A number of changes to the Crimes Act 1958 (Crimes Act) and the Working with Children Act 2005 (WWC Act) have recently been implemented as part of the response to the Victorian Parliament’s Inquiry into the Handling of Child Abuse by Religious and other Non-Government Organisations.
The VRQA has written to VRQA-registered independent schools, RTOs, stakeholders and employees of apprentices and trainers under the age of 16 to alert them to the changed requirements.
New obligations to report suspected child sexual abuse
A new ‘failure to disclose’ offence has been created under the Crimes Act. The offence commenced operation on 27 October 2014.
All adults are now required to disclose to the Victoria Police if they know or reasonably believe that a sexual offence has been committed by an adult against a child under the age of 16.
A number of circumstances are specified in the Crimes Act where a person is not obliged to make such a disclosure. For example, if a disclosure has been made under the existing mandatory reporting system, a person will not be required to make a further disclosure under the Crimes Act.
The new offence, however, applies more broadly than to the professionals currently subject to mandatory reporting requirements under the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005. The new ‘failure to disclose’ offence is likely to include some persons in school environments not currently subject to mandatory reporting requirements.
For further information about the new offence, please refer to the fact sheet prepared by the Department of Justice.
Changes to the Working with Children Act 2005 affecting ministers of religion
The definition of child-related work has changed in respect to ministers of religion under the WWC Act. All ministers of religion are now required to hold a working with children check unless the contact that they have with children is only occasional and incidental to their work.
The changed requirements apply to a range of paid and unpaid roles in religious communities.
The Department of Justice has prepared an information sheet Working with Children Check: Information for Ministers of Religion to assist in understanding and meeting the new requirements.
Further information is available at the Betrayal of Trust Implementation website created by the Department of Justice.