19.1 Cases that involve child protection issues commonly have contact with more than one court. There may be proceedings in criminal courts, children’s courts and family courts. The child and family may also have contact with numerous agencies, such as child protection agencies, police, health workers and others. It is the legal intersections that are the main focus of this chapter, but agencies such as child protection departments play a key role in legal interventions.

19.2 This part of the Report, Part E, focuses on child protection; in particular on issues that arise where child protection law intersects with family law and criminal law. This chapter examines the intersection of child protection and family laws. The following chapter, Chapter 20, examines the intersections of child protection legislation with criminal law.

19.3 The Terms of Reference engage issues of child protection and safety on a number of levels. The first term of reference focuses on the interaction in practice of a range of laws including child protection laws and the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth), and child protection laws and relevant federal, state and territory criminal laws. The second term of reference focuses on sexual assault in the family violence context and the impact of inconsistent interpretation or application of laws, including rules of evidence, on victims of such violence. As noted in Chapter 1, in the case of children, the issue of sexual assault potentially brings together all the areas of law under consideration in this Inquiry. Sexual assault is considered in Part G of this Report.

19.4 In this chapter the issue of child protection is first defined and the relationship between child abuse and neglect and family violence is explored. The chapter outlines the development of child protection law and sets out the processes that occur when concerns about the safety of a child are raised.