Community Services (formerly Department of Community Services) is responsible for overseeing and upholding child protection in NSW. Numerous Acts (laws) help to govern and guide the process of child protection in the NSW. The acts include:
- Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998
Other relevant Acts:
- Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Amendment (Parental Responsibility Contracts) Act 2006
- Child Protection (Offenders Registration) Act 2000
- Crimes Act 1900
- Commission for Children and Young People Act 1998
- The Ombudsman Act 1974
- Family Law Act 1975 (Cth)
For more information on child protection policies and procedures in NSW, visit the Community Services website.
Reporting Child Abuse
What is reportable?
Outcomes or actions from which children are in need of protection include; neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, domestic violence and psychological harm. These are all reportable offences.
What are reasonable grounds?
You do not need to have proof to report any concerns you have about the safety of a child under 16 or a young person. Indicators that represent reasonable grounds to report a suspected offence include:
- A child or young person discloses that he or she has suffered or is suffering non accidental physical injury or sexual abuse
- Someone else advises you that a child or young person has been sexually abused or non-accidentally injured, or
- Your own observations of the child or young person’s physical condition or behaviours lead you to reasonably suspect that the child or young person has suffered or is suffering non-accidental physical injury or sexual abuse.
Can anyone report concerns for the safety of a child or young person?
ANY person who believes, on reasonable grounds, that a child is in need of protection may voluntarily report to Child Protection Services.
- You do not have to prove that abuse has taken place. You only need reasonable grounds for your belief.
- You do not need permission from parents or caregivers to make a report; nor do they need to be informed that a report is being made.
- If you made a report in good faith, you cannot be held legally liable – regardless of the outcome of the report.
- Your identity will remain confidential unless you need to give evidence if the matter goes to court. It is rare that this happens.
What is mandatory reporting?
Mandatory reporting describes the legal obligation of certain professionals and community members to report incidences of child abuse. These people are called “mandated reporters” and they MUST report to Child Protection Services if they believe on reasonable grounds that a child is in need of protection. Penalties may apply to mandated reporters who fail to report suspected abuse.
Who is mandated to report suspected abuse?
Section 27(1) of the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998 states mandatory reporting applies to:
- a person who, in the course of his or her professional work or other paid employment delivers health care, welfare, education, children’s services, residential services, or law enforcement, wholly or partly to children, and
- a person who holds a management position in an organisation the duties of which include direct responsibility for, or direct supervision of, the provision of health care, welfare, education, children’s services, residential services, or law enforcement, wholly or partly, to children.
Section 27(2) states if:
- a person who is mandated has reasonable grounds to suspect that a child is at risk of harm, and
- those grounds arise during the course of or from the person’s work,
The person must, as soon as practicable, report to the Director-General the name, or a description, of the child and the grounds for suspecting that the child is at risk of significant harm.
From 24 January 2010, mandatory reporters are encouraged to use the Mandatory Reporter Guide, to guide their decision making and determine whether or not to report to the Child Protection Helpline under the new risk of significant harm reporting threshold. The interactive online Mandatory Reporter Guide has been developed to assist front-line mandatory reporters such as police officers, teachers, nurses, social workers, and NGO staff to determine whether a case meets the new risk of significant harm threshold for reporting children and young people at risk in NSW. A PDF version of the Guide is also available for those without internet access.
For more information on mandatory reporting of all state and territories, visit the Australian Institute of Family Studies website.
Who to report to and how
If you need to report an offence that requires immediate police attention, please call the police on 000.
If you suspect on reasonable grounds that a child is suffering abuse or neglect or you wish to discuss your concerns about a child or young person, you should telephone either:
Child Protection on 132 111 or 1800 212 936. Open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
National Child Abuse Helpline on 1800 99 10 99. Open Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm AEST.