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Child Protection:

Failure to Disclose

August, 2016

1.0         PREAMBLE        

The dignity of the human person, who is created in the image and likeness of God, is the foundation of Catholic Social Teaching. This Catholic anthropology leads us to afford all people, but especially children, young people and the most vulnerable, the highest respect. Within this context, effective Catholic schools provide a safe, supportive and secure environment that promotes respect and care and values diversity. The mental, physical, spiritual and emotional wellbeing of children and young people are essential preconditions for successful learning. These qualities cannot be developed for individuals in isolation from the health and wellbeing of the school community as a whole.

St Mary’s is committed to the creation of a safe, just and respectful environment that supports wellness for all members of the school community. In this, there is a moral obligation and shared responsibility to protect the most vulnerable members of the community.

St Mary’s believes that, while protecting children and young people against sexual abuse is a community wide responsibility, schools have particular moral and legal responsibilities to ensure children and young people are safe in their care and to actively and intentionally work to eliminate all forms of abusive behaviours towards children. There are also particular moral and legal obligations for those in authority to prevent, reduce and minimise child abuse and exploitation in all forms.

2.0        PURPOSE

This policy applies to the whole school community in supporting safe environments for all children and young people.

The obligations of ‘failure to disclose’ are separate from, and in addition to, Mandatory Reporting obligations.

Its purpose concerns the new criminal offence under the Victorian Crimes Act, commencing 27 October 2014, ‘failure to disclose, which provides that:

  1. all adults who form a reasonable belief that a sexual offence has been committed by an adult against a child under 16 has an obligation to report that information to police. Failure to disclose the information to police is a criminal offence.
  2. an adult will not be guilty of the offence if they have a reasonable excuse for not disclosing the information. A reasonable excuse includes:

Note: It is a reasonable excuse to not disclose where a person believes on reasonable grounds that the information has already been disclosed to police and they have no further information to report; for example, where the person has already made a report under the mandatory reporting obligation specified in the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005.  

This obligation requires teachers, doctors and other professionals to report concerns about child welfare to child protection authorities within the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

Under the existing mandatory reporting system, DHHS already passes on all allegations of child sexual abuse to police, so it will be a reasonable excuse for not reporting to police if a person has made a report to DHHS or reasonably believes a report has been made to DHHS.  This ensures that people are not required to make multiple reports to different agencies.

A person does not have a reasonable excuse for failing to disclose sexual abuse if they are only concerned for the perceived interests of the perpetrator or any organisation. ‘Perceived interests’ includes reputation, legal liability or financial status.

3.0        KEY PRINCIPLES

4.0        DEFINITIONS

Child and Young Person

For the purposes of this offence, a child is a person under the age of 16 years. A young person is any person who comes under or may come under the care, supervision or authority of the school.

Reasonable belief

A ‘reasonable belief’ is formed if a reasonable person in the same position would have formed the belief on the same grounds. A ‘reasonable belief’ is not the same as having proof.

Sexual abuse

Sexual abuse occurs when a person uses power or authority over a child to involve the child in sexual activity and the child's parent or caregiver has not protected the child. Physical force is sometimes involved. Child sexual abuse involves a wide range of sexual activity, including physical activity and/or exposure of the child to pornography.

  1. IMPLEMENTATION

This policy applies to the whole school community in supporting safe         environments for all children and young people.

6.0        RELATED DOCUMENTATION

This policy should be read in conjunction with the other policies and procedures of St Mary’s ]  concerned with Child Safety and Pastoral Wellbeing:

7.0 REFERENCES

 https://www.catholic.org.au/documents/1345-integrity-in-service-of-the-church-1 

8.0 REVIEW

Initially Ratified:                        March  2016

St Mary’s all children have the right to be safe and feel safe all the time.

Review March 2019, Next review 2020