The State Government’s $68million investment in tough new child protection legislation making it compulsory for doctors, nurses, midwives, police officers and teachers to report suspected cases of child sexual abuse is now set to take effect.
Child Protection Minister Sue Ellery said the legislation, which passed through the Upper House of Parliament last night, made it compulsory for those professions to report, if they believed on reasonable grounds that a child had been sexually abused.
“The Government is well-resourced and prepared to handle the expected increase in the number of reports,” Ms Ellery said.
“We have committed $68million for implementation of the legislation in the 2008-09 Budget, including $43.9million for a special unit at the Department for Child Protection to deal with reports of child sexual abuse and extra case workers to conduct assessment and investigations.
“A comprehensive training program will also be provided for the professionals who are mandated to report child sexual abuse.
“Our investment in this important legislation sends a strong message to the community that we are committed to protecting children from predatory adults.
“The sexual assault of a child is abhorrent and a parent or carer who commits this serious crime can face up to 10 years imprisonment.
“Under the mandatory reporting legislation, a person who fails to report the sexual abuse of a child could face a maximum penalty of $6,000.”
However, the Bill provided protection from civil or criminal liability for a person who, in good faith, made a report and they would not be considered to have breached any professional ethics or standards of conduct applicable to their employment.
The legislation also included provisions for protecting the identity of the professional person making the complaint, and any person disclosing their identity could face a maximum penalty of $24,000 and two years imprisonment.
Ms Ellery said Western Australia had learned from the mistakes of other governments that had introduced mandatory reporting in a haphazard way.
“In other States, poorly thought-out mandatory reporting legislation has resulted in very high levels of reports that are not substantiated when investigated,” she said.
“The risk here is that real child victims are at risk of getting lost among false or unsubstantiated allegations.”
The Minister said the Government was committed to protecting WA children. It had invested $180million in the 2008-09 Budget for new initiatives to protect and care for children.
Combined with the more than $300million funding increase in the past two Budgets, this represented a commitment of almost $500million by the Carpenter Government to ensuring WA’s children were safer and in better care than ever before.
Minister's office - 9213 7150