The Children and Community Services Amendment Bill 2021 was passed by the Western Australian Parliament on 14 October 2021 and on 19 October 2021 it received Royal Assent to become the Children and Community Services Amendment Act 2021.
Most of the new provisions will commence operation from 1 May 2022. The amendments will implement recommendations of the Final Report of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (Royal Commission) and the 2017 Statutory Review of the Children and Community Services Act 2004.
The amendments also include those recommended by the Legislative Council Standing Committee on Legislation, which inquired into the policy of the former Children and Community Services Amendment Bill 2019 before it lapsed when Parliament was prorogued on 7 December 2020.
The changes will strengthen the Children and Community Services Act 2004 to better protect WA’s children from harm as a result of abuse and neglect. They will also drive improved outcomes for children who are in the care of the Chief Executive Officer of the Department of Communities, with a particular focus on strengthening connection to family, culture and Country for Aboriginal children in care.
In line with Royal Commission recommendations 7.3 and 7.4, the changes will see reporting of child sexual abuse made mandatory for early childhood workers, ministers of religion, out-of-home care workers, registered psychologists, school counsellors and youth justice workers. Assessors appointed under section 125A of the Act and officers of the Department of Communities will also become mandatory reporters. The new mandatory reporting groups will be brought into operation in a staged way to make sure they receive the necessary training and support to fulfil their new reporting obligations. The first new reporter group to be introduced will be ministers of religion from 1 November 2022.