CHCPRT025-1 2. Report indications of possible risk of harm

CHCPRT025-1 2. Report indications of possible risk of harm

2.1. Ensure documentation in a person’s record is completed accurately, in a detailed and factual manner, according to organizational policies and procedures for privacy and confidentiality.

2.2. Report risk of harm indicators, using the relevant reporting mechanism by legislative requirements. Whether Individuals Are Prepared for Learning (KE 7.4)

By the end of this chapter, the learner should be able to:

  • Make sure all documentation and reports in the person’s record are completed accurately and are detailed
  • Complete documentation following privacy and confidentiality requirements
  • Record and report any risk-of-harm indicators promptly to help the child and prevent further harm.    

Complete documentation accurately

If you suspect a child or young person is being abused or neglected, you should record any details or information that could be a risk of harm indicators. This is any information or circumstances that have led you to believe that a child or young person is in danger of being harmed. It is important that the information is detailed, recorded clearly and accurately, and that the report contains everything required. This information should be kept confidential and not shared with anyone other than your supervisor/manager and the authorities. You will need to follow organizational policies and procedures to ensure privacy and confidentiality.

What you should record when reporting child abuse:

  • Any signs or symptoms of different types of abuse, such as physical, sexual, psychological, and neglect – make sure you give detailed descriptions of anything you have noticed or know about and any comments from the child about cuts and bruises they have, etc. (refer to criteria 1.1 for signs and symptoms of abuse).
  • Any disclosures from the child – if a child reports to you that they have been abused, you should make sure you write exactly what they have said and the date and time of the disclosure so you don’t get any of the details wrong and report anything inaccurately.
  • Write down any questions and answers from conversations you have had with the child – this will show the information-gathering technique you used when talking to them to make sure it was appropriate and to see if the answers are reliable enough.
  • Detailed descriptions of any injuries or illnesses the child has that are believed to be caused by the abuse or neglect.
  • Describe any behavioral problems the child has that you have experienced when they have been in your care.
  • State whether you believe the child is in danger and whether the abuse is ongoing.
  • You may also need to record details about the child’s family – any history you know about them, living situations, health problems and addictions, etc.
  • Details of the suspected abuser if you know who it could be.

Duty of care

People working with children and young people have a special duty of care to them. Duty of care is a legal concept that refers to your responsibility to adequately protect children in your care from harm. It applies to all staff members working in caregiving roles. It is usually expressed as a duty to take reasonable steps to protect children from a reasonably foreseeable injury. What constitutes reasonable steps will depend on the individual circumstances, including the nature of the service and the role within it. There will be a breach of duty of care if staff members fail to act in the way a diligent professional would have acted in the same situation.

People working in caregiving roles must provide a high level of care to children and young people and take all reasonable steps to reduce risk, such as:

  • Provision of suitable and safe premises
  • Provision of an adequate system of supervision
  • Implementation of strategies to prevent bullying
  • Ensuring that medical assistance is provided to a sick or injured student
  • Managing employee recruitment, conduct, and performance.

Mandatory reporting

This is a legislative requirement for people working in certain roles to report suspected abuse and neglect to government child protection services in Australia. The mandatory reporting laws are different across states and territories, with the main differences concerning who has to report and the types of abuse and neglect that have to be reported. The occupations that are most commonly named as mandated reporters are those that involve dealing with children frequently, such as teachers, doctors, nurses, and police. This means that people working in these roles would be legally required to report any suspicions of abuse. It generally states that except for sexual abuse, in which case all suspicions must be reported, it is only cases of significant abuse and neglect that must be reported.


Mandatory reporters

What must be reported
New South WalesA person who, in the course of his or her professional work or other paid employment delivers, or supervises the provision of:
. Healthcare
. Welfare
. Education
. Children’s services
. Residential services or law enforcement, wholly or partly, to children.

Reasonable grounds to suspect that a child is at risk of significant harm and those grounds arise during or from the person’s work.
.Registered medical practitioners, midwives, registered nurses
.Teachers registered under the Education, Training, and Reform Act 2006 or teachers granted permission to teach under that Act
.Principals of government or non-government schools
.Members of the police force.

