Protecting Children With New Religious Confession Laws

07 September 2018

People in religious ministry will face criminal charges if they fail to report child abuse – including when disclosed during confession – under new laws to be introduced by a re-elected Andrews Labor Government.

The systemic and horrific abuse of children revealed in the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse must never be allowed to happen again.

Under current laws, priests and people in religious ministry are exempt from mandatory reporting laws.

A re-elected Labor Government will end this special treatment and make sure the safety and protection of our children always comes first.

Labor will amend the Children, Youth and Families Act to make it mandatory to report information about child abuse or harm disclosed during confession to child protection authorities in the Department of Health and Human Services, as it is for teachers, nurses and other mandatory reporters.

A re-elected Labor Government will also introduce amendments to ensure that, under the failure to report offence contained in the Crimes Act, information disclosed in the context of a religious confession is not exempt.

Protecting children from abuse and harm is paramount – that’s why the Andrews Labor Government will take immediate action to expand the list of mandatory reporters of child abuse.

Under current laws, teachers, school principals, doctors, nurses and police officers who believe a child is being abused or harmed are required to report this to the authorities. Failure to do so is a criminal offence.

From next month, the Labor Government will expand this list to include registered psychologists, school counsellors and professionals in the youth justice, early childhood and out of home care sectors, with a staggered roll out over the next 18 months.

Labor will always make sure the safety and protection of our children comes first.

These changes will acquit recommendations 7.3 and 7.4 of the Royal Commission’s final report, as well as recommendation 35 of the Criminal Justice Report.

Quotes attributable to Minister for Families and Children Jenny Mikakos

“The safety of children is our highest priority and our biggest responsibility – people in religious ministry are not exempt from this.”

“There is no excuse for anyone who works with kids to not report abuse.”

Quote attributable to Attorney-General Martin Pakula

“These new laws will help make sure the shocking and systemic abuse revealed in the Royal Commission can never happen again.”

Reviewed 19 August 2020

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