Child safe organisations: Information for organisations on how to keep children safe

Child safe organisations: Information for organisations on how to keep children safe

6 November 2019
School children at break time playing on climbing frame

This short article discusses the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations and links to resources to help organisations become child safe.

In its final report, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse found that many Australian organisations had failed to protect children from abuse, failed to listen to children who tried to disclose abuse, and failed to respond appropriately when abuse came to light (Child Safe Organisations, 2019b). In response to these findings and consistent with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Royal Commission recommended the implementation of child safe standards1 to ensure that all institutions work in the best interests of children (Commonwealth of Australia, 2017).

This short article discusses what it means to be a child safe organisation, outlines the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations, and provides links to resources and tools to help organisations keep children safe.

What is a child safe organisation?

A child safe organisation is an organisation that puts the best interests of children and young people2 first.

It is an organisation that is committed to creating child safe cultures - which involves going beyond policy and procedures in order to adopt broader strategies that promote and protect the safety and wellbeing of children (Child Safe Organisations, 2019c).

The Australian Human Rights Commission (2018, p. 4) defines a child safe organisation as one that:

  • Creates an environment where children’s safety and wellbeing is at the centre of thoughts, values and actions
  • Places emphasis on genuine engagement with and valuing of children and young people
  • Creates conditions that reduce the likelihood of harm to children and young people
  • Creates conditions that increase the likelihood of identifying any harm
  • Responds to any concerns, disclosures, allegations or suspicions of harm.

All organisations that work, or come into contact, with children are encouraged to become a child safe organisation (Australian Human Rights Commission, 2018). This includes, but is not limited to, sport and recreation clubs, early learning and childcare centres, schools, child and youth support services, and out-of-home care services.

Development of child safe principles

In its final report, the Royal Commission identified and recommended 10 Child Safe Standards3 that institutions should apply to improve the safety of children in institutions. Following this recommendation, Community Services Ministers across Australia and the National Children’s Commissioner led the development of the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations (Child Safe Organisations, 2019b) to ensure a nationally consistent approach and to meet the Royal Commission’s recommendations relating to child safe standards (Australian Human Rights Commission, 2018)

These principles go beyond keeping children safe from sexual abuse, and seek to keep children safe from all forms of harm, and promote the wellbeing of children within organisations.

National Principles for Child Safe Organisations

In early 2019, the Australian Human Rights Commission released the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations (the National Principles).

Endorsed by members of the Council of Australian Governments, these principles outline 10 high-level elements that are fundamental for making an organisation safe for children and that help to guide organisations in understanding the aspects of creating a child safe culture.

The National Principles are:

  1. Child safety and wellbeing is embedded in organisational leadership, governance and culture.
  2. Children and young people are informed about their rights, participate in decisions affecting them and are taken seriously.
  3. Families and communities are informed and involved in promoting child safety and wellbeing.
  4. Equity is upheld and diverse needs respected in policy and practice.
  5. People working with children and young people are suitable and supported to reflect child safety and wellbeing values in practice.
  6. Processes to respond to complaints and concerns are child focused.
  7. Staff and volunteers are equipped with the knowledge, skills and awareness to keep children and young people safe through ongoing education and training.
  8. Physical and online environments promote safety and wellbeing while minimising the opportunity for children and young people to be harmed.
  9. Implementation of the national child safe principles is regularly reviewed and improved.
  10. Policies and procedures document how the organisation is safe for children and young people.

Alongside each principle sit key action areas that organisations can adopt and indicators to measure progress. The National Principles are not mandatory; however, organisations are encouraged to adopt them to become leaders in their field (Child Safe Organisations, 2019a).

Organisations also need to be mindful that each state and territory has their own child safe requirements with which they need to comply, such as Working With Children Checks.

Practice tools and resources

With the development of the National Principles, organisations that work, or interact, with children and young people have the opportunity to ensure they work in children’s best interests. The National Children’s Commissioner has developed a series of practical tools and e-learning modules to help organisations implement the principles in their workplace.

These resources include:

  • a self-assessment tool for organisations
  • a template and example of a charter of commitment to children and young people
  • a child safety and wellbeing policy template
  • an example child safe code of conduct
  • a checklist for online safety
    and
  • a number of e-learning modules to support implementation.

In addition, a range of related services, links and online resources that focus on child safety and wellbeing are available on the Child Safe Organisations website.

Related resources

References

Australian Human Rights Commission. (2018). National Principles for Child Safe Organisations. Sydney: Australian Human Rights Commission. Retrieved from https://childsafe.humanrights.gov.au/sites/default/files/2019-02/National_Principles_for_Child_Safe_Organisations2019.pdf

Child Safe Organisations. (2019a). About the National Principles. Sydney: Australian Human Rights Commission. Retrieved from https://childsafe.humanrights.gov.au/national-principles/about-national-principles

Child Safe Organisations. (2019b). Child Safe Organisation project. Sydney: Australian Human Rights Commission. Retrieved from https://childsafe.humanrights.gov.au/about/child-safe-organisations-project

Child Safe Organisations. (2019c). What is a child safe organisation? Sydney: Australian Human Rights Commission. Retrieved from https://childsafe.humanrights.gov.au/about/what-child-safe-organisation

Commonwealth of Australia. (2017). Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse: Final Report (Volume 6). Canberra: Commonwealth of Australia.

1 See Recommendation 6.4 of Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse: Final Report (Volume 6) (Commonwealth of Australia, 2017).

2 For the purposes of this article when referring to ‘children’ or ‘child’, we are referring to children and young people aged 0–17 years.

3 See Recommendation 6.5 of Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse: Final Report (Volume 6) (Commonwealth of Australia, 2017).

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Authors

Nick Heyes

Nick is a Senior Project Officer with the Child Family Community Australia (CFCA) information exchange.

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