From 31 August 2018, amendments to the Crimes Act 1900 commenced to introduce new offences of concealing a child abuse offence (section 316A) and failing to remove the risk that a worker will commit a child abuse offence (section 43B). The new offences are part of a suite of reforms to strengthen child sexual abuse laws in NSW, based on the Royal Commission’s Criminal Justice Report.
All adults in NSW are required to report information to Police if they:
This offence covers sexual abuse, serious physical abuse and extreme neglect of a child (under 18 years). It has a maximum penalty of imprisonment for two years.
A person will not be guilty of the offence, however, if they have a reasonable excuse for not reporting the information to Police. This is similar to the existing requirement to inform Police of a serious indictable offence (section 316 of the Crimes Act 1900). Reasonable excuses for not reporting information to Police include knowing or reasonably believing that:
In addition, the person has a reasonable excuse for failing to notify the Police if they were under 18 years of age when they obtained the information.
An adult working in an organisation that engages workers in child-related work commits an offence if:
The offence covers failures to protect against sexual or serious physical abuse and is punishable by up to two years imprisonment.
These changes are expected to have minimal impact on current obligations for NSW Health workers.
As a NSW Health worker you are already required to report child abuse to relevant authorities – this is set out in Child Wellbeing and Child Protection Policies and Procedures for NSW Health.
When deciding whether to report to the Child Protection Helpline or NSW Police, you are encouraged to discuss any questions or concerns with your supervisor and/or the NSW Health Child Wellbeing Unit as needed.
Completing the mandatory Child Wellbeing and Child Protection HETI online training will give you the best preparation for responding to vulnerable children, young people and their families and understanding your reporting requirements.
Under the NSW Health Code of Conduct, you are required to report to the designated person within your organisation if you become aware of an allegation, charge or conviction involving an under 18 year old against another NSW Health worker.
Any allegations of abuse of children under 18 years involving a NSW Health worker is then required to be managed under Child Related Allegations, Charges and Convictions Against Employees. This policy directive sets out the mandatory requirements for notifying the Police and for identifying and addressing risk.
NSW Health’s response to the Royal Commission