Grandparents brought to tears as new laws passed to help 'most vulnerable'

It’s been a five-year fight, but Queensland grandparents John and Sue Sandeman came away victorious on September 14.

The grandparents had been fighting to change Queensland’s mandatory reporting laws for childcare workers to report suspected child sexual and physical abuse cases after their grandson Mason Parker died in 2011.

Weeping openly as the bill passed through State Parliament, the Sandemans told the ABC that while Mason’s Law won’t change what has happened to their grandson they hope it will save another child’s life.

Sixteen-month-old Mason Parker was murdered by his mother’s then partner, who is serving a life sentence in jail.

Days before his death, childcare workers noticed bruising on the toddlers body but had not reported it to authorities.

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‘Mandatory reporting’ refers to the legislative requirement imposed on selected classes of people to report suspected cases of child abuse and neglect to government authorities. However, while each state and territory has enacted mandatory reporting laws of some description they are not the same across all jurisdictions.

The main differences concern who has to report, and the types of abuse and neglect that have to be reported, as well as the ‘state of mind’ that activates a reporting duty (e.g. a suspicion, concern or belief on reasonable grounds).

The Australian Institute of Family Studies has a publication on the mandatory reporting of child abuse and neglect that outlines that while some jurisdictions it is mandatory to report suspicions of physical, sexual, or emotional abuse and neglect, in other jurisdictions — such as Victoria and the ACT — it is only mandatory to report some types of abuse, such as physical or sexual abuse.

Tasmania’s Child Care Act 2001 specifically outlines the responsibility of principals and teachers in any educational institution, including kindergartens, persons who provide child care or a child care service for fee or reward and persons managing a child care service licence to report any belief or suspicion on reasonable grounds of physical, sexual, emotional/psychological abuses, neglect and exposure to family violence.

Until Mason’s Law had been passed in Queensland, Tasmania’s laws were the most thorough in Australia on this issue.

“Our grandson had to die for us to be here doing what we’re doing, so life was sacrificed for this legislation to basically be put into place,” Sue Sandeman told the ABC.

When you think of your grandchildren, do you believe the mandatory reporting laws for reporting child abuse and neglect need to be consistent state-to-state? Do you know what the mandatory laws for your state are?