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Child Protection Law Changes

New South Wales

On 1 March 2020, the Children’s Guardian Act 2019 (NSW) commenced. The Act expands the functions of the Children’s Guardian to include the reportable conduct scheme (previously the responsibility of the NSW Ombudsman) and extends it to include the religious and faith-based sector not currently captured under the existing scheme.

Now, when a school principal becomes aware of a reportable allegation or a reportable conviction, the principal must notify the Office of the Children’s Guardian within seven business days and conduct an investigation into the allegations. If the final entity report is not ready to submit within 30 calendar days, the principal must provide an interim report with information about the progress of the investigation and an expected timeframe for completion. From 1 June 2020, penalties may apply for non-compliance with these requirements.

The definition of reportable conduct has been significantly expanded and there is now greater clarity helped by the use of examples. In particular, the meaning of “sexual misconduct” has been clarified.

Apart from the need to get on top of the changes, schools should urgently review their child protection policies to take into account these changes. For assistance with your policy, please contact David Ford as we can provide an up-to-date child protection policy which complies with the new legislation.

Queensland

Numerous changes to the Civil Liability Act 2003 (Qld) took effect on 2 March 2020. The reforms introduced by this legislation are in response to the recommendations by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. In particular, the Act now includes a new Part dealing with the liability of institutions for child abuse. This Part includes these new obligations:

  • A school has a duty to take all reasonable steps to prevent the sexual abuse or serious physical abuse of a child by a person associated with the school while the child is under the care, supervision, control or authority of the school.
  • The school is taken to have breached this duty unless it proves that it took all reasonable steps to prevent the abuse.
  • A judgment against a school can be satisfied out of the funds of an associated trust; for example, a school foundation over which the school has control.
  • An apology made by or on behalf of a school to a student or former student who has been abused by a person associated with the school does not constitute an admission of fault or liability by the school in relation to the matter and is not relevant to the determination of fault or liability in relation to the matter.

At the same time, the Limitation of Actions Act 1974 (Qld) was amended to abolish the limitation period for commencing a civil action for damages for personal injury relating to serious child physical abuse and psychological abuse connected with child sexual abuse and serious child physical abuse.

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