Project status: In Progress

Child Safe Standards

Learn more about Child Safe Standards – create a culture of safety in your organisation to protect and empower children and young people

Child Safe Standards have received national attention since the Child Abuse Royal Commission in 2017. In October 2018, the ACT Government partnered with the ACT Public Advocate and Children and Young People Commissioner to conduct stakeholder forums to understand current sector readiness to implement the Child Safe Standards. Here is a report on What We Heard during the forums.

This short video by National Children’s Commissioner explains what Child Safe Standards are about.

Child Safe Standards help organisations create a culture of safety which protects and empowers children and young people.

Child Safe Standards set out the practical steps that organisations can take to create safe environments for children, in these areas:

  • Governance and culture
  • Empowering children and young people
  • Engaging families and communities
  • Equity and diversity
  • Staff recruitment and supervision
  • Complaints and reporting
  • Staff training
  • Risk management
  • Regular review and continuous improvement
  • Documenting policies and procedures

In February 2019 all Premiers and Chief Ministers endorsed the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations, which is the latest expression of Child Safe Standards at the national level.

The National Office for Child Safety is developing free tools and resources to help organisations comply with the standards, including:

ACT Government has decided to regulate Child Safe Standards in the Territory, and a scheme is currently being developed.



How you had YourSay

We asked for your feedback to inform the way we design the regulatory scheme for Child Safe Standards in the ACT. You were asked to contribute to the process through a short online survey or by making a submission. You can take a look at these two options below but please note these forms have closed.

Frequently Asked Questions

Below is a list of frequently asked questions about Child Safe Standards.

The Child Abuse Royal Commission set out a plan to prevent abuse and harm to children and young people in organisations. Child Safe Standards are a list of actions that organisations can follow to protect and empower children and young people in their care. By requiring organisations to comply with Child Safe Standards, the government is fully implementing Royal Commission recommendations.

Organisations engaging with children and young people will be asked to use Child Safe Standards to build child safety into their daily work. The Standards list ten areas of activity where small actions can have a big impact on child safety:

  1. Governance and culture
  2. Empowering children and young people
  3. Engaging families and communities
  4. Equity and diversity
  5. Staff recruitment and supervision
  6. Complaints and reporting
  7. Staff training
  8. Risk management
  9. Regular review and continuous improvement
  10. Documenting policies and procedure

The types of organisations to be included has not been decided and this is one of the key questions the government is seeking the community’s views on.

The Royal Commission recommended that organisations be required to comply with Child Safe Standards if they engage in ‘child related work’, including the following sectors:

  • Accommodation and residential services for children, including overnight excursions or stays,
  • Activities or services of any kind, under the auspices of a particular religious denomination or faith, through which adults have contact with children,
  • Education services for children,
  • Child protection services, including out-of-home care,
  • Activities or services where clubs and associations have a significant membership of, or involvement by, children,
  • Commercial services for children, including entertainment or party services, gym or play facilities, photography services, and talent or beauty competitions,
  • Services for children with disability,
  • Health services for children,
  • Justice and detention services for children, including immigration detention facilities,
  • Childcare or childminding services,
  • Coaching or tuition services for children, and
  • Transport services for children, including school crossing services.

The Victorian scheme is broader than the scope recommended by the Royal Commission. In addition to the list of organisations above, the Victorian scheme also covers:

  • Victoria Government departments,
  • Local councils in Victoria,
  • Support services for parents and families funded under a State contract,
  • Family violence or sexual assault services,
  • Homelessness services,
  • Youth services, and
  • Victorian health services, hospitals and day procedure centres if they provide services to children.

It is possible that different sectors could come into the scheme at different times based on their readiness or other factors. See other questions in this section for more information.

Legislation will be developed during 2020, but may not take effect straight away, to allow organisations time to become familiar with the scheme and their obligations. Options include:

  • Commencing education and other activities supporting organisations to comply in 2020, but delaying enforcement until later;
  • Staging the scheme so that different organisation types are phased in gradually; or
  • Delaying the entire scheme for a period of time.

If you have a view on how much time your organisation will need to prepare for Child Safe Standards, please make a submission during the consultation process.

The Australian Government is developing tools and resources to assist organisations to comply with Child Safe Standards, and these are freely available on the website of the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations.

Once established, the ACT oversight body will work with local organisations to help them understand what Child Safe Standards mean, and how they apply to their context. Examples of might include guidelines, telephone and email support, training courses, and communities of practice.

There will be a transition period as the oversight body is established, and organisations learn what Child Safe Standards means for them.

The primary role of the oversight body will be supporting organisations engaging with children and young people to build their capacity to provide child safe environments.

The oversight body will be asked to take a responsive regulatory approach, which means that in the first instance it will engage in cooperative, non-coercive communication when monitoring compliance with Child Safe Standards.

It is intended that formal enforcement powers will be only used in the rare situation where an organisation has the resources and ability to comply with the Standards, but repeatedly refuses to do so.

