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The purpose of this policy is to outline the procedures our school has in place to respond to complaints or concerns relating to child abuse and to ensure that all staff and members of our school community understand and follow the various legal obligations that apply to the reporting of child abuse to relevant authorities.
This policy applies to complaints and concerns relating to child abuse made by or in relation to a child or student, school staff, volunteers, contractors, service providers, visitors or any other person while connected to the school (physical and online).
Child abuse includes:
The definition of child abuse is broad and can include student to student incidents and concerns, as well as behaviour committed by an adult.
Grooming is a criminal offence under the Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) and is a form of child abuse and sexual misconduct. This offence targets predatory conduct undertaken by an adult to prepare a child, under the age of 16, to engage in sexual activity at a later time. Grooming can include communicating (including electronic communications) and/or attempting to befriend or establish a relationship or other emotional connection with the child or their parent or carer.
School staff member
For the purpose of this policy a school staff member includes a contractor engaged by the school or school council to perform child-related work.
Preston South Primary School understands the important role our school plays in protecting children from abuse. We have a range of policies and measures in place to prevent child abuse from occurring at our school or during school activities.
Information for students
Identifying child abuse
To ensure we can respond in the best interests of students and children when complaints or concerns relating to child abuse are raised, all staff and relevant volunteers must:
At Preston South Primary School we recognise the diversity of the children, young people, and families at our school and take account of their individual needs and backgrounds when considering and responding to child safety incidents or concerns.
Procedures for responding to an incident, disclosure, allegation or suspicion of child abuse
In responding to a child safety incident, disclosure, allegation or suspicion, Preston South Primary School will follow:
School staff and volunteer responsibilities
1. Immediate action
If a school staff member or volunteer witnesses an incident of child abuse, or reasonably believes, suspects or receives a disclosure or allegation that a child has been, or is at risk of being abused, they must:
NOTE for staff and volunteers:
Refer to Appendix B for guidance on how to respond to a disclosure of child abuse.
2. Reporting to authorities and referring to services
As soon as immediate health and safety concerns are addressed, and relevant school staff have been informed, the principal or assistant principal must report all incidents, suspicions and disclosures of child abuse as soon as possible.
The following steps will ensure our school complies with the four critical actions as well as additional actions required under the Child Safe Standards.
The principal or assistant principal must ensure:
NOTE: In circumstances where staff members are legally required to report child abuse to DFFH Child Protection or Victoria Police and they are unable to confirm that the information has been reported by another person at the school or the designated member of school staff does not agree that a report needs to be made, the staff member who has formed the reasonable belief must still contact DFFH Child Protection and Victoria Police to make the report.
If you believe that a child is not subject to abuse, but you still hold significant concerns for their wellbeing you must still act. This may include making a referral or seeking advice from Child FIRST or The Orange Door (in circumstances where the family are open to receiving support) DFFH Child Protection or Victoria Police.
3. Contacting parents or carers
The principal or assistant principal must ensure parents and carers are notified unless advised otherwise by DFFH Child Protection or Victoria Police, or there are other safety and wellbeing concerns in relation to informing parents/carers.
Principals may contact the Department of Education and Training Legal Division for advice on notifying parents and carers, and where relevant, the wider school community.
For further guidance, refer to PROTECT Contacting parents and carers
4. Ongoing protection and support
The principal or assistant principal must ensure appropriate steps are taken by the school to protect the child and other children from any continued risk of abuse. These steps must be taken in consultation with any relevant external agency or Department staff such as DFFH Child Protection, Victoria Police, Legal Division or Employee Conduct Branch. Ongoing protection will also include further reports to authorities if new information comes to light or further incidents occur.
Appropriate, culturally sensitive and ongoing support must be offered and provided to all affected students. Ongoing support will be based on any available advice from the Department, parents and carers, health practitioners, and other authorities (such as DFFH or Victoria Police) and may include referral to wellbeing professionals, development of a safety plan, student support group meetings, and, for student to student incidents, behaviour management and support measures.
The principal or assistant principal will ensure that:
For school visitors and school community members
All community members aged 18 years or over have legal obligations relating to reporting child abuse – refer to Appendix A for detailed information.
Any person can make a report to DFFH Child Protection or Victoria Police if they believe on reasonable grounds that a child is in need of protection. For contact details, refer to the Four Critical Actions.
Members of the community do not have to inform the school if they are making a disclosure to DFFH Child Protection or the Victoria Police. However, where a community member is concerned about the safety of a child or children at the school, the community member should report this concern to the principal so that appropriate steps to support the student can be taken
Additional requirements for all staff
All staff play an important role in supporting student safety and wellbeing and have a duty of care to take reasonable steps to prevent reasonably foreseeable harm to students.
Fulfilling the roles and responsibilities in the above procedure does not displace or discharge any other obligations that arise if a person reasonably believes that a child is at risk of child abuse. This means that if, after following the actions outlined in the procedure, a staff member reasonably believes that a child remains at risk of abuse, they must take the following steps:
Staff must refer to Appendix A for further information on their obligations relating to reporting to authorities.
