Providence Christian College recognises that schools have a special responsibility to protect children when they are on school premises and also to intervene when they believe the welfare of a child is at risk outside the school.
Providence Christian College, in seeking to meet its duty of care obligation to students, has developed the following policy to ensure that all stakeholders are familiar with the College’s policies, procedures and practices as they relate to Mandatory Reporting of Child Sexual Abuse.
It is a legal requirement in Western Australia for doctors, nurses, midwives, teachers, police officers and boarding supervisors to report all reasonable beliefs of child sexual abuse to the Department for Child Protection and Family Support.
SCOPE and APPLICATION:
All Qualified Teaching Staff
Child: The definition of ‘child’ is defined in section 3 of the Act as a person who is under the age of 18 years. In the absence of positive evidence as to age, a child is a person who is apparently under 18 years of age. Young people aged 18 and over are considered to be adults and are not covered by this legislation. However, schools still owe a duty of care to all students at the school. In these instances, police should be informed of any assault or crime against the young person.
Child Abuse: This is maltreatment of a person under the age of 18 years. It is the result of action or inaction on the part of a person who has responsibility to care for a child resulting in harm or injury to the child. The harm may include delayed physical and/or intellectual development
Sexual Abuse: Covers a wide range of behaviour or activities that expose or subject a child to sexual activity that is exploitative and/or inappropriate to his or her age and development level. (Mandatory Reporting of Child Sexual Abuse)
Sexual abuse is defined by the Act in section 124A as:
‘Sexual abuse’ in relation to a child, includes sexual behaviour in circumstances where:
- The child is the subject of bribery, coercion, a threat, exploitation or violence; or
- The child has less power than another person involved in the behaviour; or
- There is a significant disparity in the developmental function or maturity of the child and another person involved in the behaviour.
This legislation is not intended to capture all sexual activity involving children and young people. Reference should be made to consent laws in Western Australia.
Student: Includes all students, including children enrolled at the College.
Teacher: The definition of teacher in section 124A of the Children and Community Services Amendment (Reporting Sexual Abuse of Children) Act 2008 reads:
- A person who is registered under the Teacher Registration Act 2012, or
- a person who provides instruction in a course that is –
- mentioned in the School Education Act 1999 s11B(1)(a), (b) or (e) and
- prescribed for the purposes of this definition; or
- a person who instructs or supervises a student who is participating in an activity that is –
(i) part of an educational programme of a school under an arrangement mentioned in the School Education Act 1999 s24(1); and
(ii) prescribed for the purposes of this definition; or
- a person employed by the chief executive officer as defined in the Young Offenders Act 1994 s3 to teach detainees at a detention centre.
Only (A) applies to schools. The other subsections relate to other forms of education.
Teacher assistants, school chaplains and school psychologists are examples of people who work with children in schools who are not mandated reporters. However, all people working with children, whether mandatory reporters or not, should continue to report reasonable beliefs regarding any form of abuse. These people who work with children also have a great knowledge of the children in their care and can be included in the consultative process with the teacher in a case of abuse.
In cases of suspected sexual abuse, the teacher as the mandated reporter is required to make a report to the Department of Child Protection through the Mandatory Reporting Service.
When should a report be made?
Section 124B of the CCS Act 2004 states in part: “A person who… believes on reasonable grounds that a child –
- has been the subject of sexual abuse that occurred on or after commencement day; or
- is the subject of ongoing sexual abuse; and
forms the belief —
- in the course of the person’s work (whether paid or unpaid) as a doctor, nurse, midwife, police officer, teacher or boarding supervisor; and
- on or after commencement day,
must report the belief as soon as practicable after forming the belief.
Penalty: a fine of $6 000.
Please note that in the independent school sector, once a teacher has formed a belief based on reasonable grounds, they are required to make the report to DCP, not the school principal. Prior to forming a belief, the teacher may, if they wish, consult with colleagues with specialist knowledge, for example, the principal, psychologist, school counsellor.
The teacher/staff member makes observations and keeps note of concerns that exist that have led them to a belief that a report may be necessary
A student (or someone with a duty of care) discloses abuse or neglect.
Note: It may assist Teachers to think in terms of reporting a behaviour or a series of behaviours and concern/s rather than reporting an individual family.
In cases of suspected sexual abuse, once a belief has been formed based on reasonable grounds and following the appropriate consultation process during pastoral care meetings (within the constraints of privacy requirements), the teacher as the mandated reporter must make a report to the Department for Child Protection and Family Support through the Mandatory Reporting Service. If any other teacher forms a reasonable belief of necessary reporting during discussions at pastoral care meetings, they are legally obliged to make such a report to the CPFS. At no time should the teacher or the College be conducting an investigation into the matter.
Note: It is the teacher’s responsibility to make the report directly to the Mandatory Reporting Service when the teacher forms a reasonable belief that sexual abuse has occurred, or is occurring. It is desirable that the College Principal be informed that a report had been made although there is no obligation on the teacher to inform the Principal of the report made or the further details thereof.
