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Responding to Child Abuse Policy

Schools have an important role to play in supporting children and their families and in protecting students who may be at risk of harm due to abuse or neglect. Mandatory Reporting legislation is clear that all teaching staff, the Principal, Early Learning Centre (ELC) staff and school counsellors are mandated by law to notify the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing (DFFH) of any instance of possible or known child physical or sexual abuse.

The Reportable Conduct Scheme requires the School’s Principal to do certain things upon becoming aware of a reportable allegation about School personnel. Where a reportable allegation is about the Principal, the Board Chair will assume responsibility for complying with the obligations under the Reportable Conduct Scheme.

Under an amendment to the Crimes Act 1958, all Victorian adults (including all staff and students 18 years or older) have a legal duty to report sexual abuse of children to Police.

This Responding to Child Abuse Policy is designed to ensure that all types of mandated reporting responsibilities and subsequent action takes place in a framework of maximum care and support. This Policy should be read in conjunction with the Prevention of Child Abuse Policy.

Legal Requirements

Mandatory Reporters - Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 (Vic)

All teaching staff, the Principal, ELC staff and school counsellors are mandated to report child physical and sexual abuse. This legal requirement arises from Section 184 of the Children, Youth and Families Act and subsequent amendments. This section prescribes that if in the course of a person’s duties, a mandated reporter forms the belief on reasonable grounds that a child under 17 years of age is in need of protection because they believe that a child has or is likely to suffer significant harm as a result of physical injury or sexual abuse, and the child’s parents have not protected or are unlikely to protect the child from harm of that type, the person must notify the DFFH of that belief as soon as practicable after forming the belief and after each occasion on which the person becomes aware of any further reasonable grounds for the belief. Failure to do so constitutes a criminal offence.

Reporting a sexual offence ‐ Crimes Act 1958 (Vic)

Under an amendment to the Crimes Act, all adults (including all staff and students 18 years or older) within Victoria have a legal duty to report sexual abuse of children to Victoria Police. Any adult who forms a reasonable belief that a sexual offence has been committed by an adult against a child under 16 has an obligation to report that information to the Police.

Failure to disclose such information to the Police is a criminal offence.

The adult must then make a further report on each occasion on which they become aware of any further reasonable grounds for the reasonable belief.

If the adult has a genuine concern that reporting their reasonable belief to Victoria Police may pose a risk to their own or another person’s health and safety (including the relevant child or young person, but not including the alleged perpetrator of sexual offence) or the adult was told about the sexual offence by the alleged victim, who was 16 or older at the time they disclosed the abuse, and they have asked the adult not to report the abuse, then the adult should seek advice from either a Child Safety Officer or the Principal about whether they are still required to make a report.

Mandatory reporters who have made a report to DFFH under the provisions of the Children, Youth and Families Act as referred above are not required to further report the matter to Police. DFFH will pass on all allegations of child sexual abuse made by mandatory reporters to the Police.

The Reportable Conduct Scheme ‐ Children Wellbeing and Safety Act 2005 (Vic)

Under the Children Wellbeing and Safety Act the School’s Principal has obligations relating to any reportable allegations about School personnel.

A reportable allegation means any information that leads a person to form a reasonable belief that an Ivanhoe Girls’ employee or volunteer has committed reportable conduct, or misconduct that may involve reportable conduct, whether or not the conduct or misconduct that is alleged to have occurred was within the course of the person's employment or engagement with Ivanhoe Girls’ Grammar School (“the School”).

As soon as practicable after becoming aware of a reportable allegation, the Principal will respond to the allegation. The table below sets out how the Principal will respond to a reportable allegation by providing the following notifications to the Commission for Children and Young People (CCYP):

Milestone Timeframe
Initial notification
Within three business days after becoming aware of the reportable allegation
As soon as practicable and within 30 calendar days after becoming aware of thereportable allegation
Advice on investigation
As soon as practicable
Outcome of investigation
As soon as practicable

In addition to the response outlined in the table above, once aware of a substantial risk of criminal sexual abuse to a child under 16 from an adult (18 and over) within the School, the Principal (or delegate) will act to reduce or remove the risk immediately. The alleged offender will be removed from any contact with children pending the investigation.

Reasonable Belief

Forming a Belief

A belief is considered to be more than a suspicion. Proof is not required that abuse has occurred or is likely to occur. A belief is sufficient.

Reasonable Grounds

Reasonable grounds can be thought of as the mechanism used for forming the belief. These include situations where:

  • a child tells a staff member they have been abused;
  • someone else tells a staff member (perhaps a relative of the child) that a child has been abused;
  • a child tells a staff member that they know someone who has been abused (often a child is referring to him or herself);
  • a staff member’s own observation of a particular child’s behaviour/injuries or their knowledge of children generally leads them to suspect that abuse is occurring.
Making a Report

Once a mandated reporter (under the Children, Youth and Families Act) or Victorian adult (Crimes Act) has formed a belief, a report must be made to DFFH or Victoria Police respectively. The School aims to support staff through this process and at all times during this process staff can consult with the School Counsellor, the Principal, Heads of Senior School/Junior School and/or the Director of Student Wellbeing. Seeking advice or assistance should however not hold up the reporting process. Staff should attempt to file the report on the same day as the belief is formed.

