Making a report or referral – the Four Critical Actions
School staff have a range of reporting and legal obligations to report suspected child abuse and provide ongoing appropriate support. These include:
- Child Safe Standards
- reportable conduct scheme
- mandatory reporting
- criminal offences – failure to disclose and failure to protect
- duty of care
- responding to student sexual offending
- responding to significant concerns for the wellbeing of a child.
These are described in detail on the Policy tab.
School staff must follow the Four Critical when responding to an incident, disclosure or suspicion of child abuse.
Critical Action 1: Responding to an emergency
If there is no risk of immediate harm, go to Critical Action 2.
If a child is at immediate risk of harm school staff must ensure their safety by:
- separating alleged victims and others involved
- administering first aid
- calling 000 for urgent medical and/or police assistance to respond to immediate health or safety concerns
- identifying a contact person at the school for future liaison with police.
School staff may also need to maintain the integrity of the potential crime scene and preserve evidence.
Critical Action 2: Reporting to authorities/referring to services
As soon as immediate health and safety concerns are addressed school staff must report all incidents, suspicions and disclosures of child abuse as soon as practicable. Failure to report physical and sexual child abuse may amount to a criminal offence.
If the source of suspected abuse comes from within the school
School staff must report all instances of suspected child abuse involving a school staff member, contractor or volunteer to Victoria Police (call 000 or the local police station). School staff must also report internally to:
- school principal and/or leadership team
- Employee Conduct Branch – 03 7022 0005
- Department of Education and Training Incident Support and Operations Centre – 1800 126 126.
All allegations of ‘reportable conduct’ must be reported as soon as possible to the Employee Conduct Branch – for more information refer to Reportable Conduct. This includes any reportable allegations relating to a staff member, volunteer or contractor regardless of whether the alleged victim is or was a student at the school.
If the source of suspected abuse comes from within the family or community
School staff must report to Child if they form the belief on reasonable grounds that a child is:
- in need of protection from child abuse
- at risk of being harmed (or has been harmed) and the harm has had, or is likely to have, a serious impact on the child’s safety, stability or development and the parents have not protected or are unlikely to protect the child.
School staff must also report all instances of suspected sexual abuse (including grooming) to Victoria Police (call 000 or the local police station).
School staff must also report internally to:
- school principal and/or leadership team
- department Incident Support and Operations Centre – 1800 126 126.
If you believe that a child is not subject to abuse, but you still hold significant concerns for their wellbeing you must still act. This may include making a report or referral to or seeking advice from:
- Child or The Orange (in circumstances where the school staff member believes the family is open to receiving support)
- Safe and – for information and guidance to help respond to family violence
- family violence victims/survivors can be referred to 1800 Respect for counselling, information and a referral service – 1800 737 732
- Victoria Police — call 000 or the local police station.
Critical Action 3: contacting parents/carers
The principal must consult with Child Protection or Victoria Police (call 000 or the local police station) to determine what information can be shared with parents/carers. They may advise:
- not to contact the parents/carers (for example, in circumstances where the parents are alleged to have engaged in the abuse, or the child is a mature minor and does not wish for their parent or carer to be contacted)
- to contact the parents/carers and provide agreed information (this must be done as soon as possible, preferably on the same day of the incident, disclosure or suspicion)
- how to communicate with all relevant parties with consideration for their safety.
Where the alleged perpetrator is an adult connected to the school as a volunteer, staff member or contractor, the principal must consider whether there are risks that other students may have been impacted by the abuse. After conducting a risk assessment, it may be necessary to communicate more broadly with the school community. Legal Division can provide further advice about communications.
Critical Action 4: providing ongoing support
The school must provide support for children impacted by abuse. This can include the development of a student support plan in consultation with health and wellbeing professionals. This is an essential part of the school’s duty of care requirements.
Strategies may include development of a safety plan, direct support and referral to health and wellbeing professionals and support services.
Other students at the school may also be impacted by allegations or charges against staff members, volunteers or contractors that have worked at the school. The school needs to provide appropriate referrals or support for those students.
School staff must follow the Four Critical every time they become aware of a further instance or risk of abuse. This includes reporting new information to authorities.
Reviewed 12 July 2022