Responding to and reporting child-safety related misconduct and/or child abuse
Child abuse or maltreatment is defined as an act (or series of acts) that endangers a child or young person’s physical or emotional health or development and/or a failure to provide conditions to the extent that the health and development of the child or young person is significantly impaired or placed at risk.
Abuse can be perpetrated by males or females, adults or young people, and even children, in person or online.
Child abuse is most often perpetrated by a person known to the child or young person (e.g. family member, teacher, youth leader, member of the clergy), although at times it may be perpetrated by a person unknown to the child or young person (e.g. unknown person who arranges to meet a child via a social media site).
Abuse can occur within a family context, an organisational environment (e.g. parish, school) or in the broader community (e.g. social situations, online).
Abuse can also occur within a spiritual context, where a child or young person’s religious beliefs and faith are manipulated to perpetrate harm (National Association for Christian Recovery, n.d.). Spiritual abuse involves the use of religious concepts, texts or practices to condone inappropriate or abusive behaviour.
Categories of abuse and maltreatment:
- physical abuse
- sexual abuse including grooming
- emotional abuse including spiritual abuse
- family violence
Clergy, employees and volunteers play a vital role in identifying possible child abuse or maltreatment and are encouraged to be vigilant in responding to possible indicators or signs, disclosures, allegations and reports of abuse, bullying and discrimination, and to take action to support the child or young person who is at risk of or experiencing abuse.
For additional information about the different forms of child abuse and maltreatment including signs and indicators – please refer to:
- INFORMATION SHEET: Child Physical
- INFORMATION SHEET: Abuse Child Emotional
- INFORMATION SHEET: Abuse Child Sexual Abuse
- INFORMATION SHEET: Spiritual Abuse
- INFORMATION SHEET: Grooming
- INFORMATION SHEET: Problematic Sexual Behaviour
- INFORMATION SHEET: Neglect
- INFORMATION SHEET: Family Violence
- INFORMATION SHEET: Discrimination
- INFORMATION SHEET: Bullying (including Cyberbullying)
All children and young people are vulnerable but there are some children and young people who have an even higher risk of abuse than the general population. They are children who have experienced abuse before or who have a disability, are from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, those experiencing poverty or homelessness or out of home care. Similarly, the child safety needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people are more acute due to a history of racism, marginalisation and dispossession.
For additional information in relation to children and young people who experience additional vulnerabilities – please refer to:
- INFORMATION SHEET: Promoting the Safety of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children and Young People
- INFORMATION SHEET: Promoting the Safety of Children and Young People from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD) Backgrounds
- INFORMATION SHEET: Promoting the Safety of Children and Young People with a Disability
- INFORMATION SHEET: Promoting the Safety of Same-sex Attracted, Intersex and Gender Diverse Children and Young People
Who can make a report?
Any person (e.g. child, young person, parent, priest, employee, volunteer, parishioner) can make a report in relation to child-safety related misconduct and/or child abuse.
Reporting child abuse requires a person to form a ‘reasonable belief’ that a child or young person (person under the age of 18 years) has experienced abuse, is experiencing abuse or is at risk of experiencing abuse. All clergy, employees and volunteers within CAM, are required to make a report if they have formed a ‘reasonable belief’ that a child or young person has experienced abuse, is experiencing abuse or is at risk of harm.
A reasonable belief might be formed by one or more of the following:
- a child or young person discloses abuse
- observing one or more physical and/or behavioural indicators of abuse
- a complaint or allegation is made about behaviour that compromises the safety, health or wellbeing of children or young people
- witnessing behaviour that suggests that a child or young person is being harmed or at risk of abuse
- a child or young person reports that someone else is experiencing abuse (they may be referring to themselves)
- a perpetrator discloses that they are harming a child or young person
- a child or young person creates drawings or stories that involve themes or events involving abuse
- an adult discloses historical abuse that occurred when they were a child
The disclosure of abuse can be a very difficult and emotionally challenging process for a child, young person or adult and needs to be handled sensitively and respectfully.
- INFORMATION SHEET: Responding to disclosures
- INFORMATION SHEET: Empowering children and young people to “tell” for useful information and guidelines for responding to disclosures in a supportive manner.
Reporting child-safety related misconduct and/or child abuse
Making a child abuse report involves notifying statutory authorities and the Professional Standards Unit (PSU) of the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne in a timely manner (as soon as practicable after forming a reasonable belief, unless the child or young person is in imminent danger).
CAM has a legal responsibility under the Reportable Conduct Scheme to notify current and historical incidents of suspected child abuse or misconduct of clergy, employees and volunteers to the Commission for Children and Young People.
The Professional Standards Unit (PSU) is responsible for coordinating child-safety related misconduct and/or child abuse reports in relation to the safety and wellbeing of children and young people and liaising with statutory authorities e.g. Victoria Police, Reportable Conduct Scheme – Commission for Children and Young People.
The INFORMATION SHEET: Reporting child safety-related misconduct and/or child abuse provides an overview of information relevant to making a report. All reports are to be documented on the TEMPLATE: Reporting child safety related misconduct and/or child abuse and emailed to the Professional Standards Unit as soon as practicable.
All concerns, allegations or complaints of child-safety related misconduct and/or child abuse will be taken seriously, treated with sensitivity, and acted upon consistent with the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne’s moral, ethical and legal obligations.
Support and assistance to make a report
The Professional Standards Unit (PSU) is responsible for coordinating child-safety related misconduct and/or child abuse reports in relation to the safety and wellbeing of children and young people and liaising with statutory authorities e.g. Victoria Police, Reportable Conduct Scheme – Commission for Children and Young People. The PSU can provide advice, support and information to assist any person making a disclosure and/or report.
Professional Standards Unit
Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm
Phone: 9926 5630 | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
In Victoria, alleged child abuse perpetrated by:
- clergy, employees and volunteers is reported to the Sexual Offences and Child Abuse Investigation Team (SOCIT) within Victoria Police
- a family member is reported to Child Protection – Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS)
- a child or young person is reported to Child Protection (DHHS) and/or the SOCIT (Victoria Police) (e.g. sexually harmful behaviour, aggression, violence, online exploitation).
Child Protection (DHHS)
- North and West (Metro) region: 1300 664 9777
- South region: 1300 655 795
- East region: 1300 360 391
- West (Rural) region: 1800 075 599
- After-hours and weekends: 13 12 78
If a child or young person is in imminent danger, a report to Victoria Police must be made immediately (phone ‘000’).
Statutory child protection system
The statutory child protection system in Victoria, comprised of the Victorian Child Protection Service – part of the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) – and Victoria Police.