Action 2: Reporting to authorities

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 sexual child abuse may amount to a criminal offence.

The following Information is on reporting both internally to your school and to external authorities.

Reporting internally alone does not mean that your mandatory reporting obligations have bee​n met.

The staff member who has formed a reasonable belief regarding child abuse or neglect must also report to the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing (DFFH) Child Protection or Victoria Police if the child is in immediate risk of harm.

When the source of suspected abuse is a person within the school

If the source of suspected abuse comes from a person within the school (this includes any forms of suspected child abuse involving a school staff member, contractor, volunteer, allied health practitioner, visitor, officer or office holder, whether or not the conduct is alleged to have occurred within the course of the person’s employment or engagement with the school) 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 to the local Sexual Offences and Child Abuse Investigation Team)
  • report internally* to the school principal or leadership team (all instances).

You must also contact the following based on your school:

  • Government schools: Principals are to contact the Employee Conduct Branch and Incident Support and Operations Centre on 1800 126 126
  • Catholic schools: Diocesan education office on office on (03) 9267 0228.

You must also identify a contact person at the school for future liaison with DFFH Child Protection and Victoria Police and seek advice about contacting parents or carers. Refer to Action 3: Contacting parents or carers.

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

When th​​e 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 DFFH Child Protection 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
  • and if the child’s parents or carers have not protected, or are unlikely to protect, the child from the harm.

You must also report suspected sexual abuse (including grooming) to Victoria Police and report internally* to the school principal or leadership team (all instances), highlighting:

  • the details of the suspected child abuse or risk of abuse including the names of those involved
  • any immediate actions taken to protect the safety of the child
  • your report or intention to report to DFFH Child Protection, Victoria Police or Child FIRST/The Orange Door
  • steps that can be taken to contact parents (if appropriate) and support the student.

Further support

Government schools may also wish to contact the Incident Support and Operations Centre on 1800 126 126 for advice and support in managing the incident.

Catholic Schools can contact the Diocesan education office on (03) 9267 0228.

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

Taking action when you do not suspect abuse, but you hold significant concerns for wellbeing

If you believe that a child is not subject to abuse, but you still hold significant concerns for their wellbeing, you should consider making a referral to Child FIRST/The Orange Door. These concerns could include risk taking behaviour, parenting difficulties, isolation of a family or lack of support.

In some circumstances you may still need to contact DFFH Child Protection or Victoria Police, for example, extreme risk taking behaviour or harm to an unborn baby. For further advice, refer to Responding to other concerns about the wellbeing of a child.

Report student sexual offending

As soon as immediate health and safety concerns are addressed you must report incidents, disclosures and suspicions of student sexual offending as soon as possible to:

  1. Victoria Police on 000 (all instances)
  2. DFFH Child Protection if you believe that:
    • the victim’s parents or carers are unable or unwilling to protect the child
    • the student who is alleged to have engaged in the student sexual offending is aged over 10 and under 18 years, is exhibiting sexually abusive behaviours, and may be in need of therapeutic treatment to address these behaviours
    • the student who is alleged to have engaged in the student sexual offending may be displaying physical and behavioural indicators of being the victim of child abuse.
  3. the school principal or leadership team (all instances) and:
    • for Government schools: Incident Support and Operations Centre on 1800 126 126
    • for Catholic schools: Diocesan education office on (03) 9267 0228.

For more information refer to Identify and respond to student sexual offending.

Abuse relating to international students

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

  • Government sch​​ools: Contact the International Education Division on (03) 9637 2990.
  • Catholic ​​and independent schools: If your school has issued a confirmation of appropriate accommodation and welfare (CAAW) letter you must contact the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority (VRQA) on (03) 9637 2806 or via email: vrqa.schools@edumail.vic.gov.au.

How to proceed if the principal or leadership team advises you not to report

In some circumstances the principal 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 DFFH Child Protection 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 you may be subject to criminal charges.

If you decide not to report, it is strongly recommended that this decision should be documented in the following template.

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:

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

What to do 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 person should 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 should make a report.

In circumstances where a report to the Employee Conduct Branch is required, the principal should make the report.

What to do 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 DFFH Child Protection, Victoria Police or make a referral to Child FIRST/The Orange Door. For further advice refer to Responding to other concerns about the wellbeing of a child.

Document your actions

It is strongly recommend that you document your actions using the following template.

Resources

Four Critical Actions for schools.