Last updated 30 January 2017
Anyone can contact the Department of Communities, Child Safety and Disability Services (Child Safety) to report concerns about a child (suspected child abuse or neglect), if they reasonably suspect a child may be in need of protection (s 13A Child Protection Act 1999 (Qld) (Child Protection Act)). The Child Protection Act provides that when a person is deciding if they have a reasonable suspicion, they may consider:
- whether there are detrimental effects on the child’s body or the child’s psychological or emotional state that are evident to the person or they consider are likely to become evident in the future
- the nature and severity of the detrimental effects and the likelihood that they will continue
- the child’s age.
When a person is deciding if they have a reasonable suspicion, they may be informed by an observation of the child, other knowledge about the child or any other relevant knowledge, training or experience that the person may have (s 13C Child Protection Act).
The Child Protection Act also provides if any person (a relevant person), who is a doctor, registered nurse, teacher, police officer, a child advocate with the Office of the Public Guardian or an early childhood education and care professional, forms a reportable suspicion about a child, they must give a written report to Child Safety (ss 13E, 13G). Child Safety employees and employees of licensed care services must also give a written report to Child Safety if they form a reportable suspicion about a child in care (s 13F).
A reportable suspicion about a child is a reasonable suspicion that the child:
- has suffered significant harm, is suffering significant harm or is at an unacceptable risk of suffering significant harm in the future caused by physical or sexual abuse
- may not have a parent able and willing to protect them from the harm (s 13E(2) Child Protection Act).
The written report to Child Safety must include the basis on which the person has formed the reportable suspicion and to the extent of the person’s knowledge:
- the child’s name, sex, age and details how to contact the child
- details of the harm to which the reportable suspicion relates and the identity of the person suspected of causing the child harm
- details of any other person who may be able to give information about the harm (s 13G Child Protection Act).
A person is not required to give a report, if it might incriminate the person, or they know Child Safety is aware of the matter.
A relevant person is allowed to confer with a colleague that they work with to assist them in forming a reportable suspicion, to give a written report to Child Safety or to take appropriate action to deal with the suspected harm to a child (s 13H Child Protection Act).
Protection from liability for giving information about alleged child harm
The Child Protection Act provides for protection from civil and criminal liability, or under an administrative process, for persons who, acting honestly and reasonably, notify or give information to Child Safety about suspected harm to a child (s 197A Child Protection Act).
The Child Protection Act also provides that merely because a person gives the notification or information, the person cannot be held to have:
- breached any code of professional etiquette or ethics
- departed from accepted standards of professional conduct (s 197A(3)).
If the person would otherwise be required to maintain confidentiality under an Act, oath or rule of law or practice, the person:
- does not contravene the requirement by giving the information
- is not liable to disciplinary action for giving the information (s 197A(4)(b) Child Protection Act).
As a general rule, the Child Protection Act provides for the confidentiality of the identity of a person who notifies or gives information about suspected harm to a child (s 186 Child Protection Act).