It is each mandated reporter’s responsibility to report their belief – this cannot be transferred to the Principal or any other member of staff. 

While the legal responsibility to report remains with the individual reporter, it is imperative that the staff member is professionally supported in this, and normally any report would be made by the staff member in the presence of the Principal, Deputy Principal/Head of Senior School, Head of Junior School or the Director of Student Wellbeing. A staff member who forms such a concern about any student’s welfare should discuss this concern immediately, in confidence, with one of the School’s Child Safety Officers (see Appendix A).

Staff members do not require the permission of parents, guardians, carers or the School to make a report nor are they required to inform these persons or the School. However, it is considered good practice to discuss any concerns with senior staff prior to making a report or referral. Parents, guardians or carers should not be contacted if the staff member believes that it will put the child, themselves or any staff member at risk.

Staff should keep careful written records of any concerns they may have about a child. These concerns should be clearly documented representing a chronology of events. Staff can be assured of appropriate confidentiality on the part of the School in regard to their actions in reporting any such concern. These issues should not be discussed with other staff members who are not directly involved with managing the case.

Student Wellbeing

The School takes its responsibility for the wellbeing of any child/children who may be the victims of child abuse seriously. This includes any child/children connected to the alleged victim(s) of child abuse. Support from the School’s counsellors (registered psychologists) and Wellbeing Team will be made available to any children affected.


All documentation regarding allegations of child abuse, including:

  • the initial incident report;
  • the reporting to relevant authorities;
  • reports of investigations by the School; and
  • any other relevant documentation

will be stored confidentially and securely by the School electronically as a Level 3 or above document for the student/staff member. As such records are reasonably likely to be required for current or future legal proceedings, they will be retained permanently and will not be disposed or destroyed.


All school community members 18 and over also have the responsibility to report grooming. Grooming occurs when an adult (18 and over) communicates by words or conduct with a child under 16 or with a person who has care, supervision or authority for the child with the intention of facilitating the child’s engagement in or involvement in future sexual conduct, whether with the groomer or another adult. 

Where any member of the school community aged 18 or over becomes aware of grooming behaviour by a person 18 or over, they must notify the Police and/or Principal immediately. 

It is the responsibility of the Principal (and others with authority/responsibility) to take action to protect the child in line with the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 (VIC), the Children Wellbeing and Safety Act 2005 (VIC) and the Crimes Act 1958.

Child Safety Officers

The School has nominated the following Child Safety Officers to assist all members of the School community, including students, staff, Board Members, contractors and volunteers with any child safety concerns.

Ivanhoe Girls’ Child Safety Officers are:

  • Director of the ELC
  • Head of Junior School
  • Director of Curriculum, Learning and Innovation (JS)
  • Deputy Principal / Head of Senior School
  • Director of Student Wellbeing
  • School Counsellors (Registered psychologists)

All may be contacted through the School’s telephone 9490 6222 or email

Guide to assist staff in making a mandatory report to Child Protection

Mandatory Reporting ‐ Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 (Vic)
Step 1: Responding to concerns

If your concerns relate to a child in need of immediate protection; or you have formed a belief more than a suspicion, that a child, under 17 years of age, is at significant harm of physical or sexual abuse, go to Step 3.

In all other situations, go to Step 2.

Step 2: Forming a belief on reasonable grounds

Consider the level of immediate danger to the child. Ask yourself:

1. Have I formed a belief that the child has suffered or is at risk of suffering significant harm?

2. Am I in doubt about the child's safety and the parent's ability to protect the child?

If you answered 'yes' to either question, go to Step 3.

Note that staff can share information and make a referral to Child FIRST when they have a significant concern for a child's wellbeing but do not believe the child needs protection. It is suggested that staff make this report with the assistance of a Child Safety Officer.

Step 3: Making a report to DFFH

Contact the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing.

The relevant number is 1300 664 977 (Northern/Western Suburbs) or 1300 360 391 (Eastern Suburbs), based upon where the child lives.

For after hours DFFH Emergency Services, call 13 12 78

Have notes ready with your observations and child and family details, such as names, birth dates, and addresses.

Reporting a Sexual Offence – Crimes Act 1958 (Vic)
Step 1: Becoming aware of a sexual offence

All adults (including all staff and students 18 years or older, not omitted to mandatory reporters) within Victoria have a legal duty to report sexual abuse of children to Victoria Police.

Step 2: Notifying Victoria Police

Any adult who forms a reasonable belief that a sexual offence has been committed by an adult against a child under 16 years, has an obligation to report that information to the Police.

Report to Victoria Police by calling 000 (or 112 from an inactive mobile).

Step 3: Continual Notification

The adult must then make a further report on each occasion on which they become aware of any further reasonable grounds for the reasonable belief.