Australian child protection legislation

Content type
Resource sheet
Published

August 2022

Overview

This resource sheet provides a brief overview of child protection legislation across state and territory jurisdictions in Australia.

Child protection in Australia

Child protection is an area of public law where authorities may intervene in family settings because of an allegation of harm or significant risk of harm to a child (Titterton, 2017).

In Australia, there is some Commonwealth legislation that provides guidance on child protection; however, state and territory governments have responsibility for the administration and operation of child protection services. Each state and territory has its own Act of Parliament (often referred to as laws) that governs how child protection interventions work.

Across Australia, a set of key principles guide all child protection legislation and a national framework provides a shared agenda for change in the way Australia manages child protection issues.

This resource sheet outlines:

  • key principles guiding child protection legislation 
  • the National Framework for Protecting Australia's Children 2021–2031
  • Commonwealth, state and territory child protection legislation.

Note: For information on the state or territory agency responsible for child protection in each jurisdiction, see the CFCA resource sheet Reporting child abuse and neglect: Information for service providers.

Key principles guiding legislation

Each state and territory in Australia has its own child protection legislation, in addition to Commonwealth legislation. Key principles based on human rights conventions and frameworks underpin Australian legislation to ensure it is consistent and upholds children’s rights and interests.

Human rights

The principles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (United Nations, 1989) underpin all of Australia’s child protection legislation. The Commonwealth Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986 (Cth) (AHRC Act) provides guidance on how to uphold the principles in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (AHRC Act Part III Schedule 3).

The Australian Capital Territory, Queensland and Victoria have human rights Acts or charters that also guide their child protection legislation and services. Other jurisdictions do not have human rights Acts but seek to include the protection of human rights within their legislation. 

Child protection principles

The Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) is the key piece of Commonwealth legislation that sets out how child protection concerns raised in federal family law proceedings should be managed, including reporting obligations for family law court staff and mechanisms for courts to obtain information from child protection agencies. Child protection legislation in each state and territory differs according to local needs (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare [AIHW], 2021; Wise, 2017). However, legislation across the Commonwealth, states and territories has similar guiding principles. These principles include:

  1. best interest of the child
  2. early intervention and support for families
  3. culturally appropriate care and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principles
  4. participation of children and young people in decision-making processes. 

An overview of these guiding principles in state and territory legislation is outlined below.

1. Best interest of the child

Legislation in all jurisdictions identifies the best interests of the child as the ‘paramount’ principle in decision-making processes. Each jurisdiction has policy provisions to guide decision making in line with this principle.

For example, section 5A of the Child Protection Act 1999 (Qld) outlines the best interests of the child as the main principle for administering the Act. As a result, conflicts between a child’s best interests and the interests of an adult caring for the child are to be ‘resolved in favour of the child’s safety, wellbeing and best interests’ (section 5A).

2. Early intervention and support for families

While all jurisdictions identify the use of early support or intervention services to prevent entry or re-entry into the statutory system, the delivery of these services varies. Each jurisdiction determines how much non-government service providers are involved in, or responsible for, the delivery of services and their funding.

For example, the Children and Young People (Safety) Act 2017 (SA) states early intervention is a priority where children and young people may be at risk (section 9). This Act also specifies that decisions and actions should be ‘made as early as possible in the case of young children in order to promote permanence and stability’ (section 10(1)(a)).

3. Culturally appropriate care and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principle

Each jurisdiction has general provisions for maintaining a child’s sense of cultural identity and community connectedness for Indigenous and non-Indigenous children. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children have a right to grow up with a communal sense of belonging, a stable sense of identity, to know where they are from and to know their place in relation to family, mob, community, land and culture. These rights are recognised within the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. 

There are specific provisions for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, young people and their families within child protection legislation, policy and practice that recognise these rights. These provisions are the result of decades of advocacy by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Community-Controlled Organisations (ACCOs) and others to address the disproportionate rate at which Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were being adopted or placed in the care of non-Indigenous carers. This led to the development of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principle (ATSICPP) (SNAICC, 2018). The ATSICPP contains five core elements: prevention, partnership, placement, participation and connection. All five elements should be implemented together to ensure that practice, policy and legislation:

  • recognise the importance of connections to family, community, culture and country when considering Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children’s safety and wellbeing 
  • protect the rights of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, family members and communities, including prioritising support for and placement decisions that include families, communities and Aboriginal community-controlled organisations 
  • increase the level of self-determination of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people when discussing child protection and wellbeing 
  • reduce the overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in child protection services (SNAICC, 2018).

All states and territories have implemented the ATSICPP either through legislation, policy or in regulation. For example, in Victoria, Part 1.2 Division 4 of the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 (Vic.) section 13 outlines that the ATSICPP must inform decision making regarding Aboriginal children. In particular, section 18 allows the Secretary of the responsible department to authorise an approved ACCO to perform specified functions and powers in relation to a Children’s Court protection order for an Aboriginal child or young person (DHHS, 2018; Liddle et al., 2021). This means that the ACCO will take on all decision making and responsibility for the child’s case management and case plan (DHHS, 2018; Liddle et al., 2021).

