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  • Writer's pictureHelen Haydock

What is the difference between Mandatory Reporting and Child Safe Standards?

Female child with her pointer finger on her chin appearing to be thinking.

This is a question that comes up regularly and it is important that those working with children are clear about the differences between these 2 pieces of legislation. Far too often staff think that they are the same, and in doing so are missing important elements of keeping children safe. Worse, when leadership or management don't recognise the differences, organisations may have significant gaps in compliance with their obligations to keep children safe.

Lets start by clearly defining the 2 things.

Mandatory Reporting

Mandatory reporting refers to the legal requirement for people in certain occupations to report reasonable concerns about child abuse to authorities. Each State and Territory has its own mandatory reporting legislation. Occupations of mandatory reporters can differ as can the type of suspected abuse that must be reported. The aim of mandatory reporting is to ensure that authorities are aware of children at risk and can intervene. For an overview of legislation across Australia please see this Australian Institute of Family Studies resource.

Put simply: staff who are mandatory reporters must report any reasonable suspicions about child abuse to the authorities (typically child protection or police)

Child Safe Standards

Victoria and NSW have legislated Child Safe Standards, Tasmania will commence their own Child and Youth Safe Standards in 2024 and all States and Territories have committed to implementation of The national Principles for Child Safe Organisations. These Standards or Principles set out what organisations need to do to ensure they are child safe. This includes things like engagement with families, creating culturally safe environments, having good policies, staff training and having a culture where child safety is prioritised. For more information about what a child safe organisation considers see the previous post on this.

Why is this important?

As you can see Mandatory Reporting and The Child Safe Standards are very different. Both are important but when organisations assume that all they need to do is to ensure staff report abuse, opportunities to keep children safe are missed. If you work or volunteer with children in Australia it is important that you understand your obligations.

How can Growing Futures help?

Growing Futures offers a range of training to ensure all staff understand their obligations in regards to keeping children safe. Our training has been designed to be engaging with a focus on practical solutions.

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