Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2019 Week 11 Hansard (Tuesday, 24 September 2019) . . Page.. 3799 ..
I am very pleased to have had the opportunity to speak on this matter and I thank Mr Pettersson again for bringing the matter to the Assembly. I present the following papers:
Child sexual abuse—ACT Government factsheets—
Changes to mandatory reporting.
Changes to reportable conduct scheme.
All adults must report child sexual abuse.
New laws to improve reporting of child abuse.
MS STEPHEN-SMITH (Kurrajong—Minister for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Affairs, Minister for Children, Youth and Families, Minister for Health and Minister for Urban Renewal) (3.31): We here in Canberra live in a great community where every child deserves to grow up in a safe and loving environment. However, for some children, sadly this is not the case. The ACT government is committed to implementing the findings and recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse to keep children safe. More broadly, we remain committed to continuous improvement in our processes to keep children and young people across our community safe from abuse and neglect.
This government recognises the importance of making our institutions and communities safe for children, places where every child is valued and where their rights to safety and wellbeing are respected and upheld. As outlined by the Attorney-General, under new laws that came into effect on 1 September, ministers of religion, religious leaders and the clergy of a church or religious denomination are now mandated reporters.
These laws have been introduced in response to recommendations made by the royal commission. Ministers of religion are now required to report information, including information disclosed during religious confession, if they believe on reasonable grounds that a child or young person has experienced, or is experiencing, sexual abuse or non-accidental physical injury.
A significant benefit to this change is that more individuals in our community who work closely with children, and who therefore have an ethical and professional imperative to report child sexual abuse and non-accidental physical abuse, are obliged to report and are protected in making a report to child protection services or to the police.
Mandated reporters are groups of professionals who, through their work with children, have developed expertise enabling them to identify abuse more readily than the general community. These groups are mandated under law to report their concerns regarding non-accidental physical or sexual abuse when they encounter it in their day-to-day business.
Mandated reporters can also choose to make a voluntary report concerning, for example, a risk to an unborn baby or suspected neglect or emotional abuse of a child.