Dealing with disclosures



Disclosures of personal issues are a possibility in any program that addresses relationships and sexuality. Teachers must be aware of school and legal procedures if a student discloses personal issues, particularly disclosures of sexual abuse.

The sensitive nature of Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) requires the creation of a safe space where students feel comfortable to express their ideas in a supportive environment; this can lead to disclosures concerning themselves, peers or members of their family. Disclosures of sexual identity, sexual feelings, sexual behaviours, physical/emotional abuse, or sexual assault may occur. 

The confidentiality of students' personal issues should be maintained, except in instance where a student disclosure indicates abuse or neglect.

Children and young people are most likely to disclosure abuse to adults they trust; all staff have a responsibility to listen supportively, believe and support the child or young person.

Disclaimer: The information given here is intended for information only. If you have a legal issue, you should see a lawyer.


Protective interrupting

If it appears a student may make a personal disclosure at an inappropriate time, protective interruption is a technique that can be used to redirect the conversation and offer the student an opportunity to talk in a safe and confidential manner. This helps to protect the student who is disclosing, the person the student is disclosing to, and any other people who are present at the time. 

Read Protective interrupting for a step by step of how to use this technique.


Disclosures of abuse

Everyone working in a school is responsible for the care and protection of children and for reporting concerns about child protection. The WA Department of Education's Child Protection Policy explains the actions to be taken by staff to protect children in circumstances where abuse is suspected or when allegations of child abuse are made (emotional, physical, sexual, neglect or a child witnessing violence).

Mandatory reporting (sexual abuse)

Teachers, boarding supervisors, police, doctors, nurses and midwives are required by law to report beliefs of child sexual abuse to the Mandatory Reporting Service of the Department of Child Protection and Family Support. (Ph: 1800 708 704 or report online.)



Reporting of other forms of abuse

If teachers have concerns about a child's wellbeing that does not require mandatory reporting, the Central Intake Team at the Department of Communities Child Protection and Family support can be contacted on 1800 273 889 or 


Responding to a child disclosing abuse

A disclosure of abuse by a child or young person is motivated by the need for safety, protection, support or information. Your response can have a great impact on the student's ability to seek further help and recover from possible trauma. Responding appropriately also ensure that your actions do not jeopardise any legal action against an abuser. 

The most important things you can do are:

  • believe them

  • reassure them that telling someone was the right thing to do

  • do not ask leading questions

  • do not get them to repeat their story a number of times

  • let them know what you will do next

  • do not confront the person alleged to be the abuser

  • record the disclosure verbatim (including details of what prompted the disclosure if possible)

  • follow the school procedures for reporting abuse.


Things TO SAY when a child discloses abuse

Things NOT TO SAY when a child discloses abuse

  • "I believe you."

  • "I am going to try to help you."

  • "I am glad that you told me."

  • "You are not to blame."

  • "I can't believe it!"

  • "Why didn't you tell someone before?"

  • "I am shocked!"

  • "Oh that explains a lot."

  • "No, not (insert name), he/she couldn't have!"

  • "I won't tell anyone else."

  • "Why? How? When? Where? Who?"

  • "I will make sure this won't happen again."



Who can assist in child abuse matters?


​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Looking after yourself

It is important to be aware that receiving a disclosure can be very stressful and you may need to seek support form a colleague, the Employee Assistance Program at your organisation, or mental health organisations such as BeyondBlue. 


Professional Development

Compulsory training

Department of Education schools:

All teaching and support staff, boarding supervisors and line managers of staff who have contact with children must complete Child Protection and Abuse Prevention online professional learning. The course is available to Department of Education employees via the Professional Learning tab in the Portal and must be updated every three years. Principals must confirm that staff complete this course using the staff status report on the Portal. 

Non-government schools:

The requirements for child abuse prevention professional learning for all staff is outlined in Standard 12 of the Registration Standards - Non Government Schools.

Professional learning opportunities are listed on the AISWA Professional Learning page and CEWA Professional Learning Portal. Face-to-face training is encouraged but the online module on the CPFS website can also be used. 

Community health nurses:

Community health nurses must complete the Department of Health training. 


Teaching protective behaviours to children

Schools must implement protective behaviours education that aligns with the Western Australian Curriculum across all phases of schooling. 

Organisations that offer professional development on teaching children protective behaviours:

Curtin RSE Project

Safe 4 Kids

WA Child Safety Services (WACSS)

PB West

See GDHR Professional Development for upcoming workshops and events.


Related policies, guidelines and recommendations

Child Protection in Department of Education Site Policy

Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse


Further reading

Department of Education - Indicators of abuse (external site).



WA Department of Education

Children and Community Services Amendent (Reporting Sexual Abuse of Children) Act 2008

Department of Communities, Child Protection and Family Support. 

This teaching note appears in the following learning activities: