Changes proposed to the Children and Community Services Act 2004 will see reporting of child sexual abuse made mandatory for ministers of religion and reforms to achieve better outcomes for children in state care.
The Children and Community Services Amendment Bill 2019 introduced to State Parliament today implements recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse regarding mandatory reporting and the statutory review of the Children and Community Services Act 2004 conducted in 2017. Parliament will consider the Bill next year.
WA’s mandatory reporting laws currently require doctors, nurses, midwives, police officers, teachers and boarding supervisors to report child sexual abuse to the Department of Communities if they form a belief on reasonable grounds (during the course of their paid or unpaid work) that a child has been or is the subject of sexual abuse.
Ministers of religion will join these groups and will have to make a report even if it relates to information from a religious confession.
This will apply to people who are recognised in accordance with the practices of a faith or religion as authorised to conduct services or ceremonies in accordance with the tenets of the faith or religion - for example members of the clergy, priests, ministers, imams, rabbis and pastors.
Other amendments in the Bill cover areas including:
- planning for long term stability and continuity in children’s living arrangements, and maintaining family connections where possible for children who stay in care;
- enhancing application of the Aboriginal child placement principle and cultural support planning for Aboriginal children in care through closer work with Aboriginal families and Aboriginal community controlled organisations;
- strengthening shared responsibility across government for responding to the needs of children in care and care leavers.