New Victorian Bill Proposes To Include Individuals In Religious Ministries As Mandatory Reporters

Tuesday 20 August 2019 @ 11.47 a.m. | Crime | Legal Research

On 14 August 2019, the Minister for Child Protection, Mr Luke Donellan, introduced the Children Legislation Amendment Bill 2019 (VIC) (‘the Bill’) to the Victorian Legislative Assembly. If passed, the Bill will enact various amendments across multiple acts, with the objective of strengthening and improving various protections around Victorian children.

The Bill is also part of the Government’s response to the recommendations from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (‘the Royal Commission’). The final report of the Royal Commission was released on 15 December 2017 and was discussed in an earlier article published by Timebase.

Amendments under the Bill

Mandatory reporting under section 184 of Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 (VIC) (‘the Children, Youth and Families Act’) is defined as the legal obligation for nominated professional groups to report physical or sexual child abuse to authorities, where there is reasonable belief of abuse. These nominated professionals are known as mandatory reporters, defined under section 182 of the Children, Youth and Families Act.

Under the Children, Youth and Families Act, currently, professions that are mandatory reporters include:

  • Registered medical practitioners
  • Nurses
  • Police officers
  • Registered teachers
  • School counsellors
  • Youth justice workers

If passed, the Bill will amend the Children, Youth and Families Act to include individuals in religious ministries as mandatory reporters of child abuse.

Section 327(2) of the Crimes Act 1958 (VIC) (‘the Crimes Act’) states that it is an offence to fail to disclose sexual offences committed against a child. An individual who is 18 years old or older, who has information that leads them to the reasonable belief that a sexual offence has been committed against a child under the age of 16, must disclose this information to the police. However, section 327(7)(b) of the Crimes Act provides that if the information leading to the reasonable belief is privileged, as under Part 3.10 of Chapter 3 of the Evidence Act 2008 (VIC) (‘the Evidence Act’), then the individual is not liable under section 327(2).

Section 127(1) of the Evidence Act (in Part 3.10 of Chapter 3) provides that information acquired in religious confessions, given to a person who is the member of the clergy of any church or religious denomination is privileged. Therefore, under the current law, religious confessions are exempt from the failure to disclose offence in the Crimes Act.

The Bill amends both the Crimes Act and the Evidence Act to the effect this exemption will no longer apply, if information given in a religious confession pertains to:

  • Mandatory reporting obligations as per sections 182 and 184 of the Children, Youth and Families Act; and
  • The failure to disclose offence in section 327 of the Crimes Act

The Bill also proposes amendments to the Limitation of Actions Act 1958 (VIC) that will allow survivors of sexual and non-sexual institutional abuse to apply to the courts in order to overturn unfair historical compensation payments.

Additional amendments under the Bill include:

  • Limiting the right of appeal to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal for persons whose Working With Children Check application was rejected, if the individual has been changed with, convicted or found guilty with a Category A offence as an adult
  • Allowing siblings to be included in the Aboriginal Children in Aboriginal Care program, where one sibling is Aboriginal and the other is not
  • Clarification that immunisation is part of routine medical care and guaranteeing vaccines for children in out-of-home care

Category A offences are the most serious offences for the purposes of the Working with Children Act 2005 (VIC), and includes rape and murder.

TimeBase is an independent, privately owned Australian legal publisher specialising in the online delivery of accurate, comprehensive and innovative legislation research tools including LawOne and unique Point-in-Time Products. Nothing on this website should be construed as legal advice and does not substitute for the advice of competent legal counsel.


Children Legislation Amendment Bill 2019 (VIC) and supporting documents available from TimeBase’s LawOne Service

Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 (VIC) and explanatory material available from TimeBase’s LawOne Service

Crimes Act 1958 (VIC) and explanatory material available from TimeBase’s LawOne Service

Evidence Act 2008 (VIC) and explanatory material available from TimeBase’s LawOne Service

Media Release: Ensuring Better Protections for All Victorian Children (Minister for Child Protection, 14 August 2019).

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