Mandatory reporting is the legal requirement for certain professional groups to report a reasonable belief of child physical or sexual abuse to child protection authorities.
What is mandatory reporting to child protection?
Mandatory reporting refers to the legal requirement of certain professional groups to report a reasonable belief of child physical or sexual abuse to child protection authorities.
In Victoria mandated reporters must make a report to child protection, if:
- In the course of practising their profession or carrying out duties of their office, position or employment
- 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.
The report must be made as soon as practicable after forming the belief and after each occasion on which they become aware of any further reasonable grounds for the belief.
The penalty for failing to report is 10 penalty points. For further information, see the Department of Treasure and Finance Indexation of fees and penalties.
What is a reasonable belief?
If a reasonable person, doing the same work, would have formed the same belief on those grounds, based on the same information.
Grounds for forming a belief are matters of which the person has become aware and any opinions in relation to those matters.
Who is already a mandated reporter in Victoria?
In Victoria police officers, registered medical practitioners, nurses including midwives, registered teachers, and school principals are currently mandated to report a reasonable belief that a child is in need of protection from physical and sexual abuse.
Why expand mandatory reporting requirements?
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (Royal Commission) made several recommendations to achieve national consistency and identified a minimum set of professional groups who should be mandated in all jurisdictions.
In Victoria, work has commenced to expand the mandated reporter groups in line with those groups recommended by the Royal Commission.
Victoria will work in partnership with other jurisdictions to achieve broader consistency on mandatory reporting requirements.
Who will be mandated and when?
The following reporter groups will be mandated to report a reasonable belief of child physical or sexual abuse, commencing on the following dates:
- Out of home care workers (excluding voluntary foster and kinship carers) on 1 March 2019
- Early childhood workers on 1 March 2019
- Youth justice workers on 1 March 2019
- Registered psychologists on 1 March 2019
- School counsellors on 31 January 2020.
Work is underway with peak bodies, regulatory bodies and government departments to support the needs of newly mandated groups.
What if I am concerned about a child now?
If you suspect a child has been or is at risk of child abuse and neglect you should contact child protection. You do not need to be a mandatory reporter to make a report to child protection.
In Victoria we encourage all adults and professionals to exercise their duty of care to report concerns of child abuse and neglect.
What if I’m worried about a child’s wellbeing, but I don’t believe the child is in need of protection?
Child FIRST or The Orange Door
If you have significant concerns for the wellbeing of a child, but do not believe they are at risk of significant harm, and where the immediate safety of the child will not be compromised, a referral to Child FIRST or The Orange Door may be appropriate.
Child FIRST, as the access point for family services, is progressively transitioning to The Orange Door. The Orange Door is the new access point for families who need assistance with the care and wellbeing of children, including those experiencing family violence, to contact the services they need to be safe and supported.
Referring to Child FIRST or The Orange Door would be appropriate where families:
- Are experiencing significant parenting problems that may be affecting the child's development
- Are experiencing family conflict, including family breakdown
- Are under pressure due to a family member's physical or mental illness, substance abuse, disability or bereavement
- Are young, isolated or unsupported
- Are experiencing significant social or economic disadvantage that may adversely impact on a child's care or development.
Contact numbers to make a referral in each local government area are listed at the Child and family services information, referral and support teams page on the Services website.
Contact Child Protection
To make a report, you should contact the child protection intake service covering the local government area (LGA) where the child normally resides. Telephone numbers to make a report during business hours (8.45am-5.00pm), Monday to Friday, are listed below.
- North Division intake: 1300 664 977
- South Division intake: 1300 655 795
- East Division intake: 1300 360 391
- West Division intake - metropolitan: 1300 664 977
- West Division intake - rural and regional: 1800 075 599.
If you are not sure which number to call, check for details on the LGAs covered by each intake service on the Child protection contacts page on the Services website.
Note: Child protection reports cannot be made via the department's website or email.
For immediate help
To report concerns that are life threatening, you should contact Victoria Police on 000.
To report concerns about the immediate safety of a child outside of normal business hours, you should contact the After-Hours Child Protection Emergency Service on 13 12 78.
Will the family know I have made a report?
The identity of a reporter must remain confidential, unless:
- The reporter chooses to inform the child or family of the report
- The reporter consents in writing to their identity as the reporter being disclosed
- A court or tribunal decides it needs this information in order to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the child
- A court or tribunal decides that in the interests of justice the evidence needs to be given.
It is often considered best practice to inform the family that you have made a report, where appropriate. Being transparent about your concerns and making a report to child protection, in circumstances where it is safe and appropriate to do so, can be beneficial for the young person, the family and your ongoing role with them.
However, in some circumstances, discussing your concerns may increase risk of harm for a young person, or may compromise a child protection or police investigation. As such, seek advice from child protection at the time of making a report.
These fact sheets and frequently asked questions provide detailed information to assist professional groups to comply with mandatory reporting requirements.
- Mandatory reporting to child protection in Victoria - generic fact sheet (Word)
- Mandatory reporting to child protection in Victoria - community fact sheet (Word)
- Mandatory reporting to child protection in Victoria - early childhood fact sheet (Word)
- Mandatory reporting to child protection in Victoria - out of home care workers fact sheet (Word)
- Mandatory reporting to child protection in Victoria - registered psychologists fact sheet (Word)
- Mandatory reporting to child protection in Victoria - youth justice workers fact sheet (Word)
- Mandatory reporting to child protection in Victoria - frequently asked questions (Word).
For more information see Reporting child abuse on the Services website.