WA acts to force priests to report sex abuse

Stock image.
Stock image.

PRIESTS in Western Australia will be required to reveal knowledge of the sexual abuse of children, even if it’s gained through the confessional.

The WA Labor government will amend the Children and Community Services Act to introduce mandatory reporting of sexual abuse for all ministers of religion.

“Priests who believe child sex abuse is occurring should report it and they should be held accountable if they fail to do so,” Child Protection Minister Simone McGurk said on Thursday.

“All ministers of religion should be required to report child sexual abuse and be subject to the same laws that we require of other professionals with regards to disclosure of abuse.

“The community has a right to expect that our children are safe, especially within the institutions we trust to protect them.”

Mandatory reporting laws in WA already apply to doctors, teachers, nurses, midwives, police and school boarding supervisors.

Under the changes to be introduced in the second half of 2019, this will be extended to recognised leaders within faith communities who are authorised to conduct religious worship, services and ceremonies.

This includes priests, ministers, imams, rabbis, pastors and Salvation Army officers.

South Australia and the Northern Territory already require ministers of religion to report abuse and a similar proposal is currently before the Tasmanian parliament.

Ms McGurk said the changes would deliver an important recommendation of the Western Australian response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.