If, following a report, a family approaches the College, it is recommended that any interview be conducted with a minimum of 2 College members present (e.g. the Principal and one other) to provide support.
Note: It is important to remember that the focus of the meeting should be the welfare of the child.
In cases of child sexual abuse, the legislation provides protection for the person reporting. Disclosure of the reporter’s identity or identifying information to parents or any other party can incur a fine of $24,000 and two years’ imprisonment.
The Principal will arrange ongoing support for the teacher, the student and anyone else affected (including advocacy and other support services). The need for ongoing support is often necessary as the teacher will continue in their role with the student and the CPFS’s role may continue for an extended period of time.
How should a report be made?
Mandatory reporters are required to submit a written report to the MRS as soon as practicable. A verbal report can be lodged by calling the Department of Communities – Child Protection and Family Support’s Mandatory Reporting Service on free call 1800 708 704 however, by law, a written report must be lodged.
Where a teacher has formed a belief that the child is at imminent risk of being abused, they should consider calling the WA Police first, whether through the 000 or the 131444 numbers. This does not fulfil the legal obligation to report a child sexual abuse belief and the individual who has formed the belief should then make a Mandatory Report (MR), which can be completed through the following link: https://mrweb.communities.wa.gov.au/
Failure to make a verbal report can incur a penalty of up to $6,000.
Failure to follow up a verbal report with a written report as soon as is practicable may result in a fine of $3,000. Reporters may report beliefs to CPFS on a web based form which can be accessed at the mandatory reporting website www.mandatoryreporting.dcp.wa.gov.au. Please note that this is a timed form for security reasons and cannot be saved on a local device.
Where a reporter does not have access to a computer, a written form can also be mailed out or obtained from https://mandatoryreporting.dcp.wa.gov.au/Pages/MakeaReport.aspx. Once you have completed your written report, it can be lodged using any of the following methods:
Fax: 9223 1190 (WA)
Post: PO Box 8146, Perth BC, WA 6849
What happens next?
Following the teacher’s written report to the Mandatory Reporting Unit, a feedback letter will be provided to the reporter outlining which DCP local office is involved, and what action has been taken. The Mandatory Reporting Service is required to forward all reports on to the WA Police.
For other forms of abuse, the Principal should report all disclosures or strong concerns of abuse or neglect to the DCP arising from the actions or inactions of parents/caregivers and maintain a written record of this communication and subsequent actions. The DCP will then decide how to proceed. The decision to progress the matter further is the responsibility of the DCP.
The DCP is required to provide feedback to people making reports on child abuse. The Principal should seek undertakings from the DCP that they will be kept informed within the bounds of confidentiality. The Principal’s initial contact with the DCP will be through the Duty Officer at the Local District Office closest to where the child lives (all offices are listed in the White Pages). All calls from the College concerning students are taken very seriously and it may be appropriate if the emergency occurs after hours to explain to the switchboard operator that it is an emergency so they can speak to the Duty Officer promptly. When reporting to the Duty Officer, note his/her name and position.
If new information becomes available to the reporter, this information should be submitted to CPFS. If a new concern or belief is formed, a new MR should be submitted.
Note: The Mandatory Reporting Service and the Duty Officer at the local DCP office can also be used initially in a consultative role if either the Principal or the Teacher is unsure of what action to take.
The College should be aware that the powers of the DCP under the Children and Community Services Act 2004 includes:
- Apprehension of children in need of care and protection (without warrant)
- Interviewing the child: DCP has the authority to interview the child at College before contact is made with the parent/caregiver. Before doing so, the Principal or ‘person in charge’ at the College must be notified. The child should have the option of having support at the interview from a staff member of their choosing.
- Removal of children from the College: DCP officers may remove a child from the College if they have the permission of the parent/caregiver or if they have apprehended the child. The Principal should satisfy them that all conditions have been met before this occurs and document all conversations.
- Medical examination: DCP may require that a medical examination occur as soon as possible so that bruising, marking and other symptoms can be recorded for future reference. This would normally take place at either PMH or the Community Child Health Services Centres. This examination can only take place if permission has been obtained from the parent/caregiver or the child has been apprehended (when parent/carer permission is not obtained).
- Police: Strong concerns and disclosures of abuse and neglect from a person who is not the parent/caregiver should be advised to WA Police. Principals should also notify the DCP as they can offer support to the student and family, and risk assess other children in the community. The Police are also notified by the Mandatory Reporting Service of DCP of all reports of child sexual abuse.
- Parents/Caregivers: To avoid interfering with any investigative process initiated by DCP or the Police, the Principal and Teacher must seek advice from DCP or Police prior to informing the parent/carer of a concern of abuse or neglect.
Confidentiality and Legal Protection
The identity of the reporter is required to be kept confidential, except in limited and very specific circumstances. Section 124F(2) protects a reporter’s identity from being disclosed. This includes information where a reporter’s identity could be deduced. (s124A) Disclosure of a reporter’s identity carries a maximum fine of $24,000 and 2 years’ imprisonment.