SNAICC conduct comprehensive annual reviews of how each state and territory is implementing the ATSCIPP. The reports identify areas for improvement for each jurisdiction and provide guidance on gaps in implementation.

Family Matters, a national campaign to ensure Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people grow up safe and cared for in family, community and culture, release annual reports that highlight trends in child protection policy and practice (Liddle,et al., 2021: p. 5). The most recent Family Matters Report 2021 shows that while state and territory governments have made progress, implementation of the ATSCIPP is still limited (Liddle et al., 2021). Legislative changes have also not yet reduced the significant overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and families in child protection systems. The rate of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children removed from their families remains 10 times higher than for non-Indigenous children (Liddle et al., 2021).

4. Participation of children and young people in decision-making processes

Legislation in all Australian jurisdictions supports involving children and young people in decision making (to the extent that their age and maturity allows). This includes consulting with and seeking the views of children on issues affecting their lives where appropriate. 

For example, where decisions are made in relation to a child under the Children, Young Persons and Their Families Act 1997 (Tas.), the child should be provided with ‘adequate information and explanation about the decision’ (section 10F). In addition, the child’s views should be taken into account, ‘having regard to the child’s maturity and understanding’ (section 10F) and courts ‘must allow the child a reasonable opportunity to give his/her own views personally’ during proceedings (section 56). However, this right to participation is limited where the child is considered incapable of expressing their views (section 56) and a child is not required to express their views (section 58).

Safe and Supported: The National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2021–2031

Although state and territory governments are largely responsible for child protection, the National Framework sets out key priorities for managing child protection issues in Australia across jurisdictions. It aims to encourage consistent legislation and practice and sets benchmarks for assessing progress (COAG, 2021).

The Australian Government, through the Department of Social Services, has been working closely with state and territory governments, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander leaders and the non-government sector to develop and agree on a successor plan to the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2009-2020. The second national plan, Safe and Supported: the National Framework was launched in December 2021 and its first two five-year Action Plans are expected to be finalised in 2022. For the first time, there will be an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Action Plan developed in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representatives alongside the general Action Plan.

Safe and Supported: The National Framework is for all Australian children, young people and families, with a targeted focus on groups that are experiencing disadvantage or are vulnerable to abuse and neglect. Key to its success will be listening to the voices and views of children and young people and those who care for them. 

The four priority groups under the National Framework are:

  1. children and families with multiple and complex needs
  2. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people experiencing disadvantage or who are vulnerable
  3. children and young people and/or parents/carers with disability experiencing disadvantage or who are vulnerable
  4. children and young people who have experienced abuse and/or neglect, including children in out-of-home care and young people leaving out-of-home care and transitioning to adulthood.

The four focus areas under the National Framework are:

  1. a national approach to early intervention and targeted support for children and families experiencing vulnerability or disadvantage
  2. addressing the overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in child protection systems
  3. improving information sharing, data development and analysis
  4. strengthening the child and family sector and workforce capability.

(COAG, 2021)

Commonwealth, state and territory child protection legislation

This section outlines the key Commonwealth, state and territory legislation, including regulations, for child protection and other areas of legislation that overlap with child protection issues.

Areas of legislation

Areas of legislation

Principal relevant Act to child protectionThe main legislation that covers child protection issues and services in each state or territory. 
Human rights, including children’s rightsLegislation on protecting and upholding human rights, including the rights of children.
Police powers and responsibilitiesLegislation on police powers and responsibilities relates to child protection in matters including sexual abuse, female genital mutilation of girls and young women, and the abduction of a child. It specifies the extent of police powers under separate Acts related to child protection, particularly with child abuse and neglect. Key legislation with provisions around child-related criminal offences is also included.
Youth justiceLegislation on youth justice guides criminal justice proceedings for children and young people. Most states and territories have dedicated youth justice Acts, except for the Australian Capital Territory, which has made provisions for youth justice matters in the Children and Young People Act 2008 (ACT).
Registration and reporting of child sexual abuse offendersLegislation about sexual abuse offender registration and reporting requires certain individuals who have committed sexual offences to notify police of their personal details, such as home address and employment. This is to prevent registrable offenders from causing harm or risk of harm to children. 
Working with children checkLegislation on working with children ensures that adults who work with, or care for, children are subject to screening processes to protect children from physical and sexual harms. All states and territories have made legal provisions for adults working with children. See the CFCA resource on Pre-employment Screening: Working With Children Checks and Police Checks for more.
Family services and child care servicesLegislation on family services and child care services includes provisions for the licensing of, and placement of children in, out-of-home care facilities and support services for children. 
Family and domestic violence/Restraining ordersAll states and territories have legislation on child protection matters within family and domestic violence legislation. Family and domestic violence legislation affects children, as they are often included on applications for Family Violence Protection Orders or Restraining Orders, which can be made on behalf of a parent and/or a child.
Protection of Australian children in international contexts (including intercountry adoption)Most states and territories rely on Commonwealth regulations on child protection in international contexts and intercountry adoption.
Adoption and guardianshipAll states and territories have dedicated legislation about adoption. All states and territories have made legal provisions to allow for the adoption of children by same-sex couples.
Commissioners, guardians and advocatesChildren’s commissioners, guardians and advocates generally advocate for children’s rights and protect their interests and wellbeing. State- and territory-appointed commissioners also review laws and policies that affect children, working to protect children from harm or risk of harm within an independent statutory body. 
Child employment and related servicesAll states and territories have legislative provisions to restrict the conditions and types or work a child can undertake. New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria have dedicated child employment laws, other states and territories include provisions for child employment within relevant child-related legislation. 
Commonwealth

