In recent days there has been considerable community debate about the obligations of religious institutions, priests and ministers to report suspicions that a child or young person may be at risk of harm.
While current laws in South Australia do place mandatory reporting obligations on ministers of religion, they do not require a priest or other minister of religion to divulge information that they receive through a confession.
However, new laws come into effect in October 2018 which change these mandatory reporting requirements.
Under the new Children and Young People (Safety) Act 2017, ministers of religion will be subject to strict mandatory reporting requirements, which will include information communicated during a confession. These reporting requirements will also apply to others in the community, such as social workers, educators and police officers.
These changes aim to better protect children from potential harm, and align with the recommendations of the recent Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
The laws passed Parliament in July 2017, following consultation with the community and the child protection sector. The Act is being implemented in two phases - the first phase commenced on 26 February 2018 and the remaining sections of the Act will commence in October 2018.
The Act will underpin South Australia’s child protection system and improve safeguards for some of the state’s most vulnerable people.
More information about the Act can be found on the Department for Child Protection website.