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Introducing the Child Safe Standards
We all have an obligation to do the best we can to keep children safe from harm and abuse.
Victorian organisations that provide services or facilities for children are required by law to implement Child Safe Standards to protect children from harm.
Organisations and businesses that employ children to provide services or facilities or to produce or provide goods, whether paid or unpaid, must also implement the standards.
Children are defined in the standards as anyone under 18 years old.
Why do we need Child Safe Standards?
All organisations working with children must take steps to prevent child abuse. They cannot assume that child abuse does not, and cannot, happen within their organisation.
The standards are a result of recommendations of the Victorian Parliament’s Betrayal of Trust inquiry and evidence of what works to prevent child abuse.
In 2012 and 2013 the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry looked into the handling of child abuse by religious and non-government organisations. Its report highlighted poor and inconsistent practices for keeping children safe. It found some organisations’ cultures did not focus on children’s safety and many failed to report or act on child abuse allegations.
In 2019, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse proposed Child Safe Standards to make institutions safer for children with regulatory oversight to ensure implementation by institutions.
In 2021, the Victorian Government announced changes to make the Child Safe Standards even stronger. More information about the new Child Safe Standards and what’s changed is available here.
What the Standards aim to achieve
The Child Safe Standards aim to:
- promote the safety of children
- prevent child abuse
- ensure organisations and businesses have effective processes in place to respond to and report all allegations of child abuse.
Child Safe Standards work by:
- driving changes in organisational culture – embedding child safety in everyday thinking and practice
- providing a minimum standard of child safety across all organisations
- highlighting that we all have a role to keep children safe from abuse.
The Child Safe Standards and who needs to comply
There are 11 Child Safe Standards:
- Standard 1: Organisations establish a culturally safe environment in which the diverse and unique identities and experiences of Aboriginal children and young people are respected and valued
- Standard 2: Child safety and wellbeing is embedded in organisational leadership, governance and culture
- Standard 3: Children and young people are empowered about their rights, participate in decisions affecting them and are taken seriously
- Standard 4: Families and communities are informed, and involved in promoting child safety and wellbeing
- Standard 5: Equity is upheld and diverse needs respected in policy and practice
- Standard 6: People working with children and young people are suitable and supported to reflect child safety and wellbeing values in practice
- Standard 7: Processes for complaints and concerns are child focused
- Standard 8: Staff and volunteers are equipped with the knowledge, skills and awareness to keep children and young people safe through ongoing education and training
- Standard 9: Physical and online environments promote safety and wellbeing while minimising the opportunity for children and young people to be harmed
- Standard 10: Implementation of the Child Safe Standards is regularly reviewed and improved
- Standard 11: Policies and procedures document how the organisation is safe for children and young people
You can find out which organisations need to comply with the Child Safe Standards at Who do the Standards apply to?
Child Safe Standards and the Reportable Conduct Scheme
Child Safe Standards and the Reportable Conduct Scheme create distinct sets of responsibilities for organisations, but have been designed to complement one another. Together, they strengthen the capacity of organisations to prevent and respond properly to allegations of child abuse. Some organisations, but not all, have to comply with both.
Victoria’s Standards changed on 1 July 2022 to align more closely with the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations, which were informed by the findings of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. You can find out more about the new Child Safe Standards here.
Some organisations who work nationally or across state borders may need to comply with a number of different versions of the Standards or National Principles. Contact the Commission if you have questions about any differences.
Some organisations will have to comply with both Victoria’s Standards and the Commonwealth Government’s child safe framework. The Commonwealth has a child safe framework that may encourage or require organisations to put in place measures to promote the protection of children in services and activities they fund.
Clauses in funding contracts organisations may have with Commonwealth Government agencies may ask that:
- all staff who may be working with children undergo appropriate screening and recruitment practices
- the organisation takes appropriate child safety measures (e.g. through the implementation of the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations), and
- that the third party’s obligations relating to child safety are replicated in subcontracts and secondary subcontracts where relevant.
Organisations that have such clauses in contracts with Commonwealth agencies still have to comply with the Victorian Standards, even if the requirements are different. Compliance with Victoria’s Standards is mandatory.