Thursday 10 December 2020 – for immediate release
New data released today shows the Reportable Conduct Scheme is strengthening the protection of Victoria’s children and young people from abuse and other harmful conduct by workers and volunteers in organisations that work with or provide services to them.
The data was made public when the Commission for Children and Young People tabled its 2019–20 annual report in the Parliament of Victoria this morning.
‘The Scheme is playing an increasingly vital role in ensuring information about abusive and harmful conduct with children is shared to support prevention efforts across organisations, the Victorian Institute of Teaching, the Department of Justice and Community Safety and Victoria Police,’ said Liana Buchanan, Victoria’s Commissioner for Children and Young People, today.
‘We now have three years of data from a Scheme that was recommended by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, and it’s clearly having a significant impact in improving safety for children and young people,’ the Commissioner said.
The Scheme legally requires organisations to notify the Commission and take specific action to respond to and prevent abuse, including conducting an investigation and sharing the findings. The Commission oversees these investigations. Since the Scheme began in July 2017 to 30 June 2020 there have been 2,546 mandatory notifications that can each include multiple allegations. Of the 4,825 individual allegations over this period, 30 per cent were substantiated after an investigation.
Potentially criminal behaviour is also referred to Victoria Police who must give clearance before an organisation can investigate. Since the Scheme began in July 2017 to 30 June 2020, 1,349 notifications of potentially criminal conduct have been referred to Victoria Police for potential criminal investigation, including 320 cases that had not otherwise been reported to them.
‘We have clear evidence that the Reportable Conduct Scheme increases transparency by organisations about allegations of abusive and other harmful conduct by workers and volunteers. There are many potentially criminal cases that were only notified to Victoria Police because of the Scheme,’ the Commissioner said.
The Scheme also increases the information available to agencies that can take action if a worker or volunteer should be restricted from working with children. This has resulted in 485 individuals being referred to the Department of Justice and Community Safety to have their Working with Children Check reviewed.
Information concerning allegations about 503 registered teachers was also shared by the Commission with the Victorian Institute of Teaching which administers teacher registration in Victoria. This can result in action including the withdrawal of a teacher’s registration, the imposition of conditions, or requirements to undertake training.
Across the three years of the Scheme, notifications of potential abuse or harmful conduct made direct to the Commission by members of the public have also grown steadily, with 356 notifications made. In the period January to March 2020 alone, 60 notifications were received amid widespread media coverage of alleged misconduct in schools, double the quarterly average seen in the previous two years.
In 2019–20, there was a 17 per cent increase in mandatory notifications across all sectors covered by the Scheme (939 from 802), with an increase of 17 per cent in the education sector (217 from 185). Overall, physical violence comprised the greatest proportion of allegations (46 per cent), with sexual misconduct representing the greatest increase (103 additional allegations compared to 2018–19).
‘The visibility of abuse has never been greater, and the sharing of information to support a range of responses to abuse has never been more extensive. The days of child abuse being swept under the carpet and organisations turning a blind eye are starting to come to a long overdue end through the Reportable Conduct Scheme and the Child Safe Standards,’ Commissioner Buchanan said.
'This year’s increase in notifications has come despite COVID–19 limiting the physical contact organisations have had with children and young people.
‘That shows we must maintain our vigilance, changing our responses when the threats to children and young people change – whether they occur face-to-face or online,' Commissioner Buchanan concluded.
Commissioner Buchanan is available for media comment.
The Commission’s 2019–20 annual report can be downloaded from the Commission’s website.
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