Working with Vulnerable People Checks and Reportable Conduct require organisations to report known incidents of abuse, and prevent known perpetrators from working with children.

In contrast, Child Safe Standards places the emphasis on early prevention; they help organisations prevent abuse from occurring in the first place.

The scheme will be designed to promote child safety while minimising the burden on organisations:

  • There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to implementing the Standards. Organisations will have flexibility to comply in ways that make sense in their context (considering their size, the nature of their interactions with children, and the administrative resources available to them).
  • The Standards encourage continuous improvement over time, not immediate leaps in progress.
  • Organisations will not be expected to build things from scratch. ACT and federal oversight bodies will provide guidance material, tools and resources, training sessions, telephone and email support.

The scheme will be designed to promote child safety while minimising the burden on organisations:

  • There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to implementing the Standards. Organisations will have flexibility to comply in ways that make sense in their context (considering their size, the nature of their interactions with children, and the administrative resources available to them).
  • The Standards encourage continuous improvement over time, not immediate leaps in progress.
  • Organisations will not be expected to build things from scratch. ACT and federal oversight bodies will provide guidance material, tools and resources, training sessions, telephone and email support.

While compliance will require work, the Standards also present opportunities for small business:

  • Investment in prevention is cost effective, as it mitigates exposure to the costs of investigations following incidents, and
  • Businesses that comply with the Standards are becoming providers of choice as parents increasingly ask about child safety when making purchasing decisions.

We are paying close attention to the schemes across the border in NSW and Victoria, and will try to find similarity and consistency.

Victoria regulated Child Safe Standards in 2016 following the Victoria Parliament Betrayal of Trust inquiry. The scheme is operated by the Victoria Commission for Children and Young People.

NSW will be similar to the Victorian model, but with some important changes. The NSW scheme will be operated by the NSW Office of the Children’s Guardian.

The language of the ACT standards may be similar to the National Principles, but we will also look closely at the Victorian and NSW versions of the Standards.

Royal Commission

How you will have YourSay:

The ACT Government’s response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (Royal Commission) puts community engagement at its centre. We are committed to developing change with those individuals and organisations who will be affected to ensure we get the best fit for the ACT.

This page is where we will ask for suggestions and feedback on the changes we can make to enhance a culture of child safety in the ACT.

We will be looking at:

The Royal Commission made 409 recommendations across four reports. The ACT Government has responded to each of the 307 recommendations relevant to us, and we will be implementing as many as we can, as soon as we can.

Engagements in the coming months and years will cover recommendations in each of the Royal Commission's reports:

  • Final Report
  • Working With Children Checks Report
  • Redress and Civil Litigation Report
  • Criminal Justice Report

Who can provide input:

The ACT Government will need to consult regularly with children and families, community organisations, expert stakeholders and industry bodies as we work to implement more of the Royal Commission’s recommendations over the coming months and years.

All engagements are open to the whole Canberra community yet they may be of particular interest to stakeholder groups working in legal, justice and social service areas.

We will use your views to:

The views you share will help us iron out details in legislation, regulation or other changes we've committed to making in response to the Royal Commission. You will help to ensure the reforms we implement are tailor-made to be effective in the ACT.

History

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (the Royal Commission) was established in 2013, in response to allegations of sexual abuse of children in institutional contexts that had been emerging in Australia for many years.

The Royal Commission issued a total of four reports:

  • The Final Report on 15 December 2017, containing 189 recommendations. 105 of these are pertinent to state and territory governments.
  • The Working with Children Checks Report in August 2015, containing 36 recommendations, 35 of which are relevant to the ACT.
  • The Redress and Civil Litigation Report in September 2015, containing 99 recommendations, 84 of which are relevant to the ACT
  • The Criminal Justice Report in August 2017, containing 85 recommendations, 83 of which are relevant to the ACT.

The ACT Government has been implementing recommendations from Royal Commission since they began to be issued in 2015. Criminal justice reforms improving support to vulnerable witnesses, the establishment of a Reportable Conduct Scheme, removing limitation periods for civil litigation and joining the national Redress Scheme are just a few examples.

The ACT Government formally responded to the Royal Commission’s Final Report on 15 June 2018. Of the 307 recommendations relevant to the ACT Government, we accepted or accepted in principle 290 of these, and noted or took under further consideration the remaining 17.

The ACT Government’s response is available here: https://www.act.gov.au/childabuseroyalcommission/formalresponse

In December 2018, the ACT Government released its first annual Progress Report on responding to the recommendations of the Royal Commission, which is available here: https://www.act.gov.au/childabuseroyalcommission/documents

Next Steps

Over the coming year our areas of focus will include:

  • Progressing work to determine the best approach for implementing Child Safe Standards in the ACT.
  • Amending legislation to enhance the operation and administration of the Working With Vulnerable People Scheme.
  • Collaborating with the Commonwealth and other State and Territory governments on recommendations agreed as national priorities, such as developing the National Framework on Child Safety and Child Safe Standards, information sharing, record keeping and data collection; and addressing the complex issue of children with harmful sexual behaviours.