Reporting concerns and matters of abuse

What is Abuse?

Abuse occurs when one person misuses the power they have in a relationship with a less powerful person. In some relationships it is appropriate that the more powerful person takes steps to redress the balance of power. In other relationships, the more powerful person needs to consider how their actions will empower the less powerful person, whilst retaining the power imbalance.

Reporting child abuse and/or neglect

Under section 11(1) and (2) of the Children's Protection Act 1993, any person who is an employee of, or volunteer in, an organisation formed for religious or spiritual purposes (i.e. the church) are obliged by law to notify the Department of Child Protection (formerly Families SA) if they suspect on reasonable grounds that a child/young person has been or is being abused or neglected and the suspicion is formed in the course of the person's work (whether paid or voluntary) or in carrying out official duties.

Notification to the Child Abuse Report Line (13 14 78) must be made of that suspicion as soon as practicable after he or she forms the suspicion.

Reporting concerns of sexual misconduct within the Uniting Church

Find out more on the Uniting Church Australia Assembly website>

Reporting concerns of past abuse or sexual misconduct by former employees of organisations associated with the Uniting Church SA should be directed to the relevent organisation.

A list of these current organisations can be found here> 

Reporting abuse and other wellbeing issues in adults

Reporting concerns of abuse and other health issues in vulnerable adults is a complex issue. Sometimes it will be very clear what to do when it involves allegations of criminal activity toward an adult; e.g. sexual harassment or rape. Other times this means utilising the local health services and working with the person and their family to provide comfort, support and access to resources and services. Allegations of serious ministry misconduct or abuse by church leaders against vulnerable adults need to be reported. In instances of an allegation of sexual misconduct, contact Pastoral Relations & Mission Planning; in instances of other misconduct, first contact your Congregation’s Safe Church Contact Person, Minister and/or the Executive Officer, Pastoral Relations & Mission Planning; in instances where conduct also appears to be criminal, contact police.

Report to Police where you have concerns of abuse and/or serious criminal offences by other church members (e.g. sexual or physical assault). In a suicide attempt/threat, or other situations where a person’s mental health may be placing self or others at risk of harm contact Police and/or Mental health service. (Mental health emergency 13 14 65: Lifeline 13 11 14)

For concerns about the conduct of people with special needs, (e.g. intellectual or physical disability or mental health concern) speak to your minister or your Congregation Safe Church Contact Person. They may seek advice from relevant health services and/or refer onto the Presbytery and Synod Pastoral Relations & Mission Planning team.

Reporting elder abuse

To report concerns for people receiving aged care in home or residential service contact: agedcarecomplaints.gov.au or 1800 550 552.

If someone has disclosed abuse to you:

  • Listen carefully to what they are saying 
  • Clarify what the allegation is but do not undertake an investigation.
  • Assure them you believe them 
  • Assure them it is not their fault and they are not responsible for the abuse 
  • If appropriate, let them know that you are mandated to report any concerns of child abuse and neglect. Offer pastoral support to an adult who may be disclosing past abuse.  You may also need to assist them with reporting to the relevant authorities.