Care and Protection of Children Act – Northern Territory

Earlier this year the Northern Territory passed the ‘Care and Protection of Children Act’. This meant that doctors had to compulsorily report any child under the age of 16 who they suspected of having sexual intercourse. This would have ruined any patient confidentiality with these kids, probably more with the girls dealing with teenage pregnancy.

Even sillier, it was interpreted that the sale of condoms to anyone under sixteen years also had to be reported to the authorities.

With a lot of pressure from medical and civil rights organisations amongst others the Act has already been amended.

Amendments to the Care and Protection of Children Act

The NT Legislative Assembly passed amendments to the Care and Protection of Children Act on 20 August 2009. This followed a concerted effort by a Coalition of health and legal organisations (Really Caring for Kids Coalition) of which GPNNT was a key contributor.

The amendments to section 26 of the Act, introduced to Parliament as a matter of urgency, addressed health practitioner’ concerns that the mandatory reporting of sexual activity in 14 and 15 years olds had resulted in young people not accessing sexual health advice and treatment through their local general practice or health clinic.

Health Professionals should note the amendments maintain strict mandatory reporting requirements for all Territorians to report harm and exploitation, including sexual abuse, and also recognise the greater responsibility for health practitioners in assessment and notification.

The amendments to section 26 require that:
• all people to report harm and exploitation, including sexual abuse;
• all people to report sexual offences (which includes underage sex) against children aged under 14 years; and
• health practitioners to report sexual offences (which includes underage sex) against children aged 14 or 15 years where there is a greater than 2 year difference between the alleged victim and offender.

A full review of the Act, including section 26, is planned for April 2010, and the Really Caring for Kids Coalition will continue to monitor the progress.

The General Practice Network Northern Territory has produced Recommendations for Health Professionals. If you are an Australian Health Professional please contact them or myself if you require a copy of these recommendations.

SUPPORTS TO HELP YOU ARE:
• NT Families and Children Central Intake on 1800 700 250
• Sexual Assault Referral Service (SARC)
• 89 7156 – Darwin
• 8951 5880 – Alice Springs
• 896 4364 – Tennant Creek
• Employee Assistance Scheme (EAS) – 08 8941 175
• Bush Crisis Line/CRANA – 1800 805 391
• Lifeline – 131 114; DV/SA National Hot Line – 1800 019 116
• Ruby Gaea, Darwin Centre Against Rape – 8945 0155

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