Report child abuse action 2: Report to authorities

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​As soon as immedi​ate health and safety concerns are addressed you must report all incidents, suspicions and disclosures of child abuse as soon as possible.

The following information sets out reporting processes for all forms of child abuse. Failure to report physical and child sexual abuse may amount to a criminal offence.

Information on this page refers to 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 DHHS Child Protection or Victoria Police if the child is in immediate risk of harm.

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 
  • also report internally
Reporting internally for government schools

Government schools must also:

  • report to your school principal/ leadership team
  • report to the Department's Employee Conduct Branch and Security Services Unit, on (03) 9637 2934
  • identify a contact person at the school for future liaison with Child Protection and Victoria Police and seek advice about contacting parents.​
Reporting internally for Catholic schools

Catholic schools must also:

  • report to your school principal/leadership team​​
  • report to your local Diocesan education office:
    • 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
  • identify a contact person at the school for future liaison with Child Protection and Victoria Police and seek advice about contacting parents.​
Reporting internally for independent schools

Independent schools must also:

  • report to your school principal/ leadership te​am.

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.

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:

  1. Report to DHHS 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.
  2. Report suspected sexual abuse (including grooming) to Victoria Police
  3. 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
  4. Also report to:
    • Government Schools: Security Services Unit on (03) 9637 2934
    • Catholic Schools: Diocesan education office on (03) 9267 0228
    • Independent Schools: School principal and/or school chairperson

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. DHHS Child Protection if you believe that:
    • the victim’s parent/s 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 15 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. ALSO report internally to:
    • School principal and/or leadership team (all instances)
    • Government schools: Security Services Unit
    • Catholic schools: Diocesan education office
    • Independent schools: School principal and/or school chairperson.

Read how to identify 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 VRQA on (03) 9637 2806 or via, email: vrqa.schools@edumail.vic.gov.au

Reporting further reasonable grounds for belief

You must make a new report in any circumstance where you become aware of any further incidents, or disclosures, or a form a new suspicion that a child is a victim of offending, or has engaged in student sexual offending.

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.

If you're unsure

If you're unsure whether to take action, or what action to take, you should discuss this with your leadership team.

When to contact Child FIRST

Child FIRST (Family Information, Referral and Support Team) is a community-based referral point into Family Services.

This should be done in language appropriate to the student's age and stage of development.

In addition to reporting suspected abuse to appropriate authorities, you should make a referral to Child FIRST if:

  • you have a significant concern for a child’s wellbeing
  • your concerns have a low-to-moderate impact on the child
  • the child's immediate safety is not compromised
  • you/your school has discussed the referral with the family and they are supportive of it.

Examples of concerns that school staff should reported to Child FIRST include instances when a child’s care or development is significantly impacted on by:

  • parenting problems
  • family conflict or family breakdown
  • pressure due to a family member's physical/mental illness, substance abuse, or disability
  • vulnerability due to youth, isolation or lack of support
  • significant social or economic disadvantage
When to contact Victoria Police

In addition to reporting suspected abuse to appropriate authorities, you must contact Victoria Police on 000 if the:

  • child's immediate safety is compromised
  • child is partaking in any risk taking activity that is illegal and extreme in nature or poses a high risk to the child.
When to contact DHHS Child Protection

In addition to reporting suspected abuse to appropriate authorities, you should contact DHHS Child Protection if you believe a child is in need of protection. This includes all concerns that:

  • have a serious impact on a child’s safety, stability or development, including abandonment, death or incapacity, extreme risk-taking behaviour, or harm to an unborn child
  • are persistent and entrenched and likely to have a serious impact on a child's safety, stability or development
  • relate to a parent/s who cannot or will not protect the child from significant harm
  • include a belief that the family is likely to be uncooperative in seeking assistance.

Common grounds for protection include:

Abandonment:

The child's parents have abandoned the child and after reasonable inquiries, the parents cannot be found, and no other suitable person can be found who is willing and able to care for the child.

Death or incapacity of parent/carer:

The child's parents are dead or incapacitated and there is no other suitable person willing and able to care for the child.

Extreme risk-taking behaviour:

The child is displaying extreme risk taking behaviour, which has potentially severe or life threatening consequences. Examples include severe alcohol or drug use, unsafe sexual activity including prostitution, solvent abuse and chroming, and violent or dangerous peer group activity. In addition to contacting DHHS Child Protection it may also be necessary to contact Victoria Police where the risk taking activity is illegal and extreme in nature or poses a high risk to the child.

Harm to an unborn child:

There is a threat of harm to an unborn child, including circumstances where a parent has previously demonstrated an inability to safely parent.

The Children Youth and Families Act 2005 allows DHHS Child Protection to receive and respond to reports about an unborn child, which provides an important opportunity for earlier intervention and prevention. Prenatal reports may be particularly helpful to the unborn child in family violence situations, or where there are mental health concerns or drug or alcohol misuse during pregnancy.

My principal or leadership team advised me to not 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, it is strongly recommended that this decision is documented using:

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.

I don't think the child is being abused but I have other concerns for their 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 more information, see: 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:

Responding to Suspected Child Abuse: Template