Improving institutional responding and reporting

Volume 7 of the Final Report of the Royal Commission in 2017 contains 12 recommendations relating to mandatory reporting, how government and non-government institutions should handle complaints, and the need for independent oversight of reporting and complaint handling and reporting by institutions. The Victorian Government accepted 11 recommendations, either in full or in principle, and is giving further consideration to 1 recommendation. You can read the Victorian Government’s 2018 response to Volume 7 here.

Reporting child abuse

To achieve consistency across jurisdictions, the Royal Commission identified specific groups of people that all states and territories should include as mandatory reporters. In line with the Royal Commission’s recommendation, the Victorian mandatory reporter categories will be expanded from March 2019 to include out-of-home care workers, youth justice workers, early childhood workers and registered psychologists. School counsellors will be included from January 2020.

In Victoria, mandatory reporters and individuals who report child safety concerns in good faith to Child Protection services are protected from liability.

Failure to disclose child sexual abuse

Any adult who forms a reasonable belief that a sexual offence has been committed by an adult against a child under 16 has an obligation to report that information to police. Failure to disclose the information to police is a criminal offence.

Religious confessions are currently exempt from the 'failure to disclose' office if information about the abuse is revealed under confession. The Victorian Government has committed to removing the exemption.

Institutional reporting and complaint handling

The Royal Commission found that reportable conduct schemes can help protect children in institutional settings. The reportable conduct scheme model outlined by the Royal Commission obliges heads of institutions to report allegations of child abuse or misconduct by organisational employees or volunteers to an independent oversight authority.

Victoria’s Reportable Conduct Scheme, which is overseen by the CCYP, requires organisations that exercise close care, supervision or authority over children to respond to allegations of child related misconduct made against their workers and volunteers. Victoria was one of the first Australian jurisdictions to implement a Reportable Conduct Scheme, which commenced in phases from 2017. Organisations must put systems in place to prevent misconduct and enable notifications of alleged misconduct to be made to the head of the organisation and the CCYP. Heads of organisations must also investigate allegations of misconduct and notify the CCYP of any outcomes. If there is a police investigation into the matter, it takes precedence over an organisation’s investigation. People who give information about reportable conduct to the CCYP are protected from liability.

The Reportable Conduct Scheme applies to all institutions listed below.

The Child Wellbeing and Safety Act 2005 requires the Scheme to be reviewed by mid-2023. The review will consider whether the Scheme’s application should be expanded to other organisations.

Implementation timeline of Victoria’s Reportable Conduct Scheme

Phase 1 - 1 July 2017

  • Schools and other education organisations (excluding early years providers)
  • Residential disability service providers for children
  • Youth mental health service providers with in-patient beds
  • Youth drug or alcohol services with in-patient beds
  • Youth housing or homelessness services with overnight beds
  • Child protection and out-of-home care services
  • Government departments

Phase 2 - 1 January 2018

  • Religious organisations
  • Residential facilities of boarding schools
  • Some overnight camps for children
  • Public, denominational and private hospitals
  • Public health services
  • Other disability service providers that provide services for children

Phase 3 - 1 January 2019

  • Approved education and corer services (e.g. kindergartens, after hours care services)
  • Children's services (e.g. occasional care providers)
  • Statutory bodies that have responsibility for children, such as public museums and galleries