The Department of Communities (the Department) receives and responds to mandatory reports (reports) of child sexual abuse from persons who are mandatory reporters under the Children and Community Services Act 2004 (the Act). An initial assessment of a report is completed by the Mandatory Reporting Service (MRS) to determine if there is an ongoing role for the Department.
Where an ongoing role is identified, the case will be sent through to the relevant district office for a Child Safety Investigation (CSI). In some regional areas a case may also be sent through to the relevant district for an Initial Inquiry. The assessment and response to a mandatory report is the same as for any other referral. The MRS worker will complete the Interaction Tool, screen for FDV concerns, consider the risk of cumulative harm and ensure other children living in the home, or who regularly visit the home, are considered in the assessment. Once the MR assessment is completed, a copy is sent to the Western Australia Police Force (WA Police)
The specific response will depend on the nature of the allegation and protectiveness of the parents or carers. If the circumstances of the report meet the ChildFIRST referral criteria, a Joint Response Strategy Meeting (strategy meeting) will be held between the district office, ChildFIRST, and WA Police. Strategy meetings facilitate collaborative practice and ensure the best interest of the child is jointly considered and prioritised.
Note: CEO refers to the Chief Executive Officer of the Department of Communities (the Department). Throughout this entry, the term 'child' includes both includes both children and young people. Care arrangements are referred to as "placement arrangements" in the Children and Community Services Amendment Act 2004. It means an arrangement for the placement of a child with certain persons, made under section 79(2)(b).
Statewide Referral and Response Service - Assessing Child Abuse
A mandatory reporter is a person who is required by law under section 124B of the Act to make a report to the Department if, since the day they became a mandatory reporter (referred to as commencement day), they form a belief on reasonable grounds in the course of their work (paid or unpaid) that a child:
Commencement day is the day on which a person became a mandatory reporter under the Act. Not all mandatory reporters have the same commencement day because of the different years in which they became reporters.
Mandatory reporters in WA are doctors, nurses, midwives, police officers, teachers and boarding supervisors.
In section 124A of the Act, "sexual abuse in relation to a child includes sexual behaviours that have occurred in circumstances where:
Mandatory reporting laws are intended to protect children from sexual abuse rather than to address historical child sexual abuse which occurred to a person when they were a child. The duty to report does not apply where an adult discloses sexual abuse they may have suffered as a child. However, if a mandatory reporter believes that another child has been sexually abused by the person the historic disclosure relates to or is believed to be the subject to ongoing sexual abuse by that person, the duty to make a mandatory report still applies.
A mandatory reporter may come to form a belief that a child has been, or is being, sexually abused for many reasons. These might include, for example:
A mandatory report must be made as soon as practicable after forming the belief, which should be within 24hrs.
For a detailed list and definitions of mandatory reporter groups, see Mandatory Reporters (in related resources).
When a mandatory reporter makes a report online, they will receive an automated response which includes a receipt number. This receipt number can be provided again by an MRS worker, if required.
The Mandatory Reporting Service (MRS) is a state-wide 24-hour centralised reporting service within the Statewide Referral and Response Service (SRRS). The MRS is responsible for receiving, assessing, processing, and recording all mandatory reports of child sexual abuse, and referring matters to the district that require further assessment or investigation. By calling the MRS, mandatory reporters will be able to ask questions and discuss the grounds on which they might have formed a belief of child sexual abuse.
On receipt of a report, an initial assessment is undertaken to determine if the Department has a role. MRS has clear processes for contacting the reporter and the family, where appropriate, to clarify information already provided, and to gather further information.
See below for the details on how each mandatory report is processed:
1. Information gathering and assessment by the MRS
Information is gathered from relevant persons, including the parents or carers, the referrer and WA Police to determine if there is a role for the Department. The process for gathering information is the same across all services within the SRRS. The resulting assessment will:
Section 31 of the Act allows the Department to make enquiries to determine if action should be taken to safeguard or promote the child's wellbeing if the information raises concerns about a child's wellbeing. Gathering information is critical to determine if a child has suffered or is likely to suffer harm as a result of sexual abuse, and to determine if a child's parent has not been protective or unable to protect the child from harm.
An assessment around parental protectiveness is important to establish if there is an ongoing role for the Department, as child sexual abuse where parents are protective falls outside the Department's mandate to investigate. It is also important to establish whether the sexual abuse occurred within the family or kinship network (intrafamilial) or outside of the family (extrafamilial).
It is important to consider if the child's parents (or the alleged perpetrator if they have a caregiving / parental role) have:
provided adequate support to their child after that child has been sexually abused or assaulted.
