Forced marriage is a crime under Commonwealth legislation in Australia. Child protection may receive a report relating to the forced marriage of a child or may identify forced marriage as a possible risk during the course of involvement, therefore it is important to be aware of this issue.
See related forced marriage - advice for further important information on this topic, which will assist practitioners in their knowledge of forced marriage.
Case practitioner tasks
- All reports received relating to a child allegedly being in a forced marriage, or at risk of forced marriage, must be classified as a protection intervention report unless there is compelling evidence of safety for the child.
- Select S162 (1)(e) in the Harm essential information category and select the ‘forced marriage’ evidence based factor and add supporting information.
- Select family violence evidence based factors, such as ‘child victim survivor is a victim of other harm’ as forced marriage is a form of family violence.
- Select any other relevant essential information categories based on the reported information.
- Complete the intake risk assessment and progress the report to investigation phase.
- Consult your team manager, who will involve the area operations manager/director, child protection or their delegate for case direction if you are considering closing the case without investigation. Document this discussion on CRIS.
Investigation and response
- Contact Victoria Police and establish if there will be a joint investigation to respond to the report, or if the Australian Federal Police (tel 131 237) are leading the criminal investigation.
- Undertake the first visit guided by the investigation plan completed, see Investigation plan checklist.
It is expected that reports of forced marriage will be investigated in the same manner as other reports, interviewing the child and completing a risk assessment. However, careful consideration must be given to the timing of the discussion of the protective concern(s) with parent(s) and the wider family network. The safety and wellbeing of the child is paramount.
- Update the essential information categories with information and evidence obtained during the investigation.
- Consider the information gathered from the investigation and determine whether the reported concerns, or concerns identified during investigation are substantiated.
- Complete the risk assessment including MARAM risk assessment and risk ratings as forced marriage is a form of family violence.
- Consult with the specialist family violence co-located worker, who can offer assistance and links to appropriate services.
- Record the substantiation decision promptly and commence case planning including establishing an appropriate safety plan. See substantiation and protective intervention guidance.
- Where you have determined the child is in need of protection, assess whether the child is safe to remain at home, or an out-of-home care placement is required.
Families are typically the perpetrators of forced marriage and may not provide accurate information regarding the alleged protective concerns. An assessment, informed by the child’s account, must take place as to whether the child is safe to remain at home, if there is a family member who is safe and opposed to the forced marriage and able to provide kinship care, or if the child requires another type of placement.
- Provide a rationale and document on CRIS if an out-of-home care placement is required should a child not be safe to remain at home, and it is assessed kinship care is not an option. This is assessed on a case by case basis.
- Consider the location of any placement and whether this places the child at any additional risk. For example, a placement in the child’s community may not be sufficiently safe. A thorough assessment is required.
- Consider whether the placement location should be withheld from the parents and seek a court order where necessary, and document on CRIS.
The literature on forced marriage states kinship placements may be unsafe and should not be pursued. However, in Victoria, kinship options must always be considered. A thorough assessment of kinship options must take place and be documented on CRIS. The assessment needs to consider any harm that may be caused to the child by removing them from their community.
- Be very clear with the family that forced marriage in Australia or overseas is illegal and the potential consequences should this occur.
- Contact school and other professionals involved with the family to alert them to the protective concern and request they reinforce the message to the family.
- Contact appropriate community organisations such as Australian Red Cross and Good Shepherd, to secure expert advice on this topic and inform the development of a case plan and significant decisions such as how to keep a child safe at home or contact arrangements if the child is in out-of-home care.
- Refer the young person to agencies such as Australian Red Cross to secure appropriate cultural supports.
- Seek clarification from the Australian Federal Police if they have referred the young person to the Australian Red Cross ‘Support for Trafficked People Program’.
- Seek early legal advice from CPLO or divisional lawyers should a protection application be made, either by notice or emergency care.
- Consider whether an application to the Family Court is required for a child to be placed on the airport watch list, should there be a risk the child will be taken overseas.
- If the child is subject to an airport watch list order, this information must also be captured in CRIS. This can be recorded by selecting ‘Create Other order’ on the Court Summary page and then select ‘Watchlist order’ as the order type.
- Consider whether an application to the Family Court is required to remove the child’s passport, if a risk exists they may be removed from Australia.
- Verify with the AFP that the child has been placed on the watch list if an order is granted by the Court. In exceptional circumstances, the AFP can implement this without a court order. See AFP website for further information.
- Consult with your supervisor and team manager throughout.
- Consult with an area operations manager/director, child protection or their delegate at all key decision points, particularly at investigation planning, issuing of protection application, placement in out-of-home care, reunification to parent and case closure.
- Consult with the sexual exploitation practice leader if sexual exploitation is identified as a risk factor during the course of an investigation.
- If forced marriage is identified as a concern during the course of investigation with a family, record a new familial allegation and undertake a review risk assessment.
- Provide ongoing supervision and consultation.
- Approve significant decisions affecting the conduct of the investigation.
- Assist in the development of an investigation plan, taking into consideration the additional risk factors surrounding timing of the engagement with family regarding a forced marriage protective concern.
- Support the practitioner in a consultation with a principal practitioner if required.
- Support the practitioner in a consultation with a sexual exploitation practice leader if concerns exist regarding sexual exploitation.
Team manager tasks
- Endorse key decisions including:
- applications to the Children’s Court
- applications to the Family Court
- placement decisions should the child be required to enter out-of-home care.
- Endorse the risk assessment.
- Should further clarification be required that an area operations manager/director, child protection or their delegate are unable to address, seek consultation with area or statewide principal practitioner.
- If case complexity or issues arise that require consultation with the statewide principal practitioner, contact the office of professional practice.
- Confirm all consultations are recorded in CRIS.
Area operations manager/director, child protection or their delegate tasks
- Consult with practitioners on all key decision making points where a report has been received on forced marriage, or protective concerns regarding forced marriage have become evident during the course of a child protection investigation.
- Verify all consultations are recorded in CRIS.
Area or statewide principal practitioner tasks
- Consult with practitioners where a report has been received on forced marriage, or protective concerns regarding forced marriage have become evident during the course of a child protection investigation as requested.
- Record the consultation and advice provided in CRIS.