Obligations to protect children in early childhood services

Early childhood workers to become mandatory reporters

Changes to the mandatory reporting requirements for early childhood providers and staff members are in effect as of 1 March 2019. 

Who this applies to

The following early childhood professionals are mandatory reporters:

  • New: All educators with post-secondary qualifications in the care, education or minding of children and employed or engaged in an education and care service or a children’s service.
  • New: All proprietors, nominees of a children’s service, approved providers, and nominated supervisors of an education and care service (see definitions below).
  • Educators registered with the Victorian Institute of Teaching (VIT) .

All mandatory reporters must report to Victoria Police and/or Child Protection as soon as practicable if, during the course of carrying out their professional roles and responsibilities, they form a belief on reasonable grounds that a child has suffered, or is likely to suffer, significant harm as a result of physical injury and/or sexual abuse and the child's parents have not protected, or are unlikely to protect, the child from harm of that type

It is a criminal offence not to report in these circumstances.

It is recommended that mandatory reporters follow the four critical actions to ensure they fulfil all of their legal obligations.

Definitions:

  • the proprietor of, or a person with a post-secondary qualification in the care, education or minding of children who is employed or engaged by, a children's service to which the Children's Services Act 1996 applies , and
  • the approved provider or nominated supervisor of, or a person with a post-secondary qualification in the care, education or minding of children who is employed or engaged by an education and care service within the meaning of the Education and Care Services National Law Act 2010 (National Law)

Requirements for services

Approved/licensed early childhood services play an important role in the prevention of child abuse and neglect through their access to information about family functioning and the needs of children. There are requirements to protect children under the National Law and Education and Care Services National Regulations 2011 (National Regulations).

National law

A key requirement of the National Law is to ensure the safety, health and wellbeing of children attending education and care services (section 51). Every reasonable precaution must be taken to protect children being educated and cared for by the service from harm and from any hazard likely to cause injury (section 167).

National regulations

The approved provider of an education and care service must ensure that the nominated supervisors and staff members at the service who work with children are advised of:

  • the existence and application of the current child protection law
  • any obligations that they may have under that law (regulation 84).

National Quality Standard

Management, educators and staff are aware of their roles and responsibilities to identify and respond to every child at risk of abuse or neglect (element 2.2.3). At all times, reasonable precautions and adequate supervision ensure children are protected from harm and hazard (element 2.2.1).

For services operating under the Children’s Services Act 1996

The children’s service must be operated in a way that ensures the safety of the children being cared for or educated, supports the health and wellbeing of those children and ensures the developmental needs of those children are met (section25E). The proprietor of a children’s service must ensure that every reasonable precaution is taken to protect children being cared for or educated by the service from harm and from any hazard likely to cause injury (section 26).

Early childhood guidance: PROTECT

The PROTECT guidance has been developed to support staff and educators in Victorian early childhood services to take action if they suspect or are witness to any form of child abuse.

This includes all persons working within approved and licensed services including in Outside School Hours Care (OSHC). 

PROTECT includes an online training module for staff in early childhood services.

Supporting organisations

Refer to the PROTECT guidance for supporting organisations.