There are exceptions where disclosure of a reporter’s identity is permitted. In such cases, consideration will be given to ensuring the reporter’s safety has been taken into account. Examples of when a reporter’s identity may be revealed include:
- The Mandatory Reporting Service must send a copy of every written report to the WA Police
- The WA Police may need to reveal a reporter’s identity in order to investigate or prosecute a suspected offence
- A Department for Child Protection officer may need to reveal the reporter’s identity when certain child protection, family law or adoption proceedings are taking place
- The reporter may have provided written permission for their identity to be disclosed.
A mandated reporter who is normally governed by a code of confidentiality or secrecy, professional ethics, standards or principles of conduct (eg. Doctor/patient) is protected from a breach of this code if they are making a report in good faith. The legislative requirements of the Act override internal school policies, professional codes or confidentiality requirements.
A mandated reporter is also protected from liability. If a report is made in good faith, they will not incur any civil or criminal liability by making a report.
REFERENCES and ASSOCIATED DOCUMENTS
Acts and Regulations
- The School Education Act 1999 and the School Regulations 2000
- Children and Community Services Act 2004
- Children and Community Services Act Amendment (Reporting Sexual Abuse of Children) Act 2008
- Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004
- Western Australian College of Teaching Act 2004
- The Disability Discrimination Act 1992; the Disability Standards for Education 2005
Policy Development and Guidelines Documents
- Policy Development Guidelines; Policies and Procedures Guidelines for Schools; Association of Independent Schools of Western Australia (AISWA), October 2014.
- Child Protection Guidelines; Policies and Procedures Guidelines for Schools; AISWA; March 2018
- Child Protection Policy; Catholic education Commission of Western Australia. (2013)
- Child Protection Policy; Education Department of Western Australia (November2013)
- Critical Incidents in Non – Government Schools; Department of Education Services website
- How do I recognise when a child is at risk of abuse? Department for Child Protection and Family Support; Government of Western Australia
- Department for Child Protection – Child Abuse and Neglect
Associated College Policies and Procedures
- Child Protection Policy (Child Abuse and Neglect);
- Duty of Care Policy;
- Critical Incident Policy;
- Providence Staff Employment Policy
- Excursion Procedures and Guidelines – Providence Christian College
APPENDIX 1 – Indicators of Child Sexual Abuse
The following list of indicators is not exhaustive but contains those that will be of most use to staff. This list has been taken from the Department for Child Protection document “Identifying and responding to child abuse and neglect – A Guide for Professionals”.
Any of these indicators may suggest that a student is being abused, neglected or at risk of harm; however, indicators should be considered in the context of the student’s age, medical and developmental history, and capabilities. In addition, mental illness, substance abuse and domestic violence within families must also be considered.
The single most helpful item for staff to consider is the deviation from normal or baseline behaviour of a child. A child who has been abused experiences mixed emotional and physical responses to abuse and may well be confused by the disconnect between respect/love for the abuser and abhorrence or ambivalence to the abuse itself.
Sexual abuse could be represented by:
- sexualised behaviours inappropriate to their age (including sexually touching other children and themselves);
- knowledge of sexual behaviour inappropriate to their years;
- disclosure of abuse either directly or indirectly through drawings, play or writing that describes abuse;
- pain or bleeding in the anal or genital area with redness or swelling;
- fear of being alone with a particular person;
- a child or young person implying that he/she is required to keep secrets;
- the presence of sexually transmitted disease;
- sudden unexplained fears;
- enuresis and/or encopresis (bed-wetting and bed soiling).
Teachers may wish to consider the following questions to assist them in deciding if their belief is based on reasonable grounds:
- Can you describe the reasons why you believe a child has been, or is being sexually abused?
- What has the child said or done to suggest they are being sexually abused?
- Have you observed, or been told about, the presence of any of the ‘possible indicators’ of sexual abuse?
- Did the child disclose sexual abuse? What did they say happened? Who did they disclose to and when?
- What other behaviours have you observed and/or interactions with the child are of concern to you? What is the frequency and severity of the behaviour? How long has it been occurring?
The teacher forming the belief is to make the report containing:
- the name and contact details of the reporter;
- the name of the child or, if the child’s name cannot be obtained after reasonable inquiries, a description of the child;
- if, or to the extent, known to the reporter —
(i) the child’s date of birth;
(ii) information about where the child lives;
(iii) the names of the child’s parents or other appropriate persons as defined in section 41(1);
- the grounds for the reporter’s belief that the child has been the subject of sexual abuse or is the subject of ongoing sexual abuse;
- (ea) if, or to the extent, known to the reporter —
(i) the name of any person alleged to be responsible for the sexual abuse;
(ii) the person’s contact details;
(iii) the person’s relationship to the child;
- any other information that is prescribed.
Mandatory Reporting of Child Sexual Abuse