Child Abuse And Neglect: Mandatory Reporting and the Legal Profession

  • Vanessa Deverson
Keywords: mandatory reporting, child abuse, legal profession, duty of confidentiality


Child abuse and neglect affects approximately 42 500 children in Australia each year. Parliaments in all Australian states and territories have introduced mandatory reporting into child protection legislation to protect vulnerable children by requiring certain individuals to report suspicions of abuse or neglect. However, lawyers are prevented from reporting because of the rules governing legal professional privilege and confidentiality. This article begins by examining the problem of child abuse and neglect in Australia and outlines the current legislative framework of mandatory reporting laws in Part II. Part III discusses the current rules governing lawyers and examines legal professional privilege and the duty of confidentiality. Part IV provides arguments for and against requiring lawyers to report suspected abuse and also considers the lawyer-client relationship and the special position of domestic violence victims. Part V offers recommendations for the proposed legislative reform. This article concludes that lawyers should be required to report child abuse and neglect.