Commonwealth

Principal relevant Act to child protection
  • Family Law Act 1975 (Cth)
    • Family Law Regulations 1984
Human rights, including children’s rights
  • Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986 (Cth)

This Act contains the functions of the Human Rights Commission relating to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (Part III Schedule 3). The Convention can be accessed online. This Act also establishes and outlines the role of the National Children’s Commissioner in promoting awareness, respect and the exercise of children’s human rights in Australia (Part IIAA).

Protection of Australian children in international contexts (including intercountry adoption)

Most states and territories rely on Commonwealth regulations on child protection in international contexts and intercountry adoption. However, New South Wales, Queensland and Tasmania have developed their own dedicated legislation on child protection in international contexts. 
The below table lists various regulations made under the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) that provide processes for the implementation of Hague Conventions related to child protection in international contexts.

Regulations

Related Hague Convention

Family Law (Child Abduction Convention) Regulations 1986 (Cth)Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction 
Family Law (Child Protection Convention) Regulations 2003 (Cth)Hague Convention on Jurisdiction, Applicable Law, Recognition, Enforcement and Co-operation in Respect of Parental Responsibility and Measures for the Protection of Children. Note: the Child Protection Convention can be found in Schedule 1 of the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth)

Family Law (Bilateral Arrangements—Intercountry Adoption) Regulations 1998 (Cth)

These regulations apply to the adoption of a child in Taiwan, the Republic of Korea, and the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia.

Intercountry adoption with other countries is based around bilateral agreements between Australia and each overseas jurisdiction.

Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Co-Operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption
Australian Capital Territory

Australian Capital Territory

Principal relevant Act to child protection
  • Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998 (NSW)
    • Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Regulation 2012
Human rights, including children’s rights
  • Human Rights Act 2004 (ACT)
  • Human Rights Commission Act 2005 (ACT)
Police powers and responsibilities

Acts about police powers and responsibilities do not specify provisions for child protection. However, reports regarding child abuse and neglect can be made to the police.

Under Part 11.1 of the Children and Young People Act 2008 (ACT), police officers are also mandated to report any concerns regarding child abuse or suspected neglect to the Child and Youth Protection Services (CYPS).

The Criminal Code 2002 (ACT) includes provisions around drug offences involving children (s 622) and publishing identifying information about children’s proceedings (s 712A).

Youth justice

Provisions for youth justice can be found in the Children and Young People Act 2008 (ACT):

  • Chapter 4: Children and Young People and Criminal Matters – General
  • Chapter 5: Criminal Matters – Transfers
  • Chapter 6: Criminal Matters – Detention Place
  • Chapter 7: Criminal Matters – Search and Seizure at Detention Places
  • Chapter 8: Criminal Matters – Discipline at Detention Places
Registration and reporting of child sexual abuse offenders
  • Crimes (Child Sex Offenders) Act 2005 (ACT)
    • Crimes (Child Sex Offenders) Regulation 2005
  • Ombudsman Act 1989 (ACT) outlines the responsibilities of the Ombusdman to monitor compliance with the Crimes (Child Sex Offenders) Act 2005 (ACT)
Working with children check
  • Working with Vulnerable People (Background Checking) Act 2011 (ACT)
    • Working with Vulnerable People (Background Checking) Regulation 2012
Family services and child care services
  • Children and Young People Act 2008 (ACT) has made provisions for out-of-home care in Chapter 15 (Care and protection – Director-General has aspect of parental responsibility).
    • Children and Young People (ACT Childcare Services) Standards 2009 (No 1) 
    • Children and Young People (ACT Out of Home Care) Standards 2016 (No 1)
    • Children and Young People (Care and Protection Organisation) Standards 2018 (No 1)
Family and domestic violence/Restraining orders
  • Family Violence Act 2016 (ACT)
    • Family Violence Regulation 2017 
Protection of Australian children in international contexts (including intercountry adoption)See under Commonwealth
Adoption and guardianship
  • Adoption Act 1993 (ACT)
    • Adoption Regulation 1993
Commissioners, guardians and advocatesThe Commissioner for Children and Young People is informed by several pieces of ACT legislation, including the Human Rights Commission Act 2005 (ACT).
Child employment and related services
  • Children and Young People Act 2008 (ACT)
    • Children and Young People (Employment) Standards 2011 (No 1)
    • Children and Young People Regulation 2009
New South Wales