This policy will be communicated to our school community in the following ways:
Further information and resources
The following Department of Education and Training policies and guidance are relevant to this policy:
The following school policies are also relevant to this policy:
Policy Review and Approval
Policy last reviewed: 03/08/2022
Consultation with: School Council
Approved by: School Council/ Principal
Approved on: 29/08/2022
Next scheduled review date : August 2024
Legal obligations relating to reporting child abuse
The following information outlines the various legal obligations relating to the reporting of child abuse to relevant authorities.
It is important to note that the procedures outlined in the above policy ensure compliance with the below reporting obligations, and also include additional steps to ensure compliance with Department policy and our school’s duty of care obligations.
Mandatory reporting to Department of Families, Fairness and Housing (DFFH) Child Protection
The following individuals are mandatory reporters under the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 (Vic):
All mandatory reporters must make a report to the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing (DFFH) Child Protection as soon as practicable if, during the course of carrying out their professional roles and responsibilities, they form a belief on reasonable grounds that:
A mandatory reporter who fails to comply with this legal obligation may be committing a criminal offence. It is important for all staff at Preston South Primary School to be aware that they are legally obliged to make a mandatory report on each occasion that they form a reasonable belief that a child is in need of protection and they must make a mandatory report even if the principal or any other mandatory reporter does not share their belief that a report is necessary.
If charged with not making a mandatory report, it may be a defence for the person charged to prove that they honestly and reasonably believed that all of the reasonable grounds for their belief had been the subject of a report to child protection made by another person.
The identity of a person who reports any protective concerns to DFFH Child Protection is protected by law. It is an offence for a person, other than the person who made the report, to disclose the name of the person who made a report or any information that is likely to lead to their identification.
At our school, mandated school staff must undertake the Mandatory Reporting and Other Obligations eLearning Module annually.
The policy of the Department of Education and Training (DET) requires all staff who form a reasonable belief that a child is in need of protection to discuss their concerns with the school leadership team and to report their concerns to DFFH and in some circumstances to Victoria Police, or to ensure that all the information relevant to the report has been made by another school staff member.
Any person can make a report to DFFH Child Protection (131 278 – 24 hour service) if they believe on reasonable grounds that a child is in need of protection even if they are not a mandatory reporter listed above.
Reporting student wellbeing concerns to Child FIRST/Orange Door
At Preston South Primary School we also encourage staff to make a referral to Child FIRST/Orange Door when they have significant concern for a child’s wellbeing. For more information about making a referral to Child FIRST/Child FIRST see the Policy and Advisory Library: Protecting Children – Reporting and Other Legal Obligations.
The Reportable Conduct Scheme is focussed on worker and volunteer conduct and how organisations investigate and respond to suspected child abuse. The scheme aims to improve organisational responses to suspected child abuse and to facilitate the identification of individuals who pose a risk of harm to children.
There are five types of ‘reportable conduct’ listed in the Child Wellbeing and Safety Act 2005:
A reportable conduct allegation is made where a person makes an allegation, based on a reasonable belief, that a worker or volunteer has committed reportable conduct or misconduct that may involve reportable conduct.
If school staff or volunteers become aware of reportable conduct by any current or former employee, contractor or volunteer, they must notify the school principal immediately. If the allegation relates to the principal, they must notify the Regional Director.
The principal or regional director must notify the Department’s Employee Conduct Branch of any reportable conduct allegations involving current or former employees of the school (including Department, allied health, casual and school council employees), contractors and volunteers (including parent volunteers).
Employee Conduct Branch: 03 7022 0005 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The Department’s Secretary, through the Manager, Employee Conduct Branch, has a legal obligation to inform the Commission for Children and Young People when an allegation of reportable conduct is made.
For more information about reportable conduct see the Department’s Policy and Advisory Library: Reportable Conduct and the Commission for Children and Young People’s website.
Failure to disclose offence
Reporting child sexual abuse is a community-wide responsibility. All adults (ie persons aged 18 years and over), not just professionals who work with children, have a legal obligation to report to Victoria Police, as soon as practicable, where they form a ‘reasonable belief’ that a sexual offence has been committed by an adult against a child under the age of 16 in Victoria.
Failure to disclose information to Victoria Police (by calling 000, local police station or the Police Assistance Line 131 444) as soon as practicable may amount to a criminal offence unless a person has a ‘reasonable excuse’ or exemption from doing so.
“Reasonable belief” is not the same as having proof. A ‘reasonable belief’ is formed if a reasonable person in the same position would have formed the belief on the same grounds.
For example, a ‘reasonable belief’ might be formed when:
“Reasonable excuse” is defined by law and includes:
Failure to protect offence
This reporting obligation applies to school staff in a position of authority. This can include principals, assistant principals and campus principals. Any staff member in a position of authority who becomes aware that an adult associated with their school (such as an employee, contractor, volunteer or visitor) poses a risk of sexual abuse to a child under the age of 16 under their care, authority or supervision, must take all reasonable steps to remove or reduce that risk.
This may include removing the adult (ie persons aged 18 years and over) from working with children pending an investigation and reporting your concerns to Victoria Police.
If a school staff member in a position of authority fails to take reasonable steps in these circumstances, this may amount to a criminal offence.
For more information about the offences and reporting obligations outlined in this fact sheet refer to: Protecting Children — Reporting and Other Legal Obligations.
APPENDIX B: managing disclosures of child abuse
Important information for staff
When managing a disclosure relating to child abuse you should:
When managing a disclosure you should AVOID:
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