have acted in the same situation. In relation to suspected child abuse, reasonable steps may include (but are not necessarily limited to):

  • acting on concerns and suspicions of abuse as soon as practicable
  • seeking appropriate advice or consulting with other professionals or agencies when the school staff member is unsure of what steps to take
  • reporting the suspected child abuse to appropriate authorities such as Victoria Police and DHHS Child Protection
  • arranging counselling and/or other appropriate welfare support for the child
  • providing ongoing support to the child – this may include attending DHHS Child Protection Case Planning meetings, and convening regular Student Support Group meetings
  • sharing information with other school based staff who will also be responsible for monitoring and providing ongoing support to the child.

You must follow the Four Critical Actions for Schools to ensure that you fulfil your duty of care obligations for all children who are involved in, or affected by, the suspected child abuse. 

See: Four Critical Actions for Schools: Responding to Incidents, Disclosures or Suspicions of Child Abuse (pdf - 642.03kb)  |  Word version

Your duty of care also extends to students who are:

  • aged 17 years and over

    In circumstances where you suspect that a student over the age of 17 is subject to abuse you should still follow the Four Critical Actions for Schools. Although DHHS Child Protection work with children under 17 they can still be contacted with concerns relating to students 17 and over for referral and advice.
  • involved in student sexual offending

    You have a duty of care towards all students involved in student sexual offending, including the alleged victim, assailant and any other students in the school who may have witnessed and/or been affected by the abusive behaviour.

See: Four Critical Actions for Schools: Responding to Incidents, Disclosures or Suspicions of Child Abuse (pdf - 642.03kb)  |  Word version