Laws making it mandatory for priests to report child abuse should have been brought in years ago, according to former policeman Colin Ryan.
The former detective said the passing of the law made it clear that "priests are not above the law".
"Anything that we can do to protect children and to prevent what has gone on in the Catholic Church for far too long is a good thing," Mr Ryan said. "I've locked up a number of priests and I know the hurt and long-term effects it has on children who grow into adults and carry it for life."
Victorian parliament passed laws making it mandatory for priests to report child abuse, including when it was revealed to them during confession.
Child Protection Minister Luke Donnellan said the government had made the state safer for children.
"The special treatment for churches has ended and child abuse must be reported," Mr Donnellan said.
"We can't undo the harm to so many children in the past, but this will help ensure it never happens again."
Under the laws priests and religious leaders face up to three years' jail if they don't report child physical and sexual abuse allegations.
Mr Ryan said the Catholic Church should have never attempted to deal with the allegations in-house.
"The place for reports of child molestation is at the police station and shouldn't be handled by some whitewash committee set up by the Catholic Church," he said.
Mr Ryan said a lot of victims were afraid to report abuse because priests were held in such high esteem.
Clergy are already subject to mandatory reporting laws in two other states.
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