Council sought legal advice if it had the power to deal with places of worship that didn’t comply with mandatory reporting of child abuse. Here’s the result.
Council sought legal advice if it had the power to deal with places of worship that didn’t comply with mandatory reporting of child abuse. Here’s the result.

Council’s bid to out churches over reporting child abuse

Melbourne City Council has been thwarted in a bid to out churches that don't comply with mandatory reporting of child abuse.

And the child safety watchdog has told the council that it cannot disclose information about its vetting of the Catholic Church and its policies involving children.

City of Melbourne councillor and former Anglican priest Nicolas Frances Gilley.
City of Melbourne councillor and former Anglican priest Nicolas Frances Gilley.

In a resolution passed last October, councillors wanted management to check what power local government had to find out from places of worship if they were complying with mandatory reporting of child abuse.

They also sought options for what could be done if churches refused to comply.

The move was launched by former Anglican priest Cr Nicolas Frances Gilley, who was concerned by comments by Melbourne Catholic Archbishop Peter Comensoli who indicated he would rather risk jail than break the confessional seal.

"As a council with responsibility to ensure local citizen safety, and particularly that of our children, it is appropriate to advise children, and those caring for them, of places where they may not be safe," Cr Gilley's original motion said.

Melbourne Catholic Archbishop Peter Comensoli.
Melbourne Catholic Archbishop Peter Comensoli.

Council management sought legal advice, but the eight page report from Holding Redlich lawyers found that the council could not use its planning powers or draft a new local law to ensure compliance with state mandatory reporting laws.

And in response to a letter from council CEO Justin Hanney, Victorian Children and Young People Commissioner Liana Buchanan said the commission was legally prohibited from disclosing specific information about its regulatory activities except in very limited cases.

"Accordingly, the commission is unable to comment on the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne, its compliance with Child Safe Standards or its policies in relation to children and young people," she said.

However, Ms Buchanan thanked the council for its "ongoing support for the safety of children and young people".

john.masanauskas@news.com.au

@JMasanauskas



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