Where the parents have deliberately harmed their child, allowed their child to be harmed, or have demonstrated they lack the capacity to keep their child safe, consider if a priority response is required. Immediate safety planning with the child and their family may be required, prior to the CSI being initiated. For more information on CSI's, see Chapter
2.2 Conducting a Child Safety Investigation.
A referral for each report
must be made to the WA Police. The is done through the Police Extranet where the referral is received by the Child Assessment and Interview Team (CAIT), as detailed in the relevant Memorandum of Understanding and as directed under s.124D(2) of the Act. ChildFIRST is also provided with a copy of the written mandatory report and the MRS assessment.
A joint investigation will proceed where there are ongoing concerns for the child's safety, the parents have not acted protectively, and a criminal act has occurred.
Police may pursue a criminal investigation as a single-agency response where the MRS has determined there is no role for the Department. This occurs where a clear sexual assault or sexual abuse has been perpetrated against a child, but where the parents have acted protectively and there are no ongoing concerns for the child's safety.
Where you have determined there is no further role for the Department, or the information is already known and has been assessed, close the interaction and select the outcome "No further action". In all cases, place the mandatory report and any other relevant documents on the child's Objective file.
If the report contains new information, and the child already has an open case, make contact with the Child Protection Worker (CPW) allocated to the case. A new Intake is usually required, but in some instances, a new "issue" of sexual abuse can be added to the CSI. Any decision to add an issue of sexual abuse to an existing CSI should be made in consultation. Where the CPW and the TL agrees to incorporate this assessment into the existing CSI, an Interaction should be completed with an outcome of "No further action" and an explanation of why this outcome was selected. Copies of the mandatory report and the assessment should be emailed to the CPW.
5. Priority One response
If the MRS receives a report that requires an immediate response during business hours, it will contact the relevant district to advise them. This response is referred to as a Priority One response and the MRS will:
For more information on completing a Priority One response and liaising with ChildFIRST, see the
Memorandum of Understanding CPFS and WAPOL Mandatory Reporting of Child Sexual Abuse. The district office will organise the strategy meeting with ChildFIRST and the WA Police.
If a mandatory reporter contacts a district office to make a mandatory report, contact the MRS directly to confirm they can accept the call before transferring the reporter. If the reporter cannot or does not want to be transferred, take and assess the information in its own right alongside the
Interaction Tool and determine whether further assessment is required. This should be recorded in its own separate interaction.
If a mandatory reporter has an urgent concern that requires a Priority One response, do not transfer the call. Take the information and continue as you would with any other urgent concern for a child's safety. Advise the reporter that they will still need to make a written mandatory report to the MRS. Contact the MRS to advise them of the Priority one response, provide them with a summary of the concerns and the identification details of the child and other relevant people. The MRS will prioritise processing this report and send the information through as soon as possible, as the written report may include additional information.
If a reporter does not have an urgent concern for the child, but wishes to submit a mandatory report, confirm the following before transferring their call to the MRS.
Always conduct a 'warm transfer' when forwarding calls to MRS. This means you speak with the MRS to confirm they can accept the call, and provide an information summary, prior to completing the transfer.
Mandatory reports of child sexual abuse are assessed in the same manner as all other notifications of abuse, including neglect. For further information, refer to:
Working collaboratively with mandatory reporters
Submitting a mandatory report can feel overwhelming, distressing and anxiety-provoking for some reporters, particularly where they are not familiar with the area of child development or child sexual abuse. They may feel anxious about the family learning they submitted a report and be worried about their safety. Reporters may also struggle to write the report or to articulate what they are worried about. To obtain the necessary information, and the best outcome for the child, develop a positive and collaborative relationship with the reporter where possible.
Whether you work in the MRS or in a district office, you should:
Confidentiality of the mandatory reporter's identity (s.124F of the Act) When engaging with staff from external organisations, making mandatory report enquiries or contacting parents, including when leaving telephone messages, identify yourself as a worker from the Department, not from the MRS. This is very important to help maintain a mandatory reporter's confidentiality. There are a number of circumstances in which a reporter's identity may be disclosed. Refer to s.124F(2) of the Act for further information.A Court may give permission for identifying information to be revealed in legal proceedings under s.124H(2) of the Act, but can only do so if satisfied that:
Mandatory reporters are protected from liability if they make a report in good faith. This includes protection from:
Having a legal defence for not submitting a mandatory report doesn't necessarily mean that a report is not legally required.
Where a Mandatory Reporter is unsure, but willing to submit the report, encourage them to do so.
If a person is charged with the offence of not making a mandatory report, it is a defence if the person is able to prove that they honestly and reasonably believe that:
Where a reporter makes a query about submitting a report and they believe a report has already been submitted by a reporter from another agency, you should encourage the reporter to make the report. Different agencies are likely to hold slightly different information and it is important to gather information from different sources and perspectives.
Mandatory reporters must comply with their reporting obligations in addition to any other reporting legislation that may be relevant to their position or profession.