New South Wales

Principal relevant Act to child protection
  • Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998 (NSW)
    • Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Regulation 2012
Human rights, including children’s rights
  • Anti-Discrimination Act 1977 (NSW)
  • Children (Criminal Proceedings) Act 1987 (NSW)
Police powers and responsibilities

Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Act 2002 (NSW) relates to child protection in the following sections: 

  • s 47(1): Police may apply for search warrants if they believe on reasonable grounds that there is a ‘searchable offence’ at the premises. A ‘searchable offence’ includes child abuse material offences (s 46A(1)(a)(iv)), which are listed in the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) (Division 15A, 578C). 
  • s 47(2): Police may also apply for a search warrant if they believe on reasonable grounds that a ‘child prostitution offence’ has recently been committed or will be committed within 72 hours at the premises. ‘Child prostitution offences’ are listed in Division 15 of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW).
  • s 136: specifies identification particulars of children under 14 years of age who are in lawful custody for an offence.
    • Law Enforcement (Powers and Responsibilities) Regulation 2016 – Part 3 Division 3 outlines procedures to be followed when investigating and questioning ‘vulnerable persons’ (which includes children (s 28(1)(a)).

Crimes Act 1990 No.40 (NSW) includes provisions around child-related criminal offences: 

  • s 42 and s 43: Acts causing danger to life or bodily harm including failure of persons with parental responsibility to care for a child (s 43A) and failure to reduce or remove the risk of a child falling victim to child abuse (s 43B)
  • Part 3, Division 10, Subdivisions 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9: include provisions around sexual offences against children and referrals to a child protection agency
  • Part 3, Division 10, Subdivision 15: includes provisions around referrals to a child protection agency
  • Part 3, Division 14: includes provisions around child abduction 
  • Part 3, Division 15: includes provisions around child prostitution and child abuse materials (Division 15A)
  • s 93AC: includes provisions around child forced marriage 
  • s 316A: includes provisions around concealing a child abuse offence.
Youth justice
  • Young Offenders Act 1997 (NSW)
    • Young Offenders Regulation 2016 
Registration and reporting of child sexual abuse offenders
  • Child Protection (Offenders Registration) Act 2000 (NSW)
    • Child Protection (Offenders Registration) Regulation 2015
  • Child Protection (Offenders Prohibition Orders) Act 2004 (NSW)
    • Child Protection (Offenders Prohibition Orders) Regulation 2018
Working with children check
  • Child Protection (Working with Children) Act 2012 (NSW)
    • Child Protection (Working with Children) Regulation 2013
Family services and child care services
  • Provisions are included in the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998 (NSW) in s 8
    • Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Regulation 2012
    • Children and Young Persons (Savings and Transitional) Regulation 2000
Family and domestic violence/Restraining orders
  • Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Act 2007 (NSW)
    • Crimes (Domestic and Personal Violence) Regulation 2019 
Protection of Australian children in international contexts (including intercountry adoption)
  • Child Protection (International Measures) Act 2006 (NSW)
Adoption and guardianship
  • Adoption Act 2000 (NSW)
    • Adoption Regulation 2015
Commissioners, guardians and advocates
  • Advocate for Children and Young People Act 2014 (NSW)
  • Children's Guardian Act 2019 (NSW)
    • Children’s Guardian (Transitional) Regulation 2020
  • Ombudsman Act 1974 (NSW)
Child employment and related services
  • Industrial Relations (Child Employment) Act 2006 (NSW)
    • Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) (Child Employment) Regulation 2015
Northern Territory

Northern Territory

Principal relevant Act to child protection
  • Care and Protection of Children Act 2007 (NT)
    • Care and Protection of Children (Placement Arrangement) Regulations 2010
Human rights, including children’s rights
  • Anti-Discrimination Act 1992 (NT) 
Police powers and responsibilities

Care and Protection of Children Act 2007 (NT):

  • Part 2.1, Division 3, s 28: includes provisions around what happens when a police officer receives a report
  • Part 2.1, Division 4, s 33 and s 36: include provisions around police powers to inquire or investigate concerns about a child’s wellbeing.

