Today’s question relates to mandatory reporting of children in need of protection in Victoria.  My correspondent asks:

 … are Victorian paramedics mandatory reporters of suspected/child abuse now that they are registered?

My initial belief was ‘yes’, but after revisiting the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 (Vic), I’m not so sure. S.182(a) specifies ‘a registered medical practitioner’. I thought this might include paramedics, but after reviewing AHPRA’s Register of Practitioners – Professions & Divisions page the language used is ‘health practitioner’ except for medical practitioners registered by the Medical Board of Australia. I’m wondering if the language in the legislation is deliberate, particularly in light of nurses and midwives being listed as mandatory reporters separately in the Act (s.182(b/ba)).

The list of mandatory reporters set out in s 182 includes (relevantly) ‘a registered medical practitioner’ and ‘a nurse’.  A registered medical practitioner is (s 1) ‘a person registered under the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law to practise in the medical profession (other than as a student)’.  A nurse is (s 1) a person registered under the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law to practise in the nursing and midwifery profession as a nurse (other than as a midwife or as a student).

Under the national scheme the term ‘medical practitioner’ is a protected title that can only be used by a registered medical practitioner, ie a doctor. Only a nurse can use the title ‘nurse, registered nurse, nurse practitioner, [or] enrolled nurse’ (s 113).  There is, as my correspondent noted, no reference to paramedics or any of the other health professions regulated by the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law.

When interpreting legislation, the words of the legislation have to be given their defined meaning.  A ‘medical practitioner’ is not a ‘health practitioner’.   The Health Practitioner Regulation National Law, adopted into Victorian law by the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (Victoria) Act 2009 (Vic) defines a health practitioner as ‘an individual who practises a health profession’ (s 5).  A health profession is any of the 15 professions regulated under that law, including medicine, nursing and paramedicine.  If the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 (Vic) s 182 meant ‘health practitioner’ rather than ‘medical practitioner’, it would say so.

Conclusion

To include paramedics the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 (Vic) s 182 would have to specifically refer to paramedics or to ‘a health practitioner as defined by the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law’ (or some such form of words).   In the absence of those words the list of mandatory reporters does not include registered paramedics.

For the same conclusion with respect to Western Australia see Paramedics as mandatory reporters of child abuse (November 27, 2018).