Reporting child sex abuse mandatory under new law

The state government has amended legislation to make it mandatory for ministers of religion to report child sexual abuse.

The change has been introduced after recommendations by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse from 2017.

Child Protection Minister Simone McGurk said “The McGowan government is committed to creating a safer Western Australia for children and will not shy away from the work needed to be done to protect children from sexual abuse.”

The 2019-20 State Budget will assign $5.7 million of its funding to a number of government agencies to help implement the recommendations made by the Royal Commission.

In the next two years, $3.7 million will be allocated to the Department of Communities, $627,000 to the Department of the Premier and Cabinet, $741,000 to the WA Police Force and $589,000 to the Ombudsman.

Ms McGurk said priests who firmly believe there is an occurence of child sexual abuse should report it and they should be held accountable if they remain silent about it.

“I think it’s reasonable to expect all ministers of religion should be required to report child sex abuse and be subject to the same laws that apply to other professionals,” she said.

“The community has a right to expect that our children are safe, especially within the institutions we trust to protect them.

“The message is clear that we expect those professions under the legislation to report child sex abuse and in failing to do so there will be criminal charges as well as a financial penalty.”

Priests will be legally obligated to make a report for child sexual abuse, even if their source of suspicion is revealed during a confessional.

The penalty for those convicted for failure to report will be a $6,000 fine.

The state government plans to implement these changes sometime during the second half of this year.

Right now, the Northern Territory and South Australia are the only states in Australia that have already implemented mandatory reporting on child sexual abuse for ministers of religion.

This amendment means mandatory reporting laws will be extended to priests, ministers, imams, rabbis, pastors and Salvation Army officers.

WA’s Mandatory Reporting laws already extend to doctors, teachers, nurses, midwives, police and school boarding supervisors.

Child Protection Minister Simone McGurk speaks about the amendments to Mandatory Reporting during a press conference. Video: Shalinn Yeap