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Mandatory Reporting (NT)

Mandatory Reporting (NT)

In the Northern Territory, the law requires mandatory reporting when someone suspects neglect or abuse. While other jurisdictions only impose this requirement on certain professions and people in authority, there are wider reporting obligations in the Northern Territory. Additionally, this obligation relates not only to reporting the abuse of children, but also to domestic abuse of adults, particularly those living in residential facilities. This article explains the regulations around mandatory reporting in the Northern Territory.

Mandatory reporting in Australia

The law around mandatory reporting is specific to each jurisdiction, but there is some commonality across Australia. All states and territories require certain professionals, notably health practitioners, to report suspected child abuse or harm. Harm in this context includes exposure to family and domestic violence, neglect, and emotional, sexual, physical and cumulative harm. All health practitioners and anyone prescribed by regulations has a duty to report if they have reasonable grounds to believe that a child:

  • Has suffered or is likely to suffer exploitation or harm;
  • Is younger than 14 and is likely to be the victim of a sexual offence;
  • Is younger than 14 and is likely to be sexually active (even if the child’s parents are aware of the situation);
  • Is older than 16, in a special care relationship, and is likely to be the victim of a Criminal Code Act offence;
  • Is exposed to domestic and family violence;
  • Is likely to be the victim of a criminal or sexual offence, including sexual misconduct perpetrated by a co-worker.

Health practitioners are also obligated to report if they believe that a child aged between 14 and 16 is likely to be the victim of a sexual offence where the offender is two years older or younger than the victim.

Mandatory reporting in the Northern Territory

Mandatory reporting was first introduced in the Northern Territory in 1984 with the Community Welfare Act 1983(NT). Since then, mandatory reporting regulations have evolved to apply to the general public. Today, in the Northern Territory, it is an offence under the Care and Protection of Children Act 2007(NT) for any adult to fail to report their belief that a child is a victim of abuse. This reporting duty arises if someone suspects that a child is the victim of a sexual offence, has suffered harm or exploitation, or is likely to be victimised in this fashion. The punishment for failing to report is 200 penalty units

A report of suspected child abuse should include any knowledge and factual circumstances that gave rise to the suspicion of abuse. A reporter needs to provide, to the best of their ability, details about themselves, the child, the child’s parents and extended family. Additionally, the report should provide comprehensive information about what the reporter suspects happened to the child, when and where the incident occurred, who was present and who could potentially be responsible for the harm.

An adult may form a reasonable belief as to abuse because of a child’s disclosure, because of allegations from a third party (such as from another child), through observation of physical indicators of fear and injury, age-inappropriate behaviour (such as sexualised behaviour), delays in mental and emotional development, or chronic truancy. The Department of Territory Families, Housing and Communities (TFHC) investigates allegations of harm or exploitation by the child’s parent. Otherwise, the Northern Territory police investigate reports of child abuse by a non-parent.

Mandatory training in schools

School staff are often in a strong position to observe evidence of abuse or neglect. To ensure that school staff understand their obligations, principals in the Northern Territory must ensure that all workers who have direct contact with students undertake mandatory reporting training at the beginning of each semester. All new staff must complete training within a week of starting work at the school. 

It is important to note that mandatory reporting in the Northern Territory goes beyond making every adult responsible for looking after the welfare of every child. In the Northern Territory, all adults also have a duty to report incidents of domestic, sexual and family violence to the police, whether or not a child is involved. These mandatory reporting duties are regulated by the Domestic and Family Violence Act 2007 (NT) and the NT Domestic, Family and Sexual Violence Reduction Framework 2018-28. There are additional mandatory reporting expectations under the Aged Care Act 1997 (Cth) when someone suspects elder abuse.

Protection for reporters

In the Northern Territory, all reports of child abuse are confidential. The reporter’s identity is never disclosed, even in court documents (except where the court orders otherwise). Under the Care and Protection of Children Act, a reporter is also protected from civil and criminal liability if they make a report in good faith.

When someone is unsure about their mandatory reporting obligations in the Northern Territory, it is best to seek legal advice. Please contact Go To Court Lawyers today on 1300 636 846 for advice on your specific circumstances.

Nicola Bowes

Solicitor

Dr Nicola Bowes holds a Bachelor of Arts with first-class honours from the University of Tasmania, a Bachelor of Laws with first-class honours from the Queensland University of Technology, and a PhD from The University of Queensland. After a decade of working in higher education, Nicola joined Go To Court Lawyers in 2020.
Nicola Bowes

Nicola Bowes

Solicitor

Dr Nicola Bowes holds a Bachelor of Arts with first-class honours from the University of Tasmania, a Bachelor of Laws with first-class honours from the Queensland University of Technology, and a PhD from The University of Queensland. After a decade of working in higher education, Nicola joined Go To Court Lawyers in 2020.

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