Reporting child abuse or suspected child abuse is mandatory for some professionals including doctors, nurses, police and school teachers. However, anyone can report suspected abuse to Child Protection.
Some professionals such as doctors, nurses, police and school teachers are legally obliged to report suspected child abuse (they are mandated notifiers). In addition, any person who believes on reasonable grounds that a child needs protection can make a report to Child Protection..
It is the Child Protection worker’s job to assess and, where necessary, further investigate if a child or young person is at risk of significant harm.
Child Protection is part of the Victorian Department of Human Services. It provides child-centred, family-focused services to protect children and young people from significant harm caused by abuse or neglect within the family. It also aims to ensure that children and young people receive services to deal with the impact of abuse and neglect of their wellbeing and development.
Potential signs of child abuse
If you work with children and young people, you can help to keep them safe by being alert for the signs or indicators of harm and taking appropriate action early.
People who work with children and young people should pay attention to:
- Physical signs of abuse or neglect – these could include bruises, burns, fractures (broken bones), frequent hunger, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or poor hygiene.
- Behavioural signs of abuse or neglect – these could include showing little or no emotion when hurt, wariness of their parents, alcohol or drug misuse, age-inappropriate sexual behaviour, stealing food, excessive friendliness to strangers or wearing long sleeves and trousers in hot weather (to hide bruises).
- If the child discloses they have been abused.
Responding to signs of child abuse
Each situation is different. In considering the most effective response that will ensure the child’s safety and wellbeing, you may need to gather information and facts. These could include:
- Make notes – record what you observe. Date and sign the entry.
- Continue to observe – record what you observe, and date and sign each entry.
- Consult colleagues – get support and advice from your colleagues and supervisors. Compare notes and brainstorm possible strategies.
- Develop action plans based on procedures – familiarise yourself with your employer’s procedures and processes about what to do.
- Talk to other agencies about helping the family – collaborate with or engage family support services, community health services, local government services, regional Department of Human Services/Child Protection contacts and disability services. You may want to call a case conference for professionals to discuss their concerns.
- Talk to the child – do this with respect for the child’s or young person’s need for privacy and confidentiality.
- Talk to the parent or parents – only if you believe it will not jeopardise the safety of the child or young person.
Responsibilities of a mandated notifier
Primary and secondary school teachers and principals, doctors, nurses and police are mandated reporters. The responsibilities of a mandated reporter include:
- You are legally obliged to make a report to Child Protection if you believe on reasonable grounds that a child is in need of protection.
- You must make a report without delay.
- You are required to make a report each time you become aware of any further grounds for your belief.
- You don’t have to prove that the abuse has occurred.
- It is your responsibility to report your belief – it is not the responsibility of your boss, supervisor, principal or senior.
- In instances where the supervisor of a mandated professional directs them not to make a report even where they believe that abuse is occurring, they are legally required to make a report anyway.
- Mandatory reporting requirements take precedence over professional codes of practice where confidentiality or client privilege is claimed.
- A report does not constitute unprofessional conduct or a breach of professional ethics, nor does it subject the person to any liability if made in good faith.
Contacting Child Protection
To report child abuse, contact your regional Child Protection office as soon as possible. If you are making a report, please use the Intake Unit number. For all other enquiries, please contact the appropriate regional office.
How to make a report
Call the appropriate Intake Unit phone number. The Child Protection worker at the regional office will ask you for certain information, including:
- Details – the child’s or young person’s name, age and address
- Indicators of harm – the reason for believing that the injury or behaviour is the result of abuse or neglect
- Reason for reporting – the reason why the call is being made now
- Safety assessment – assessment of immediate danger to the child or children. For example, information may be sought on the whereabouts of the alleged abuser or abusers
- Description – description of the injury or behaviour observed
- Child’s whereabouts – the current whereabouts of the child or young person
- Other services – your knowledge of other services involved with the family
- Family information – any other information about the family
- Cultural characteristics – any specific cultural or other details which will help to care for the child – for example, cultural origins, interpreter or disability needs.
Your ongoing role when making a report
When Child Protection becomes involved, this may provoke a crisis for the family. After making a report, some of your ongoing responsibilities can include:
- Acting as a support person for the child or young person during interviews
- Attending a case conference
- Participating in case planning meetings
- Continuing to monitor the child’s or young person’s behaviour in relation to ongoing harm
- Providing written reports for case planning meetings or court proceedings
- Helping families’ make the changes required to keep children safe.
Where to get help
- Child Protection Service – metropolitan regions
Eastern – Intake Unit Tel. 1300 360 391, Box Hill Tel. (03) 9843 6000
North and West – Intake Unit Tel. 1300 664 977, Preston Tel. 1300 664 977,
Southern – Intake Unit Tel. 1300 655 795, Cheltenham Tel. (03) 8585 6000, Dandenong Tel. (03) 9213 2111, Frankston Tel. (03) 9784 3100
- Child Protection Service – rural regions
Gippsland – Intake Unit Tel. 1800 020 202, Bairnsdale Tel. (03) 5150 4500, Leongatha Tel. (03) 5662 4311, Morwell Tel. (03) 5136 2400, Sale Tel. (03) 5144 9100, Warragul Tel. (03) 5624 060
Grampians – Intake Unit Tel. 1800 000 551, Ballarat Tel. (03) 5333 6530, Horsham Tel. (03) 5381 9777, Stawell Tel. (03) 5358 4374
Hume – Intake Unit Tel. 1800 650 227, Benalla Tel. (03) 5761 1222, Seymour Tel. (03) 5793 6400, Shepparton Tel. (03) 5832 1500, Wangaratta Tel. (03) 5722 0555, Wodonga Tel. (02) 6055 7777
Loddon Mallee – Intake Unit Tel. 1800 675 598, Bendigo Tel. (03) 5434 5555, Mildura Tel. (03) 5022 3111, Swan Hill Tel. (03) 5032 0100
Barwon-South West – Intake Unit Tel. 1800 075 599, Geelong Tel. (03) 5226 4540, Portland Tel. (03) 5523 9999, Warrnambool Tel. (03) 5561 9444
- Child Protection Crisis Line Tel. 131 278 – for emergency child protection matters outside of normal business hours
Things to remember
- Child Protection provides services to protect and support children and young people from harm caused by abuse or neglect within the family.
- Community based family support services may be able to assist families having difficulties.
- In most cases, a report to Child Protection only needs to occur when the risk to children is significant.
- Some professionals are legally obliged to report to Child Protection if they encounter abuse in the course of their work.
- Anyone who is concerned about a child’s welfare can voluntarily make a child abuse report to Child Protection or a referral to a family support agency.
You might also be interested in:
- Child abuse - Child Protection Service.
- Parenting support to help prevent abuse.
- Pornography on the internet.
- Sexual abuse.
- Sexual abuse - how parents can help their child.
Want to know more?
Go to More information for support groups, related links and references.
This page has been produced in consultation with and approved by:
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Department of Human Services
Fact sheet currently being reviewed.
Last reviewed: May 2011
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