Criminal Code Act 1983 (NT) includes provisions around child-related criminal offences:

  • Part V, Division 2, Subdivision 1: Child abuse material and indecent articles
  • s 127: Sexual intercourse or gross indecency involving a child under 16 years
  • s 128: Sexual intercourse or gross indecency involving a child over 16 years under special care
  • s 131: Attempts to procure a child under 16 years
  • s 131A: Sexual relationship with a child
  • s 132: Indecent dealing with a child under 16 years
  • s 148F: Recruiting a child to engage in criminal activity
  • s 149: Duty of person in charge of child or others
  • s 184: Endangering the life of a child by exposure
  • Division 4A (ss 186A–D): Female genital mutilation
  • s 201: Abduction, enticement, or detention of a child under 16 years for immoral purpose
  • s 202: Abduction of a child under 16 years
  • s 202D: Deceptive recruitment of a child for sexual services
Youth justice
  • Youth Justice Act 2005 (NT)
  • Youth Justice Regulations 2006
  • Criminal Code Act 1983 (NT) Part IIAA, Division 3, Subdivision 1: Lack of capacity of children 
Registration and reporting of child sexual abuse offenders
  • Child Protection (Offender Reporting and Registration) Act 2004 (NT)
    • Child Protection (Offender Reporting and Registration) Regulations 2005
Working with children check
  • Provisions under the Care and Protection of Children Act 2007 (NT) Part 3.1: screening for child-related employment
    • Care and Protection of Children (Screening) Regulations 2010
Family services and child care services
  • Care and Protection of Children Act 2007 (NT)
    • Care and Protection of Children (Placement Arrangement) Regulations 2010
Family and domestic violence/Restraining orders
  • Domestic and Family Violence Act 2007 (NT)
    • Domestic and Family Violence Regulations 2008
  • Personal Violence Restraining Orders Act 2016 (NT) 
Protection of Australian children in international contexts (including intercountry adoption)See under Commonwealth
Adoption and guardianship
  • Adoption of Children Act 1994 (NT) 
    • Adoption of Children Regulations 1994
Commissioners, guardians and advocates
  • Children’s Commissioner Act 2013 (NT)
  • Information Act 2002 (NT) s 155: Applications and complaints on behalf of children
  • Care and Protection of Act 2007 (NT)
    • Care and Protection of Children (Mediation Conferences) Regulations 2010 (NT) 
Child employment and related services

Care and Protection of Children Act 2007 (NT) includes two parts pertaining to child employment:

  • Part 3.1: Screening for child-related employment 
  • Part 3.2: Employment of children
Queensland

Queensland

Principal relevant Act to child protection
  • Child Protection Act 1999 (Qld)
    • Child Protection Regulation 2011
Human rights, including children’s rightsHuman Rights Act 2019 (Qld) 
Police powers and responsibilities

Police Powers and Responsibilities Act 2000 (Qld) relates to child protection in the following sections:

  • s 21A: provides police officers with power to enter premises to verify a reportable offender’s personal details as reported under the Child Protection (Offender Reporting) Act 2004 (Qld)
  • s 488A: provides DNA samplers with power to take a DNA sample from a reportable offender as required under the Child Protection (Offender Reporting) Act 2004 (Qld)
  • Chapter 13 disclosure of information provisions apply to offences against s 50(1) and s 51(1) of the Child Protection (Offender Reporting and Offender Prohibition Order) Act 2004 (Qld) and s 278 and s 279(1) of the Youth Justice Act 1992 (Qld) (Schedule 3; s 351).

Criminal Code Act 1899 (Qld) includes provisions around child-related criminal offences:

  • Part 4, Chapter 22: includes provisions around child abuse offences, including child sexual abuse, child exploitation and failure to protect from child sexual offences
  • s 286: Duty of persons who has care of child
  • s 323B: Removal of child from State for female genital mutilation
  • s 326: Endangering life of children by exposure
  • Part 5, Chapter 34: includes provisions around parental rights and duties to children
Youth justice
  • Youth Justice Act 1992 (Qld)
    • Youth Justice Regulation 2016
Registration and reporting of child sexual abuse offenders
  • Child Protection (Offender Reporting and Offender Prohibition Order) Act 2004 (Qld)
    • Child Protection (Offender Reporting and Offender Prohibition Order) Regulation 2015
Working with children check
  • Working with Children (Risk Management and Screening) Act 2000 (Qld)
    • Working with Children (Risk Management and Screening) Regulation 2020
Family services and child care services

Child Protection Act 1999 (Qld)

  • s 122: the chief executive must take reasonable steps to ensure children placed in care are cared for in a way that meets the ‘statement of standards’ listed in this section
  • Part 6: obligations and rights under child protection orders and care arrangements, especially Division 4 (‘placing child in care’)
    • Child Protection Regulation 2011
  • Disability Services Act 2006 (Qld) – in particular, ss 67, 138ZG, 138ZN, 297 and 367
  • Public Health Act 2005 (Qld) – in particular, Chapters 5 (‘child health’) and 5A (‘Performance of cosmetic procedures on children’)
    • Public Health Regulation 2018
    • Public Health (Further Extension of Declared Public Health Emergency – COVID-19) Regulation (No. 4) (2021)  
       
Family and domestic violence/Restraining orders
  • Domestic and Family Violence Protection Act 2012 (Qld)
    • Domestic and Family Violence Protection Regulation 2012*
    • Domestic and Family Violence Protection (COVID-19 Emergency Response) Regulation 2020 
Protection of Australian children in international contexts (including intercountry adoption)
  • Child Protection (International Measures) Act 2003 (Qld)
Adoption and guardianship
  • Adoption Act 2009 (Qld)
    • Adoption Regulation 2020
  • Child Protection Act 1999 (Qld) Part 6: obligations and rights under child protection orders and care agreements 
     
