The information on this page is for mandated notifiers. If you are a concerned member of the public, see the child abuse report line page on the website for information about making a report to the child abuse report line. Always call 000 if it is an emergency.

When hearing a child reveal abuse or neglect, the most important thing is to make sure the child feels supported and safe.

The lists below provide a broad overview.

After a child has told you about abuse or neglect

You can show your care and concern by:

  • remembering the child may be experiencing a crisis
  • listening carefully
  • controlling your own expressions of panic or shock
  • taking what the child says seriously
  • using the child’s own vocabulary
  • telling the child that this has happened to other children and that some adults do wrong things
  • reassuring the child that they have done the right thing by telling you
  • telling the child you will do your best to support them but do not make promises you may not be able to keep
  • explaining to the child that you need to tell someone who can help them.

Clarifying the situation

Open questions

You may need to ask more questions to clarify the situation.

Open ended questions are non-leading. These are questions that start with:

  • Who
  • What
  • When
  • Where

Open questions are the best way to gain more information from children. Examples of open questions are:

  • How did it happen?
  • What happened?
  • Who was there?
  • How does it make you feel?
  • How often does it happen?
  • How does the other person react?
  • Tell me about your relationship with…
  • How do you see your future.
  • Tell me about the children in this photograph.

Leading questions

leading question is a type of question that implies or contains its own answer. It subtly prompts the respondent to answer in a particular way. They are undesirable as they can result in false or slanted information.

The non-leading question allows the respondent to answer with a range of answers.

Examples of leading questions:

Blatantly leading

  • Isn't it true….
  • Isn't it a fact….
  • Won't you admit….
  • Won't you concede….
  • Wouldn't you agree….
  • Wouldn't you have to say…

Declarative sentence or assertion followed by

  • Right?
  • Correct?
  • Isn't it true?
  • Isn't it correct?

Fairly leading

  • Don't...
  • Didn't...
  • Isn't...
  • Aren't...
  • Wasn't...
  • Weren't...

Mildly leading

  • Do...
  • Did...
  • Is...
  • Are...
  • Was...
  • Were...

Avoid leading questions by rephrasing the question so that it no longer suggests an answer. Try for a more open-ended question.

If you'd like to learn more about open and leading questions, consider finding a communication course that teaches it. The Department for Education offers a Responding to Abuse and Neglect course.

If you work for a school or education environment, the Department for Education also has a range of guidelines and information about child protection practices.


Child Abuse Report Line (CARL)

Phone: 13 14 78