The CYPFA emphasises that everyone in the community has a responsibility for ensuring that children are safe and protected. In addition, the Act lists the following people (prescribed persons) who are legally required to report their suspicions that a child is being abused (s14):
- medical practitioners;
- nurses and midwives;
- dentists and other dental professionals;
- police officers;
- police officers;
- probation officers;
- school principals and teachers in any educational institution (including a kindergarten);
- persons who manage child care services or provide child care for a fee or reward;
- in general people employed, or who are volunteers in government agencies or organisations funded by the Crown that provide health, welfare, education, or care wholly or partly for children.
The Act provides a penalty of a fine up to 20 penalty units for mandatory reporters who do not report their suspicions of child abuse or neglect.
If a prescribed person believes or suspects with good reason that a child is being or is likely to be abused or neglected, or is in real danger from the person whom they are living with, the person must contact the Secretary of DHHS or a Community-Based Intake Service (otherwise known as Gateway Services) with this information as soon as practicable. This also applies to unborn children (s14(2), CYPFA). Gateway Services are currently run by Mission Australia and Baptcare. Their contact details are availableon the DHHS website.
A notifier will speak to a staff person who will record their concerns (s14(5)). Child Protection may then gather more information so that a recommendation can be made about what needs to be done (s18). The case may be referred to a more appropriate service for response, referred to police for joint investigation or classified and prioritised for a risk and/or needs assessment by Child Protection.
Rights as a ‘Notifier’
A person who provides information about child abuse and neglect to Child Protection is a notifier. Under both the CYPFA section 16, and the Right to Information Act 2009 (Tas) section 38 the identity of a notifier does not have to be released nor does any information contained in a notification that may lead to the identification of a notifier. In court, the identity and any evidence identifying a notifier is confidential and generally withheld from court proceedings (s16(3), CYPFA). If, however, the evidence of the notifier is critical to proceedings and needs to be provided for the proper administration of justice, the court may grant leave to hear the evidence (s16(5)(a)). The notifier may also consent to their evidence or their identity being revealed in proceedings (s16(5)(b)).