Belief on reasonable grounds that a child needs protection on a ground referred to in Section 162(c) or 162(d), formed in the course of practicing his or her office, position, or employment.
.Physical abuse
.Sexual abuse
A doctor or registered nurseAwareness or reasonable suspicion during the practice of his or her profession of harm or risk of harm
QueenslandSchool StaffAwareness or reasonable suspicion that a child has been or is likely to be sexually abused; and the suspicion is formed in the course of the person’s employment.
An authorized officer, an employee of the Department of Child Safety, or a person employed in a departmental care service or licensed care service.Awareness or reasonable suspicion of harm caused to a child placed in the care of an entity conducting departmental care services or a licensee.
. Physical abuse
. Sexual abuse or exploitation
. Emotional/psychological abuse
Western Australia. Doctors
.Nurses and midwives
.Police officers
Belief on reasonable grounds that child sexual abuse has occurred or is occurring.
. Court personnel
. Family counsellors
. Family dispute resolution practitioners, arbitrators, or legal practitioners representing the child’s interests.
Reasonable ground for suspecting that a child has been:
.Physically or sexually abused, or is at risk of being abused.
.Ill-treated, or is at risk of being ill-treated.
.Exposed or subjected to behavior that psychologically harms the child.
South Australia.Doctors
. Pharmacists
.Registered or enrolled nurses
.Police officers
.Community corrections officers
.Social workers
.Teachers in educational institutions including kindergartens
.Family daycare providers
Reasonable grounds to suspect that a child has been or is being abused or neglected; and the suspicion is formed in the course of the person’s work (whether paid or voluntary) or carrying out official duties.
.Physical abuse
.Sexual abuse
.Emotional/psychological abuse

.Employees/volunteers in a government department, agency or instrumentality, or a local government or non-government agency that provides health, welfare, education, sporting or recreational, child care or residential services wholly or partly for children; ministers of religion (except disclosures made in the confessional)
Employees or volunteers in a religious or spiritual organization.
Tasmania.Registered medical practitioners, nurses, midwives
.Dentists, dental therapists, or dental hygienists
.Registered psychologists
.Police officers
.Probation officers
.Principals and teachers in any educational institution including kindergartens
.Persons who provide child care or a child care service for a fee or reward
.Persons concerned in the management of child care services licensed under the Child Care Act 2001
.Any other person who is employed or engaged as an employee for, of, or in, or who is a volunteer in, a government agency that provides health, welfare, education, child care, or residential services wholly or partly for children, and an organization that receives any funding from the Crown for the provision of such services; and any other person of a class determined by the Minister by notice in the Gazette to be prescribed persons.

A belief, suspicion, reasonable grounds, or knowledge that a child has been or is being abused or neglected or is an affected child within the meaning of the Family Violence Act 2004.
.Physical abuse
.Sexual abuse
.Emotional/psychological abuse

Exposure to family violence
Australian Capital Territory.Doctors
.Nurses enrolled nurses
.A person providing education to a child or young person who is registered, or provisionally registered, for home education under the Education Act 2004
.Police officer
.The person employed to counsel children or young people at a school
.A person caring for a child at a childcare center
.A person coordinating or monitoring home-based care for a family day care scheme proprietor
.Public servant who, in the course of employment as a public servant, works with, or provides services personally to, children and young people or families
.The public advocate
.An official visitor

A person who, in the course of their employment, has contact with or provides services to children, young people, and their families and is prescribed by regulation.

A belief on reasonable grounds, that a child it young person has experienced or is experiencing sexual abuse or non-accidental physical injury, and the belief arises from information obtained by the person during, or because of, the person’s work(whether paid or unpaid).
Northern TerritoryAny person A belief on reasonable grounds that a child has suffered or is likely to suffer harm or exploitation.
.Physical abuse
.Sexual abuse
.Emotional/psychological abuse
.Exposure to physical violence(eg., a child witnessing violence between parents at home)
Registered Health ProfessionalsReasonable grounds to believe a child aged 14 or 15 years has been or is likely to be a victim of a sexual offense, and the age difference between the child and offender is greater than 2 years

Report risk-of-harm indicators

The harm experienced in childhood can have significant and lasting effects, and children can respond in different ways. It may negatively impact a child’s emotional, psychological, and physical development as a result of the trauma. Children may experience problems such as mental health disorders and eating and learning disorders as a result of being harmed. When working with children and young people, you have a duty of care to them, so it is important to be alert and look out for any signs or symptoms that could indicate that they have been harmed. Noticing these signs and symptoms early and taking the appropriate course of action could prevent any further harm to the child in the future. The list below is not exhaustive, but these are the common risk-of-harm indicators that you may notice.

It is important to look out for the following:

  1. Physical signs of physical, sexual, or emotional abuse or neglect – if you notice any marks or cuts on the child that they can’t explain, or the story is not believable
  2. Behavioral signs of physical, sexual, or emotional abuse or neglect – if they seem to be behaving unusually or in a disruptive way
  3. Disclosures by the child or young person – anything they report to you should be written down in detail and reported further to your supervisor/manager and the relevant authorities.

It is important to remember that not all indicators are due to abuse or neglect. For example, other issues such as witnessing a traumatic event, health problems, and behavioral problems can also seriously affect a child or young person, and these should be reported to other relevant organizations that can help them. Your job would be to notify the relevant authorities, and once any incidents of child abuse have been reported, it will be the child protection worker who will do the interviewing and risk assessment by going through the information that has been gathered, and they will determine whether or not there is a risk of harm to the child.

Reporting requirements

Under the National Law and Regulations, the approved provider must notify the regulatory authority of any serious incidents, complaints, or circumstances at the service that poses a risk to the health, safety, or well-being of children. This must be reported within 24 hours of them becoming aware of the serious incident. Providers must also report any incident or allegation that physical or sexual abuse of a child/children has occurred or is occurring while the child/children are being educated and cared for by the service.