Commissioners, guardians and advocates
  • Public Guardian Act 2014 (Qld) – in particular, ss 7 and 13 and Chapters 4 and 6
  • Guardianship and Administration Act 2000 (Qld)
  • Family and Child Commission Act 2014 (Qld)
  • Family Responsibilities Commission Act 2008 (Qld)
    • Family Responsibilities Commission (COVID-19 Emergency Response) Regulation 2020
  • Director of Child Protection Litigation Act 2016 (Qld)
  • Ombudsman Act 2001 (Qld)
Child employment and related services
  • Child Employment Act 2006 (Qld)
    • Child Employment Regulation 2016  
       

*This legislation expires on 1 September 2023.

South Australia

South Australia

Principal relevant Act to child protection
  • Children and Young People (Safety) Act 2017 (SA)
    • Children and Young People (Safety) Regulations 2017
Human rights, including children’s rights
  • Equal Opportunity Act 1984 (SA) 
  • Disability Inclusion Act 2018 (SA) 
Police powers and responsibilities

Acts about police powers and responsibilities do not specify provisions for child protection. However, the Children and Young People (Safety) Act 2017 (SA) deals with the following:

  • Chapter 5, Part 1: reporting of suspicion that child or young people at risk. Note: police officers have mandatory reporting obligations (ss 30(3)(b), 31).
  • Chapter 5, Part 3: The removal of children or young people by child protection officers. Note: police officers are considered ‘child protection officers’ under the Act (s 147).

Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1935 (SA) includes provisions around child-related criminal offences:

  • s 33B: Removal of a child from State for genital mutilation
  • Part 3, Division 8A: Child marriage
  • Part 3, Division 9: Kidnapping and unlawful child removal
  • s 50: Unlawful sexual relationship with a child
  • Part 3, Division 11A: Child exploitation material and related offences
  • s. 68: Use of children in commercial sexual services
  • Part 3, Division 16: Abduction of children
  • Part 5, Division 5A: Dishonest communication with children
Youth justice
  • Young Offenders Act 1993 (SA)
    • Young Offenders Regulations 2008*
  • Youth Justice Administration Act 2016 (SA)
    • Youth Justice Administration Regulations 2016
Registration and reporting of child sexual abuse offenders
  • Child Sex Offenders Registration Act 2006 (SA)
    • Child Sex Offenders Registration Regulations 2007*
Working with children check
  • Child Safety (Prohibited Persons) Act 2016 (SA)
    • Child Safety (Prohibited Persons) Regulations 2019
  • Children and Young People (Safety) Act 2017 (SA)
    • Children and Young People (Safety) Regulations 2017
Family services and child care services
  • Family and Community Services Act 1972 (SA)
    • Family and Community Services Regulations 2009*
  • Children and Young People (Safety) Act 2017 (SA), including provisions around mandatory reporting obligations for teachers, employees and volunteers in child care services (ss 30(3)(g)–(h), 31), and Chapter 8 (‘providing safe environments for children and young people’).
    • Children and Young People (Safety) Regulations 2017
  • Education and Children's Services Act 2019 (SA)
    • Education and Children’s Services Regulations 2020 
Family and domestic violence/Restraining orders
  • Intervention Orders (Prevention of Abuse) Act 2009 (SA)
    • Intervention Orders (Prevention of Abuse) Regulations 2011*
Protection of Australian children in international contexts (including intercountry adoption)See under Commonwealth
Adoption and guardianship
  • Adoption Act 1988 (SA)
    • Adoption (General) Regulations 2018
  • Children and Young People (Safety) Act 2017 (SA) – in particular, Chapter 5, Parts 3–4 and Chapter 7
Commissioners, guardians and advocates
  • Children and Young People (Oversight and Advocacy Bodies) Act 2016 (SA)
    • Children and Young People (Oversight and Advocacy Bodies) Regulations 2017
  • Child Protection Review (Powers and Immunities) Act 2002 (SA)
  • Health and Community Services Complaints Act 2004 (SA) s 28A: child protection complaints are to be dealt with under the Ombudsman Act 1972 (SA) 
Child employment and related services
  • Education and Children's Services Act 2019 (SA) s 74: employment of children of compulsory school age or compulsory education age 

*This legislation expires on 1 September 2022.

