Debate on WA’s controversial abuse bill

Stock image.
Stock image.

A CONTROVERSIAL bill that would force Western Australia’s religious leaders to report child sex abuse will be introduced to state parliament.

WA’s mandatory reporting laws currently require doctors, nurses, midwives, police, teachers and boarding supervisors to report child sex abuse.

Under an amendment to the law, which will be introduced as a bill on Thursday, religious leaders – including priests, ministers, imams, rabbis, pastors and Salvation Army officers – will be forced to do the same even if it breaks the rules of confession.

The state government says the changes will implement recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

Following a review of the Act, the bill will also implement 41 recommendations, including keeping indigenous children in their community and connected to their culture.

“One of the bill’s themes is the importance of long-term stability and family connections to children in state care when it is not safe for them to be reunified with their parents,” Child Protection Minister Simone McGurk said on Thursday.

“This includes building stronger connections to family, culture and country for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, who make up more than half of the children in out-of-home care in WA.”

Anyone convicted under WA’s mandatory reporting laws faces a maximum fine of $6000 and is likely to be banned from working with children.

Perth’s Catholic Archbishop Timothy Costelloe spoke against the proposal earlier this year, saying it risked “interfering with the free practice of the Catholic faith” and would be ineffective.