Every day we come into contact with people, (adults, children and young people) who are vulnerable in one way or another. As a church we are privileged to be in a position where these people trust us.
We therefore need to be clear that when we become aware someone has been abused we have an obligation to report. The legal reporting requirements can differ depending upon what kind of abuse has taken place and who is involved.
All abuse will be reported to the appropriate civil authorities and the CPU.
Abuse is a broad term. For the purposes of Breaking the Silence, abuse includes:
- child abuse
- risk of significant harm,
- reportable conduct,
- sexual misconduct, and/or
- conduct that breaches the Breaking the Silence Code of Conduct.
All abuse is unacceptable. In the church we aim to provide a safe environment for adults, children and young people no matter how they come into contact with us. Further, many of our leaders and employees are required under law to report any evidence of reportable conduct or risk of significant harm. Therefore it is essential that we clearly understand what it is and how to recognise it.
What is a notifiable circumstance?
Notifiable circumstance: The CPU must be advised of all notifiable circumstances, including:
- any fact, circumstance, allegation, notification, knowledge of, verbal advice of, direct or indirect connection to, or attempt of abuse, and
- all allegations, complaints, reportable allegations and allegations: reportable conduct.
A notifiable circumstance may identify someone who is currently or has been a member of the church, someone who is currently or has been a person in a position of authority within the church, a current or ex-employee, a current or ex-student, a current or ex-volunteer and / or a current or ex-third party.
Who needs to report?
All notifiable circumstances must be reported to the CPU immediately.
Anyone may make a report to the Police or Community Services if they have reasonable grounds to believe a child is at risk of significant harm.
In the church it has been agreed that any person with a position of authority within the church, be it paid or unpaid, or any person working with children or young people in any capacity will consider themselves to be mandatory reporters, even where they may only be voluntary reporters under legislation.
In all States and Territories, regardless of whether mandatory reporting is required under legislation, any person in a position of authority within the church who knows, believes or suspects on reasonable grounds, that a child or young person is at risk of harm or has suffered abuse must make a report.
In States and Territories where mandatory reporting applies to a person because of their role within the church this report must be made to the appropriate authority. For those whose role within the church does not make them a mandatory reporter, and in those States and Territories where mandatory reporting does not apply, the report must be made within the church to the CPU.
The CPU makes appropriate notification to insurers on behalf of supervising bodies.
Reportable conduct: is a defined term that appears in the Ombudsman Act 1974 (NSW) and also in the Commission for Children and Young People Act 1998 (NSW). Section 25A of the Ombudsman Act defines reportable conduct as:
- any sexual offence, or sexual misconduct, committed against, with or in the presence of a child (including a child pornography offence), or
- any assault, ill-treatment or neglect of a child, or
- any behaviour that causes psychological harm to a child, whether or not, in any case, with the consent of the child.
Reportable conduct does not extend to:
- conduct that is reasonable for the purposes of the discipline, management or care of children, having regard to the age, maturity, health or other characteristics of the children and to any relevant codes of conduct or professional standards, or
- the use of physical force that, in all the circumstances, is trivial or negligible, but only if the matter is to be investigated and the result of the investigation recorded under workplace employment procedures, or
- conduct of a class or kind exempted from being reportable conduct by the Ombudsman under section 25CA.
Reportable conduct is a standard that is applied to all people in a position of authority within the church under the Ombudsman Act 1974 (NSW). Reportable conduct includes conduct that is defined in relevant legislation that occurs within a leader’s public ministry as well as their personal life. All reportable conduct is a notifiable circumstance.
Risk of significant harm
Risk of significant harm is a term used by Community Services for situations where a reasonable person has current concerns about the safety, welfare or wellbeing of a child or young person.
In New South Wales, this includes current concerns for any of the following reasons:
- the basic physical or psychological needs of the child or young person are not being met (neglect),
- the parents or caregivers have not arranged necessary medical care (unwilling or unable to do so),
- risk of physical or sexual abuse or ill-treatment (physical or sexual abuse),
- parent or caregiver’s behaviour towards the child causes or risks psychological harm (emotional abuse), and / or
- incidents of domestic violence and as a consequence a child is at risk of serious physical or psychological harm (domestic or family violence).
Conduct putting a child or young person at risk of significant harm may also be reportable conduct and is a notifiable circumstance.
Notification of the Police
An aggrieved person always has the right to seek lawful remedies outside the church and our internal procedure may not always be a substitute for other actions. A matter must be reported to the Police if:
- someone is in danger,
- Community Services or the CPU requests that a report is made,
- there is knowledge which would assist authorities to apprehend or convict a person of a serious offence, or
- the incident involves either physical or sexual assault regardless of age.
Notification of external agencies
The CPU will assist in identifying which civil authorities (including Community Services, the NSW Ombudsman, the Commission for Children and Young People etc) need to be notified in relation to each specific report.
Protection of persons making reports
If, in relation to a child or young person, a person makes a report in good faith to Community Services or to a person who has the power or responsibility to protect the child or young person, such as the Police, legislation in most States and Territories provides significant protection. If you have any concerns about this aspect of reporting, please contact the CPU.