Dear Friends and Colleagues,
In response to enquiries from the community of Spiritual Directors, a working party was drawn from AECSD members to explore and discuss Mandatory reporting and insurance issues. It undertook an ongoing process in which information was gathered and collated for consideration by the council. The council then requested further research and consulted with others both within and outside the Spiritual Direction community.
Given the current light focussed on cases of the historical abuse of children, and the ways in which this touches each of us, discernment of our own inner responses was also part of the process.
A decision was taken to present to our community a succinct collation of information which is current and factual, to the best of our knowledge.
We are pleased to be able to refer you to the information below Mandatory Reporting. Please note that this information relates only to current legislation. There may well be future changes made in federal legislation and therefore requirements in each state, coming out of current events.
We also ask that if you have any sourced information which addresses any points made in the guide we offer, or in these areas, please send to firstname.lastname@example.org
We thank all involved in the original working party, those who have advised them in various capacities, and the council for its support through the process.
On behalf of the AECSD Council,
Former President, AECSD
Mandatory, in this context, by definition refers to legal requirements/obligations. For spiritual directors, this falls within the parameters of two clauses of the Code of Ethics as formed by the Australian Ecumenical Council for Spiritual Direction, namely:
- j. v (Spiritual Directors act with responsibility towards their directees by…) Ensuring that both spiritual director and directee are aware of any legal requirements that may override confidentiality, including, but not limited to, provisions about child abuse, sexual assault of children or adults, elder abuse and physical harm to self or others;
- e. (Spiritual Directors act with responsibility towards society by…) Conforming to legislation requiring the disclosure of information to public authorities in cases of abuse, danger or crime.
- Legislation on mandatory reporting is federal, ie exists in all states, however, there are differences between the states particularly on the procedural aspects of implementing the legislation. Website: aifs.gov.au/cfa/pubs/factsheets/a141787 contains information relevant to each state
- The Northern Territory requires all adults to report knowledge or suspicion of abuse to minors. All other states have a list of professions which are required to act as mandatory reporters.
- Spiritual directors are currently not required by law to be mandated reporters (with the exception of the Northern Territory stipulation for all adults).
- Anybody who, in the course of paid or volunteer work has contact with children, or oversees others who work with children, will be considered a mandated reporter (spiritual director or not). When we work solely in the capacity of spiritual director, any training in mandatory reporting is only required if it is a prerequisite of the organisation for which you work.
- Sometimes the organisation asks people to complete the training in order to err on the side of surety in terms of satisfying the requirements of a comprehensive, group indemnity insurance policy.
- Police checks and mandatory reporting are not directly linked. One does not require a police check to be a mandated reporter, neither does anyone automatically become a mandated reporter by having a police check certificate.
The two are streams of organisational policy aimed at best practice in regard to the safety of children.
- Again, there is no one national policy for obtaining police clearance, including working with children certificates/cards – each state has its own procedures, and, if required to have a clearance, it must be the one applicable to the jurisdiction in which one is working.
- Often the umbrella organisation within which one practises will have a designated police check category and procedure.
- The requirements of law override the requirements of confidentiality held for the content of spiritual direction sessions.