New data shows organisations must do more to protect children and young people from abuse, according to the annual report of the Commission for Children and Young People tabled in the Victorian Parliament today.
The report details the first two years of schemes administered by the Commission to create child-safe organisations and prevent, report and respond to organisational child abuse.
Victoria is the only state or territory to have legislated both Child Safe Standards and a Reportable Conduct Scheme, as recommended by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
‘While we are seeing increased engagement and improved compliance with the Reportable Conduct Scheme by many organisations, the data in this report should serve as an urgent reminder that abuse of children in organisations is not a matter of history,’ said Liana Buchanan, Commissioner for Children and Young People, today.
Since the Scheme began in July 2017, organisations have made 1,611 mandatory notifications to the Commission, amounting to a total of 2,697 allegations of harm to children by workers, volunteers or religious leaders. Of finalised matters, 31 per cent have been substantiated.
The highest proportion of allegations since the beginning of the Scheme are of physical violence against a child (41 per cent), followed by sexual misconduct (17 per cent).
Investigations by organisations are overseen by the Commission, which can intervene to improve an organisation’s response, or conduct own-motion inquiries in certain circumstances. Alleged conduct that may constitute a criminal offence is also reported to Victoria Police for investigation.
‘While we are seeing improved responses by organisations in some sectors, I am concerned about low reporting in others, including health, disability and religious organisations,’ Commissioner Buchanan said.
She said there was still a clear failure by some organisations to interview all relevant witnesses, especially children and young people, as part of the investigations they are legally required to conduct under the oversight of the Commission.
‘Children and young people continue to be excluded from the investigation of alleged harms against them, denying them a vital chance to be heard. We are intent on seeing significant improvement in this area, and are developing specialist resources to support organisations,’ Commissioner Buchanan said.
‘We also continue to see organisations struggle to manage conflicts of interest regarding investigations of allegations against those who hold senior positions in the governance of their organisations,’ she added.
The approach of organisations to the investigation of sexual misconduct was also an area for concern and improvement, Commissioner Buchanan noted.
This year, the Commission also undertook extensive education activities to promote compliance by organisations with the Child Safe Standards.
The year saw a 33 per cent increase in compliance action by the Commission to ensure organisations involved with children and young people meet their legal obligations to maintain policies, practices and the culture needed to keep them safe.
Action was taken in respect of 77 organisations, with sport and recreation (33) and education and training (22) the sectors recording the highest levels of compliance activity.
Themes identified this year include the need for greater safeguarding of children and young people with disability, a need to improve child abuse reporting procedures, and a need to ensure all religious organisations prioritise child safety over religious practices.
‘It’s clear from the data we have reported to the Parliament today that we are yet to fully absorb and act on the lessons of the Royal Commission, and, until we do, we can’t claim to be doing all we can to keep children and young people safe,’ Commissioner Buchanan said.
She said the Child Safe Standards and Reportable Conduct Scheme were playing a vital role in capturing organisational abuse, complementing the work of child protection and Victoria Police.
‘Our shared aim must be that, in Victoria, a safe childhood is standard,’ Commissioner Buchanan concluded.
Commissioner for Children and Young People
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