You should make a report to Child Protection if you have formed a reasonable belief that a child has suffered or is likely to suffer significant harm as a result of abuse or neglect and their parent has not or is unlikely to protect them from harm of that type.
Meeting the needs of children and making sure they are safe in the family is a shared responsibility between individuals, the family, the community and the government. When adults caring for children do not follow through with their responsibilities, are abusive or exploit their positions of power, then child protection is empowered to investigate the concerns and intervene to protect the child legally when required.
The Victorian Child Protection Service is specifically targeted to those children and young people at risk of harm or where families are unable or unwilling to protect them.
The main functions of Child Protection are to:
- Investigate matters where it is alleged that a child is at risk of significant harm
- Refer children and families to services that assist in providing the ongoing safety and wellbeing of children
- Make applications to the Children's Court if the child's safety cannot be ensured within the family
- Administer protection orders granted by the Children's Court.
Mandatory reporting of child abuse
The following professional groups are required to make a report to child protection where they form a reasonable belief, that a child has been or is at risk of significant harm, as a result of physical or sexual abuse, and the child’s parents have not protected or are unlikely to protect the child from that abuse:
- Registered medical practitioners
- Nurses including midwives
- Victorian police officers
- Registered teachers and school principals
- Out of home care workers (excluding voluntary foster and kinship carers)
- Early childhood workers
- Youth justice workers
- Registered psychologists
- School counsellors
- People in religious ministry.
As a mandated reporter, you are legally obliged to:
- Make a report to Child Protection if you believe on reasonable grounds that a child is in need of protection from physical injury or sexual abuse
- Make the report as soon as practicable after forming your belief
- Make a report each time you become aware of any further grounds for your belief.
In addition, any person who believes on reasonable grounds that a child needs protection can make a report to Child Protection. Child protection will decide when follow up is required and how to classify the report. This may mean providing advice to the reporter, progressing the matter to an investigation, or referring the family to support services in the community, or taking no further action.
Failure to disclose child sexual abuse offence
It is an offence for an adult not to disclose child sexual abuse. The offence requires that any adult who holds a reasonable belief that a sexual offence has been committed in Victoria by an adult against a child (aged under 16) disclose that information to police. The offence applies to all adults in Victoria, not just professionals who work with children, unless they have a reasonable excuse. Further information about the Offences to improve responses to child sexual abuse and how to report is available on our Providers site.
Child protection law
Child protection law strengthens the Victorian Government’s response to children and young people in out-of-home care, their parents and carers, and the services that support them.
For a detailed overview of changes to the law that will support more timely decision-making and permanency for children, see Changes to child protection law on our Providers site.
Leaving children unattended
In Victoria it is an offence for a person responsible for a child to leave the child unattended for any longer than is reasonable, without making appropriate arrangements for the child’s supervision and care. This includes leaving a child at home, or in a car, or anywhere else unattended.
The Leaving children unattended section on Changes to child protection law in our Providers site, contains guidance for adults responsible for children about leaving children unattended and includes an overview of Victorian law.