Tragic New Zealand case an important reminder of mandated reporting in ECEC
The Sector > Quality > Compliance > Tragic New Zealand case an important reminder of mandated reporting in ECEC

Tragic New Zealand case an important reminder of mandated reporting in ECEC

by Freya Lucas

October 06, 2022

A New Zealand early childhood education and care (ECEC) service has been forced to close by the Ministry of Education after carers at the service documented the injuries of a child in its care, but failed to notify or make a report about them. 


The child impacted by the injuries passed away in November last year at the hands of his carer, who had custody of him whilst his mother was in prison. 


The five year old attended the centre in the lead up to his death, and over a number of months whilst attending was subjected to abuse and neglect by his carer, which left him malnourished and with visible injuries. 


According to the summary of facts in relation to one incident, the child was dropped off at the centre in September 2021. His hairstyle had been changed, with his fringe pulled over his forehead.


Under the fringe was large swelling. He also had a black eye, bruises and a scratch under his chin. The child’s carer was spoken to by staff, where she explained he had fallen twice off his bike.


The staff later asked the child if that was the case. He said no. As staff attended to his injuries, he told them the carer “would be mad” at him.


Staff at the service photographed multiple injuries, and asked the carer about them, but did not make any reports to authorities. The service was placed under a provisional license in May after the child passed, when a Ministry visit uncovered concerns about the capacity of the staff to identify and respond to suspected abuse and the absence of a procedure to alert the manager of concerns.


In sentencing the carer in relation to the child’s death High Court Justice Paul Davison said there were “clear lessons” from the child’s death.


“In the circumstances of this case, it appears there were a number of adults who observed (child) showing signs of suffering injuries, which they suspected might have been deliberately inflicted.


“(Child) was also suffering the effects of malnutrition,” the judge explained. “It would have been apparent to those close to him. Unless responsible adults are prepared to speak out and contact the police, the opportunities to prevent further trauma or damage to the child are lost.”


“This is a community responsibility, and leaving it to others to act can so easily lead to tragic consequences such is the case here.”


In Australia, early childhood education and care (ECEC) professionals are mandated reporters. To learn more about what it means to be a mandated reporter, and relevant legislation for each state and territory, please see here

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