Tasmania

Tasmania

Principal relevant Act to child protection
  • Children, Young Persons and their Families Act 1997 (Tas.)
Human rights, including children’s rights
  • Anti-Discrimination Act 1998 (Tas.) 
Police powers and responsibilities
  • Police Offences Act 1935 (Tas.) s. 7A specifies offences related to loitering around children

Criminal Code Act 1924 (Tas.) includes provisions around child-related criminal offences:

  • s 105A: failing to report the abuse of a child
  • Chapter XIV: includes provisions around sexual crimes against children, and offences related to child exploitation material
  • s 178: ill-treatment of children
  • s 178B: removal of child from State with intention of having female genital mutilation performed on that child
  • Chapter XX: Rape, abduction, stalking and bullying
  • ss 336 and 337B: child sexual abuse
  • s 337C: involving person under 18 in production of child exploitation material

Other offences related to children can be found in the Children, Young Persons and Their Families Act 1997 (Tas.) Part 10, Division 1.

Youth justice
  • Youth Justice Act 1997 (Tas.)
    • Youth Justice Regulations 2019  
       
Registration and reporting of child sexual abuse offenders
  • Community Protection (Offender Reporting) Act 2005 (Tas.)
    • Community Protection (Offender Reporting) Regulations 2016
Working with children check
  • Registration to Work with Vulnerable People Act 2013 (Tas.)
    • Registration to Work with Vulnerable People Regulations 2014
Family services and child care services
  • Children, Young Persons and their Families Act 1997 (Tas.)
  • Child Care Act 2001 (Tas.)
Family and domestic violence/Restraining orders
  • Family Violence Act 2004 (Tas.) 
  • Domestic Violence Orders (National Recognition) Act 2016 (Tas.)
  • Criminal Code Act 1924 (Tas.) s 337A: persistent family violence
Protection of Australian children in international contexts (including intercountry adoption)
  •  Child Protection (International Measures) Act 2003 (Tas.)
Adoption and guardianship
  • Adoption Act 1988 (Tas.)
    • Adoption Regulations 2016
Commissioners, guardians and advocates 
  • Commissioner for Children and Young People Act 2016 (Tas.)
Child employment and related services
  • Children, Young Persons and their Families Act 1997 (Tas.) includes provisions for child labour in s. 93 (‘public entertainment by children’) and s. 94 (‘trading by children in public places’)
Victoria

Victoria

Principal relevant Act to child protection
  • Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 (Vic.)
    • Children, Youth and Families Regulations 2017
Human rights, including children’s rights
  • Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 (Vic.)
    • Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities (Public Authorities) Regulations 2013
    • Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities (General) Regulations 2017
  • Equal Opportunity Act 2010 (Vic.)
Police powers and responsibilities

Victoria Police Act 2013 (Vic.) does not specify provisions related to child protection. However, reports regarding child abuse and neglect can be made to Police Sexual Offences and Child Abuse Investigation Teams (SOCIT).

  • Police have mandatory reporting obligations under sections 182(1)(e) and 184 of the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 (Vic.)

Crimes Act 1958 (Vic.) includes provisions around child-related criminal offences:

  • s 5A: Child homicide
  • Part 1 Division 1 (8B): Sexual offences against children
  • Part 1 Division 1 (8D): Child abuse material
  • Part 1 Division 1 (9): Child stealing
  • Part 1, Division 11A: Recruiting a child to engage in criminal activity
Youth justice
  • Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 (Vic.) Chapter 5: Children and the criminal law
Registration and reporting of child sexual abuse offenders
  • Sex Offenders Registration Act 2004 (Vic.)
    • Sex Offenders Registration Regulations 2014
Working with children check
  • Worker Screening Act 2020 (Vic.)
    • Worker Screening Regulations 2021
Family services and child care services
  • Provisions are included in the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 (Vic.): 
    • Part 3.4: Out of Home Carers
    • Part 3.5: Child Care Agreements
    • Part 3.6: Restrictions on Long-Term Care of Children
    • Part 3.7: Management of Children in Out of Home Care
  • Child Wellbeing and Safety Act 2005 (Vic.)
    • Child Wellbeing and Safety Regulations 2017
    • Child Wellbeing and Safety (Information Sharing) Regulations 2018
    • Child Wellbeing and Safety (Child Link) Regulations 2019
  • Children's Services Act 1996 (Vic.)
    • Children's Services Regulations 2020 
Family and domestic violence/Restraining orders
  • Family Violence Protection Act 2008 (Vic.)
    • Family Violence Protection Regulations 2018
    • Family Violence Protection (Information Sharing and Risk Management) Regulations 2018
  • Prevention of Family Violence Act 2018 (Vic.)
  • Personal Safety Intervention Orders Act 2010 (Vic.)
    • Personal Safety Intervention Orders Regulations 2021 
  • National Domestic Violence Order Scheme Act 2016 (Vic.)
    • National Domestic Violence Order Scheme Regulations 2017
Protection of Australian children in international contexts (including intercountry adoption)See under Commonwealth
Adoption and guardianship 
  • Adoption Act 1984 (Vic.)
    • Adoption Regulations 2019
Commissioners, guardians and advocates
  • Commission for Children and Young People Act 2012 (Vic.)
Child employment and related services
  • Child Employment Act 2003 (Vic.)
    • Child Employment Regulations 2014
Western Australia

Western Australia

Principal relevant Act to child protection
  • Children and Community Services Act 2004 (WA)
    • Children and Community Services Regulations 2006
Human rights, including children’s rights
  • Equal Opportunity Act 1984 (WA)
    • Equal Opportunity Regulations 1986
Police powers and responsibilities

The Police Act 1892 (WA) does not specify any provisions related to child protection. However, reports regarding child abuse and neglect can be made to police child abuse squad.

