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.
Child Protection will assess and, where necessary, 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 make sure that children and young people receive support to deal with the impact of abuse and neglect on 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).
- Disclosure – if the child tells you 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 and 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 and principles for mandated reporting include:
- a legal obligation to make a report to child protection if you believe on reasonable grounds that a child is in need of protection
- to make the report without delay
- 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
- to report your belief – it is not the responsibility of your boss, supervisor, principal or senior
- to make a report anyway, even in instances where the supervisor of a mandated professional directs them not to make a report, even where they believe that abuse is occurring
- that mandatory reporting requirements take precedence over professional codes of practice where confidentiality or client privilege is claimed
- that 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 main 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 Intake Worker 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 that will help to care for the child, for example, cultural origins, interpreter or disability needs.
A report should still be made, even if you don’t have all the information listed above. The reporter’s identity is protected unless they provide written consent for it to be disclosed or it is required by order of the Court.
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 (after hours) Tel. 13 12 78
- Intake Unit phone numbers:
- Northern and western suburban LGAs (Banyule, Brimbank, Darebin, Hobsons Bay, Hume, Maribyrnong, Melbourne, Melton, Moonee Valley, Moreland, Nillumbik, Whittlesea, Wyndham, Yarra) Tel. 1300 664 977
- Eastern suburban LGAs (Boroondara, Knox, Manningham, Maroondah, Monash, Whitehorse, Yarra Ranges Tel. 1300 360 391
- Southern suburban LGAs (Bayside, Cardinia, Casey, Frankston, Glen Eira, Greater Dandenong, Kingston, Mornington Peninsula, Port Phillip, Stonnington) Tel. 1300 655 795
- South-western rural and regional LGAs (Colac-Otway, Corangamite, Glenelg, Greater Geelong, Moyne, Queenscliffe, Southern Grampians, Surf Coast, Warrnambool) Tel. 1800 075 599
- Western rural and regional LGAs (Ararat, Ballarat, Golden Plains, Hepburn, Hindmarsh, Horsham, Moorabool, Northern Grampians, Pyrenees, West Wimmera, Yarriambiack) Tel. 1800 000 551
- North-western rural and regional LGAs (Buloke, Campaspe, Central Goldfields, Gannawarra, Greater Bendigo, Loddon, Macedon Ranges, Mildura, Mount Alexander, Swan Hill) Tel. 1800 675 598
- North-eastern rural and regional LGAS (Alpine, Benalla, Greater Shepparton, Indigo, Mansfield, Mitchell, Moira, Murrindindi, Strathbogie, Towong, Wangaratta, Wodonga) Tel. 1800 650 227
- Eastern and south-eastern rural and regional LGAs (Bass Coast, Baw Baw, East Gippsland, Latrobe, South Gippsland, Wellington) Tel. 1800 020 202
Things to remember
- Child Protection protects children and young people from harm caused by abuse or neglect within the family.
- Community-based family support services may be able to help families having difficulties.
- A report to Child Protection is appropriate 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 wellbeing can voluntarily make a child abuse report to Child Protection or a referral to a family support agency.
This page has been produced in consultation with and approved by:
DHS - Children Youth & Families
Page content currently being reviewed.
Content on this website is provided for education and information purposes only. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your doctor or other registered health professional. Content has been prepared for Victorian residents and wider Australian audiences, and was accurate at the time of publication. Readers should note that, over time, currency and completeness of the information may change. All users are urged to always seek advice from a registered health care professional for diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.