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How to report neglect or abuse

Information about who must report child abuse and who to contact if concerned about a child's welfare.

Who can report children in need of protection?

Anyone in the community may make a report to the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing (DFFH) or to police if they believe that a child is at risk of harm and in need of protection. Some professionals have an obligation to notify DFFH if they believe that a child has been physically or sexually abused and needs protection.

These reports are also referred to as 'Protective intervention reports' or 'notifications'. The police and DFFH are sometimes referred to as 'protective interveners' when they receive a report.

Offence not to report sexual abuse

It is an offence for a person who fails to report sexual assault of a child who is under 16. This information should be reported to the police.

See Offence of failing to protect a child from sexual abuse

Offence not to protect a child from sexual abuse

It is an offence for a person in authority who fails to act to prevent a child being sexually abused. This applies in a wide range of organisations including churches, sporting organisations and schools.

See Offence of failing to protect a child from sexual abuse

Reports from court

Notifications may also come from the Federal Circuit and Family Court asking the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing (DFFH) to investigate. This may be as the result of an application by one of the parties to a proceeding, or by a member of the court, family counsellor or family dispute resolution practitioner.

DFFH (formerly DHHS) is often notified of child protection concerns through reports made to Child FIRST.

What is child FIRST?

Child FIRST (Child and Family Information Referral and Support Teams) was designed to be the first point of access for people with concerns about a child's welfare. There are 24 centres across Victoria. Child FIRST connects vulnerable children and their families to services aimed at protecting children and promoting their healthy development. The organisation is staffed by family service practitioners (experienced in assessing the needs of young people and families). The staff facilitate connections with appropriate agencies such as drug and alcohol, mental health, family violence and housing services with the aim of preventing any further involvement from DFFH.

Community based child protection staff collaborate between the child FIRST centres and DFFH and triage notifications made to child FIRST. Sadly, this seems to be the main focus, rather than early intervention or prevention.

See Department of Families, Fairness and Housing—Family services(opens in a new window).

More information

Legislation

Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 (Vic)

  • s. 162—when is a child in need of protection?
  • s. 183—report to a protective intervener
  • s. 181—who is a protective intervener?
  • s. 182—who is a mandatory reporter?
  • s. 184—mandatory reporting

See Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 (Vic)(opens in a new window)

Family Law Act 1975 (Cth)

  • s. 4—defines 'abuse' as an assault including sexual assault, child being involved in sexual activity either directly or indirectly as a sexual object where there is an unequal relationship between the child and that person or serious neglect, or causing the child serious psychological harm including when the child is exposed to family violence
  • s. 91B—intervention by child welfare officer
  • s. 92—intervention by other persons
  • s. 92A—intervention in child abuse cases
  • s. 67Z—where interested person makes allegation of child abuse
  • s. 67ZA—where member of the court personnel, family counsellor, family dispute resolution practitioner or arbitrator suspects child abuse etc.
  • s. 67ZB—no liability for notification under ss. 67Z or 67ZA
  • s. 67BB—court to take prompt action in relation to allegations of child abuse or family violence

See Family Law Act 1975 (Cth)(opens in a new window)

Reference

Department of Families, Fairness and Housing

Child protection matters are now dealt with under this new Victorian Government department instead of the Department of Health and Human Services.

For information about Child FIRST see Department of Families, Fairness and Housing—Child First and family services(opens in a new window).

Updated