Australian Capital Territory
The Department of Disability, Housing and Community Services (DHCS) is responsible for overseeing and upholding child protection in the ACT. Numerous Acts (laws) help to govern and guide this process of child protection in the ACT. These acts include:
Other relevant Acts:
- Adoption Act 1993
- Human Rights Act 2004
- Human Rights Commission Act 2005
- Public Advocate Act 2005
- Family Law Act 1975
For a useful overview of all issues relating to child sexual abuse and child protection legislation and mechanisms in the ACT, see Keeping young children and young people safe, a DHCS report released in 2009.
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 356 (2) of the Children and Young People Act 2008 lists the following people as mandated to report in the Australian Capital Territory:
- a doctor
- a registered dentist within the meaning given by the dentists Act 1931, section 3.
- a person who is an enrolled nurse or a registered nurse within the meaning of the Nurses Act 1988, section 3.
- a midwife
- a teacher at a school, includes a teacher’s assistant or aide if the assistant or aide is in paid employment at the school
- a police officer
- a person employed to counsel children or young people at a school
- a person caring for a child at a child-care centre
- a person coordinating or monitoring the provision of home based care on behalf of a family day care scheme licensee
- a public servant who, in the course of employment, provides services related to health or wellbeing of children, young people or families.
- the community advocate
- the official visitor
- the person who, in the course of the person’s employment, has contact with or provides services to children, young people and their families and is prescribed by regulation.
Section 356 (1) of the Act states that a mandated person commits an offence if:
- the person believes on reasonable ground that a child or young person has experienced, or is experiencing –
- sexual abuse; or
- non-accidental physical injury; and
- the person’s reasons for the belief arise from information obtained by the person during the course of, or because of, the person’s work (whether paid or unpaid); and
- the person does not, as soon as practicable after forming the belief, report (a mandatory report) to the chief executive –
- the child’s or young person’s name or description; and
- the reasons for the person’s belief
For more information on mandatory reporting of all state and territories go to http://www.aifs.gov.au/nch/pubs/sheets/rs3/rs3.html
Who to report to and how
If you need to report an offence that requires immediate police attention, please call:
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:
Care and Protection Services Centralised Intake Service: General Public Line (24 hours) 1300 556 729
There are also Support Services across the ACT that can assist and advise you through the process of making a report, and beyond.
- Child Protection Services and Police
- Legal Services
- Sexual Assault Services
- Domestic Violence
- Men's Services
Child Protection Services & Police
Care and Protection Services Centralised Intake Service 1300 556 729
Report Abuse 02 6207 1069 02 or 02 6207 1466
Australian Federal Police Sexual Assault Unit 02 6256 7777
Family Services Northern Regional Office
(North of the Lake) 02 6207 1069
Family Services Southern Regional Office
(South of the Lake) 02 6207 1466
After hours 02 6207 0720
The Child at Risk Assessment Unit 02 6244 2712
Office of the Community Advocate 02 6207 0707
Department of Education and Community Services 02 6207 1091
The Canberra Hospital 02 6244 2184
Building 5, Garran ACT www.canberrahospital.act.gov.au
Legal Aid Commission (ACT) 1300 654 314
Women's Legal Centre 02 6257 4499 (within Canberra) or 1800 634 669 (outside Canberra) www.womenslegalact.org
National Association of Community Legal Centres www.naclc.org.au
Justice Journey www.lawlink.nsw.gov.au
An online pathway through the NSW court system for victims and other witnesses. The information although specific to NSW is useful wherever you are in Australia. The site can help by giving you information about the legal process and letting you know what to expect in court. It is a child and parent friendly resource.
Kids Helpline (24 Hour telephone and online counselling for children and young people) 1800 55 1800 www.kidshelp.com.au
Salvo Care Line 1300 36 36 22 www.salvos.org.au
Lifeline 13 11 14 www.lifeline.org.au
Parentline ACT (cost of a local call) 02 6287 3833
Relationships Australia 1300 364 277 www.relationships.com.au
ACT Protective Education Network 02 6205 8305 www.stepfamily.asn.au
The organisation aims to promote a proactive and preventative program for people in the area of abuse. It consists of a training program which assists children, adolescents and adults to deal with unsafe situations. Services involve: training programs to schools and community groups (child care, police, scouts, community services); resources for implementing the program; and counselling and referral support in cases of alleged and actual abuse.
Sexual Assault / Crisis Response and Counselling Services.
Canberra Rape Crisis Centre 02 6247 2525
SAMSSA (Service Assisting Male Survivors of Sexual Assault) 02 6232 7166
FAMSAC (Forensic & Medical Sexual Assault Care) 02 6244 2184 www.famsacaustralia.org.au
Annodora Incest Centre 02 6249 6070
Domestic Violence Crisis Service 02 6280 0900 www.dvcs.org.au
Mensline Australia 1300 78 99 78 www.menslineaus.org.au