Other child protection provisions relating to police powers and responsibilities include:

  • Police have a mandatory duty to report sexual abuse of children under s. 124B(1) of the Children and Community Services Act 2004 (WA)

Criminal Code Act Compilation Act 1913 (WA) includes provisions around child-related criminal offences:

  • Part IV, Chapter XXII: includes provisions around sexual offences with children outside of WA, and offences related to exposing children to offensive material or indecent matter
  • Chapter XXV: Child exploitation material
  • Chapter XXXI: includes sexual offences against children
  • Chapter XXXIV: Offences relating to parental rights and duties
  • s 55K: includes child sex offenders

Other child offences are included in the Children and Community Services Act 2004 (WA) Division 1, subdivision 1

Youth justice 
  • Young Offenders Act 1994 (WA)
    • Young Offenders Regulations 1995
    • Young Offenders (Custodial Officers Drug and Alcohol Testing) Regulations 2016
Registration and reporting of child sexual abuse offenders
  • Community Protection (Offender Reporting) Act 2004 (WA)
    • Community Protection (Offender Reporting) Regulations 2004
Working with children check
  • Working with Children (Criminal Record Checking) Act 2004 (WA)
    • Working with Children (Criminal Record Checking) Regulations 2005
Family services and childcare services
  • Children and Community Services Act 2004 (WA) has made provisions for children in care in Part 4, Divisions 5 (‘Children in the CEO’s Care’) and 6 (‘Provisions About Leaving the CEO’s Care’)
  • Child Care Services Act 2007 (WA)
    • Child Care Services Regulations 2007
    • Child Care Services (Child Care) Regulations 2006
  • Family Court Act 1997 (WA) provides for people seeking parenting and property orders
Family and domestic violence/Restraining orders
  • Restraining Orders Act 1997 (WA)
    • Restraining Orders Regulations 1997
  • Family Court Act 1997 (WA)
  • Domestic Violence Orders (National Recognition) Act 2017 (WA)
    • Domestic Violence Orders (National Recognition) Regulations 2017
  • The Criminal Code 1913 (WA) includes provisions around persistent family violence, and specific offences for suffocation and strangulation were introduced in 2020.
Protection of Australian children in international contexts (including intercountry adoption)See under Commonwealth 
Adoption and guardianship
  • Adoption Act 1994 (WA)
    • Adoption Regulations 1995
    • Adoption Rules 1995
Commissioners, guardians and advocates
  • Commissioner for Children and Young People Act 2006 (WA)
Child employment and related servicesChildren and Community Services Act 2004 (WA)  
Part 7: Employment of children

References

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2021). Child protection Australia 2019–20. Child welfare series no. 74. Cat. no. CWS 78. Canberra: AIHW

Liddle, C., Gray, P., Burton, J., Prideaux, C., Solomon, N., Cackett, J. et al. (2021). The family matters report 2021. Victoria: SNAICC – National Voice for our Children.

COAG (Council of Australian Governments). (2021). Safe and supported: The National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2021–2031. Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia. Retrieved from www.dss.gov.au/the-national-framework-for-protecting-australias-children-2021-2031

Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). (2018). Aboriginal children in Aboriginal care program. Melbourne: State of Victoria. Retrieved from <dhhs.vic.gov.au/publications/aboriginal-children-aboriginal-care-program>

SNAICC – National Voice for our Children. (2018). Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principle: A guide to support implementation. Retrieved from www.snaicc.org.au

Titterton, A. (2017). Indigenous access to family law in Australia and caring for Indigenous children. University of New South Wales Law Journal, 40(1), 146.

United Nations. (1989). Convention on the Rights of the Child. Geneva: Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Wise, S. (2017). Developments to strengthen systems for child protection across Australia (CFCA Paper No. 44). Melbourne: Child Family Community Australia (CFCA) information exchange, Australian Institute of Family Studies.

About this resource sheet

The Child Family Community Australia (CFCA) information exchange aims to ensure that information is accurate and up-to-date. A time delay may exist between legislative change and the update of this resource sheet.

The information provided should be used as a guide only and does not provide legal advice. This resource sheet does not cover every piece of legislation. Individuals are encouraged to consider other legislation and common law that may overlap.

Acknowledgements

This paper was updated by Cat Strawa, Senior Research Officer with the Child Family Community Australia (CFCA) information exchange at the Australian Institute of Family Studies.

Featured image: iStock/RinoCdZ

Publication details

CFCA Resource Sheet

Published by the Australian Institute of Family Studies, 1 August 2022.

Last updated 1 August 2022.

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