Allegations of child abuse in organisations on the rise, Child Safe Standards strengthened to boost prevention

Media Releases 1 November 2023

Wednesday 1 November 2023 – for immediate release

Notifications of alleged child abuse and child-related misconduct by workers and volunteers in organisations under the Reportable Conduct Scheme have climbed again this year, while the Child Safe Standards have been strengthened to boost prevention. These were among the findings of the annual report of the Commission for Children and Young People tabled in the Parliament of Victoria today.

Reportable conduct against a child includes sexual offences, sexual misconduct, physical violence, any behaviour that causes significant emotional or psychological harm, or significant neglect.

In 2022–23, 1,457 notifications were received by the Commission across all sectors, an 18 per cent increase on 2021–22, and an 81 per cent increase since the Scheme began in Victoria in 2017. Each notification can include multiple allegations of reportable conduct.

The education sector led reportable notifications this year at 437 (30 per cent), followed by out-of-home care at 408 (28 per cent), early childhood education at 385 (26 per cent), and religious bodies at 68 (five per cent).

Across sectors, physical violence was the most common allegation type at 1,190 (36 per cent), followed by behaviour that causes significant emotional or physical harm to a child at 726 (22 per cent), significant neglect of a child at 606 (18 per cent), and sexual misconduct at 589 (18 per cent). This varies across sectors, however; the highest proportion of allegations from the education sector in 2022–23 related to sexual misconduct, while the highest proportion of allegations from religious organisations related to sexual offences.

‘While media reports continue to detail inquiries into past abuse in organisations, the Commission’s figures released today are a wake-up call that abuse in multiple forms is still happening and will continue to profoundly harm the lives of children and young people unless it is prevented and addressed,’ said Liana Buchanan, Victoria’s Commissioner for Children and Young People, today.

At 10 per cent, Aboriginal children and young people continued to be over-represented among alleged victims of reportable conduct, when they comprise only two per cent of the Victorian population under 18 years of age.

‘The data in our annual report show it is critical all children be given a voice to raise safety concerns, and that organisations need to take allegations seriously. Children and young people can find it hard to speak up when they don’t feel safe, so we need to listen to them when they do,’ said Meena Singh, Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People, today.

The Commission’s work on the Reportable Conduct Scheme was this year complemented by new Child Safe Standards and enforcement powers to strengthen the child-safe culture of organisations working with children in Victoria.

The eleven new Child Safe Standards came into force on 1 July 2022, including a new Child Safe Standard 1 to support the cultural safety of Aboriginal children and young people.

‘It is vital that Aboriginal children and young people feel safe and supported in organisations and that their culture, which is fundamental to their identity and from which they draw so much strength and resilience, is respected and valued. The new Standards support this for all children whose cultural identity is central to their wellbeing.

‘Together with the valuing of culture, the new Standards mean that organisations must have policies and practices in place to prevent and address racism,’ Commissioner Singh said today.

In January this year, the Commission gained new powers to monitor and enforce compliance with the Standards, including greater powers to conduct inspections, issue warnings, seek court injunctions and impose enforceable undertakings. The powers were complemented by new criminal offences and fines for failures to comply with the Commission’s notices. Six Authorised Officers have now been appointed to support this work.

‘The new powers and Authorised Officers improve our ability to prevent child abuse in organisations and enable us to more decisively step in to address urgent and serious risks to children,’ Commissioner Buchanan said.

‘Victoria was the first jurisdiction to have introduced both the Reportable Conduct Scheme and Child Safe Standards – two core elements of the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. We have been pleased to see others follow in the past year,’ Commissioner Buchanan concluded.

For 2022–23 data on notifications of reportable allegations by sector, see Table 15 on page 98 of the Commission’s annual report.

For further information on the new Child Safe Standards and increased powers, see page 90 of the annual report.

Download the Commission’s annual report.

For interview:

Liana Buchanan
Principal Commissioner for Children and Young People

Meena Singh
Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People

Media contact:

Darren Lewin-Hill
0437 046 360