Child abuse laws extended to WA ministers of religion

WA’s religious ministers will be required to report child sexual abuse, in an effort to strengthen protection of children across the state.

The McGowan Government introduced reforms to the Children and Community Services Act 2004, extending the mandatory reporting of child sexual abuse.

Under the changes, recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institution Responses to Child Sexual Abuse will be implemented, including extending mandatory reporting to information gained during confession.

The extended legislation will apply to people who are recognised in accordance with the practices of a faith or religion authorised to conduct services or ceremonies including priests, ministers, imams, rabbis and pastors.

Current penalties of $6,000 will be extended to ministers of religion.

WA’s mandatory reporting laws currently require doctors, nurses, midwives, police officers, teachers and boarding supervisors to report child sexual abuse if they believe that a child has been abused.

The Bill will also implement 41 recommendations aimed at achieving better outcomes of children, as a result of a statutory review of the Children and Community Services Act 2004.

Legislation will involve changes including Aboriginal Child Placement Principal to prioritise Aboriginal children in care being placed in their community, requirements to consult Aborginal communities in the assessment of Aboriginal children coming into care.

Prioritisation of children in care by government services and agencies, improving support to children in care and planning for long-term stability and continuity in children’s living arrangements.

Child Protection Minister Simone McGurk asid the changes ensure that abused children will not be forgotten.

“This legislation sends a clear message about the expectation that child safety will always be paramount,” Ms McGurk said.

“The McGowan Government is committed to creating a safer Western Australia for children and young people, and these changes are practical steps in our ongoing work to protect children now and prevent further harm.”

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