Child safe organisations: Information for organisations on how to keep children 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 standards 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?
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 Standards 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:
- Child safety and wellbeing is embedded in organisational leadership, governance and culture.
- Children and young people are informed about their rights, participate in decisions affecting them and are taken seriously.
- Families and communities are informed and involved in promoting child safety and wellbeing.
- Equity is upheld and diverse needs respected in policy and practice.
- People working with children and young people are suitable and supported to reflect child safety and wellbeing values in practice.
- Processes to respond to complaints and concerns are child focused.
- Staff and volunteers are equipped with the knowledge, skills and awareness to keep children and young people safe through ongoing education and training.
- Physical and online environments promote safety and wellbeing while minimising the opportunity for children and young people to be harmed.
- Implementation of the national child safe principles is regularly reviewed and improved.
- 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
- 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.
- Child Safe Organisations
This website provides a range of information and resources to help organisations implement the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations.
- Responding to disclosures of child abuse and neglect
This CFCA webinar provided an overview of recent research on how to support and respond to children's disclosures of abuse and neglect.
- Responding to children and young people’s disclosures of abuse
This CFCA practitioner resource provides a guide to responding to children and young people's disclosures of abuse.
- Protection through participation: Involving children in child-safe organisations
This CFCA practitioner resource provides practical guidance for involving children in child-safe organisations, based on what children and young people have said themselves.
- Understanding safeguarding practices for children with disability when engaging with organisations
This CFCA practitioner resource explores how an understanding of abuse and neglect relating to children with disability can assist in establishing child-safe organisations.
- National Office for Child Safety
This Australian Government office works with governments and organisations to deliver national policies and strategies to enhance children’s safety and reduce future harm to children.
- Excellence Framework for Child Safe Organisations
This resource aims to support child and family services to generate the culture shifts needed for them to function in line with the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations.
- Institute of Child Protection – Safeguarding children and young people portal
This portal provides a range of resources for policy makers, organisations and practice leaders to support institutions to keep children and young people safe.
- Child Wise – Child safety training
This website provides child safety training, consultancy and accreditation services to help organisations meet the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations and state-based child safety standards.
- NAPCAN – Child Safe Organisations training
This website offers professional development workshops and consultation services to help organisations become child safe.
- Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse – Making institutions child safe
This volume from the final report by the Royal Commission covers the child safe standards that will make institutions safer for children.
- Children’s commissioners and guardians
This CFCA resource sheet provides links to and outlines the role and duties of children's commissioners and guardians for each Australian jurisdiction. Several commissioner’s and guardian’s offices have produced information and resources for organisations on child safety.
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).