Approved providers and care service staff may also be required to report on incidents or suspected incidents involving children under other state and territory laws, including child protection legislation. Each state and territory has its own Act of Parliament (laws) that governs how child protection interventions work. You will need to find out the contact details for your relevant state or territory.

Impact of Trauma/Impact of Risk of Harm

Children and young people who have experienced trauma may have difficulty identifying, expressing, and managing their emotions. The impact of risk of harm is what is the result of the harm on the child. They may experience significant mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, or anger due to internalized and/or externalized stress reactions (amongst many others). The damaging effects of abuse can also slow down children’s development, and they may experience problems with learning new things, concentrating, and coping with new people or situations. The memories of abuse will be so pronounced that they may react to a reminder of a traumatic event with strong emotions such as anger, sadness, or avoidance. Reminders of these traumatic events could be everywhere around them, so the world will look like a dangerous place with new threats. Children and young people will often be very vigilant and cautious when interacting with others and are less likely to trust people.

Responding to disclosure

When a child or young person has been abused or is being abused, it is often very difficult for them to talk about it and tell someone how they feel. This can be for many reasons and could also depend on their age and the severity of the abuse. For example, they may feel uncomfortable, scared, embarrassed, or guilty. If they are very young, they may not understand what has happened and may not realize how serious it is, or the abuser may have made them believe it is their fault. Being abused or neglected can also cause young people to have low self-esteem and confidence, which would make it even more difficult for them to talk to someone and report it.

They may also be worried about the repercussions of telling someone, especially if the abuser has threatened them or if the abuser is a member of their family and they don’t want to report them. Therefore, they may ask that anything they tell you remain a secret; however, any child protection matters must be reported, so it would not be possible to do this. In this situation, the best thing to do is to reassure the child and encourage them to speak out.

If a child or young person tells you they have been abused or neglected, it is important to first consider how they must be feeling and to make them feel safe and supported in your company. You should explain to them that they have done the right thing and ensure they don’t feel guilty or ashamed for speaking to you. It is also important that you remain calm and conceal any emotions you may be feeling, as it could make them feel worse. Let them know that you are there to listen to them and help them.

How to manage disclosure of abuse or neglect:

  • Keep your emotions under control; stay calm, and don’t express that you are shocked, disgusted, angry or upset
  • Ask open and non-leading questions to get the right responses
  • Listen carefully and be understanding
  • Take the child seriously and let them know that you believe them
  • Communicate with them in a way that they will understand; don’t use complicated words or terminology
  • Make sure they know what has happened isn’t their fault
  • Reassure them that they have done the right thing by telling you
  • Tell the child that you will support them throughout the process
  • Explain to them that you will need to tell someone else who can help them
  • Allow them to talk at their own pace; don’t be pushy or pressure them
  • Ensure you make notes throughout or after the child has left so that you remember everything.

A disclosure may happen when you least expect it. It will most likely happen if a child or young person feels safe with you and trusts you, as they will feel more comfortable. Any disclosed incidents of abuse or neglect must be reported to the relevant persons, and you should follow your workplace’s procedure for reporting child protection matters. If you suspect any child or young person is being abused or neglected, but you are unsure about reporting it, remember that you have a responsibility to the child, and by reporting it, you would be helping them and preventing them from coming to any harm. You should explain to the child or young person what will happen next and make sure they are fully aware of the process you need to take. They must be in the know as this will prevent them from worrying about it and make them feel safer.

Interagency collaboration

Interagency frameworks engage all child and family-serving agencies from various sectors. For example, this may include child welfare, mental health, education, youth justice, and the agency responsible for serving Aboriginal families. These agencies work together to address the complex needs of children and families in a community partnership. Child protection practitioners may need to work closely with a diverse range of practitioners across a wide variety of professional disciplines to ensure children are safe and can access the opportunities they need.

State legislation

Whichever state or territory you live in, there is legislation relating to children’s education and care that you will need to follow. You should be aware of the legislation to make sure you carry out your role in a legal, safe, and ethical manner. In Victoria, the Education and Care Service National Law Act 2010 was passed, and it was also adopted by other jurisdictions through an Application Act or passed corresponding legislation.

Below is the legislation and Application Act that applies in each state or territory:

State or Territory 


Application Act

New South WalesEducation and Care Services National Law Act 2010 Children (Education and Care Services National Law Application) Act 2010
Australian Capital TerritoryEducation and Care Services National Law (ACT) Act 2011
Northern Territory Education and Care Services (National Uniform Legislation ACT 2011)
South AustraliaEducation and Early Childhood Services (Registration and Standards) Act 2011
TasmaniaEducation and Care Services National Law (Application) Act 2011
QueenslandEducation and Care Services National Law (Queensland) Act 2012Education and Care Services National Law (Queensland) Act 2911
Western AustraliaEducation and Care Services National Law (WA) Act 2012