- Legislation also requires ministers of religion to disclose information gained during confession
- Changes implement recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse
Ministers of religion are now legally required to report information about child sexual abuse, including information gained in confession.
The changes are part of new laws introduced by the McGowan Government and come into effect today.
Failure to make a mandatory report is an offence with a maximum penalty of $6,000. A minister of religion will not be excused from criminal responsibility for failing to make a report because their belief is based on information disclosed during a religious confession.
The Children and Community Services Amendment Act 2021 implements key recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, delivering on the McGowan Government's commitment to create a safer WA for children.
The changes also extend mandatory reporting requirements to early childhood, out of home care and youth justice workers, as well as registered psychologists and school counsellors. Assessors appointed under section 125A of the Children and Community Services Act 2004 and Department of Communities staff will also become mandatory reporters under the new laws.
The mandatory reporting amendments are being implemented through a staggered approach to ensure that each new reporter group is provided tailored support to undertake their new responsibilities.
Ministers of religion are the first group to come into effect, with out-of-home care workers, assessors, and Department of Communities staff to become mandatory reporters from November 2023. This will then be extended to include school counsellors, registered psychologists and early childhood workers from 2024. Youth justice workers will be subject to mandatory reporting requirements from 2025.
The Department of Communities' Royal Commission Implementation Team has been working with a wide range of faith and religious organisations to prepare them for commencement, which includes providing free mandatory reporting training.
These new measures deliver on the McGowan Government's commitment to implementing the recommendations of the Royal Commission, with almost half of the 310 recommendations now implemented.
For more information, visit Mandatory reporting of Child Sexual Abuse in WA | Western Australian Government (www.wa.gov.au)
Comments attributed to Child Protection Minister Simone McGurk:
"This Government is sending a clear message that nobody is above the law, including ministers of religion. It's never ok to turn a blind eye to child abuse - the safety of children must always come first, and perpetrators must be held to account.
"For far too long abusers have been able to hide behind religion. It's a shameful hypocrisy that compounds the trauma for victim-survivors and enables perpetrators to go on to abuse more children.
"The McGowan Government is committed to implementing the recommendations from the Royal Commission and will not shy away from work that needs to be done to protect children.
"The courage shown by those who bravely shared their experiences during the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse will not be ignored - it's important we do everything we can to honour them."
Minister's office - 6552 6600