Victorian Commission for Children and Young People Updates Child Safe Organisation Guide to Reflect Royal Commission

28 June 2018

Last week the Victorian Commission for Children and Young People (CCYP) released a new version of the Guide for Creating a Child Safe Organisation (the Guide). This 2018 version replaces the previous August 2016 version and has been updated to reflect learnings from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (Royal Commission) and provides increased guidance for organisations in implementing the Victorian Child Safe Standards.

The Guide increases its focus on overall child safety, rather than just focusing on safety from abuse or harm. In particular the Guide has significantly increased its guidance on creating and maintaining the safety of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) children, children from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds (CALD children), children with a disability and same-sex attracted, intersex, non-binary and gender diverse children and young people.

The Guide also provides commentary on the Royal Commission’s findings where relevant to provide reasoning for additions to certain areas of the Guide.

This article identifies key additions or changes in the Guide which can be accessed via the CCYP’s website.

New and Expanded Definitions

The Guide has introduced definitions for disability and cultural and linguistic diversity. Disability is given the same meaning as in the Disability Act 2006 (Vic). Cultural and linguistic diversity is defined to refer to the range of different cultural and language groups represented in the population who identify as having cultural or linguistic affiliations. The term acknowledges that diversity may arise from a range of circumstances including place of birth, ancestry or ethnic origin, religion, preferred language or language spoken at home.

The Guide also expands the definitions for physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional and psychological abuse and neglect to provide more guidance to organisations. Interestingly, the definition of “racial, cultural, religious” abuse has been removed.

Setting the Scene

This section of the Guide has been significantly updated to include:

  • more information about the Royal Commission and Volume 6 of the Final Report: Making institutions safe
  • a wealth of information for organisations on creating and promoting child safety for all children and young people, including new practical suggestions for organisations in implementing the Principle of Inclusion in the Victorian Child Safe Standards
  • a significant increase in guidance on the safety of same-sex attracted, intersex, non-binary and gender diverse children and young people including practical suggestions for ways organisations can support these children and young people.

Standard 1: Strategies to Embed an Organisational Culture of Child Safety, Through Effective Leadership Arrangements

The key change to this section is the update and relocation of the Child Safe Standards Implementation and Action Plan that was previously found under Standard 1 to Appendix 1.

Standard 2: A Child Safe Policy or Statement of Commitment to Child Safety

The main update to this section is an update to the Sample Child Safe Policy to:

  • reflect the increase in guidance relating to ATSI children, CALD children and children with a disability
  • include a role description for a Child Safety Person
  • include a records management section in the Policy, reflecting the Royal Commission’s five high-level principles for records and record keeping listed in the Final Report’s recommendations
  • include a non-compliance section that outlines potential disciplinary action and investigations that may result from non-compliance.

Standard 3: A Code of Conduct that Establishes Clear Expectations for Appropriate Behaviour with Children

The Guide includes a significant increase in guidance for organisations writing codes of conduct. The Sample Code of Conduct has also been updated to include:

  • an organisation’s commitment to child safety
  • consequences of breaching the Code
  • a change from a list of acceptable and unacceptable behaviours phrased as “staff and volunteers will and will not” to a more active “I will” and “I will not” – the Sample still includes a section for the staff member or volunteer to sign the Code.

Standard 4: Screening, Supervision, Training and Other Human Resource Practices That Reduce the Risk of Child Abuse by New and Existing Personnel

Key updates to this section of the Guide include:

  • additions to elements that organisations should include in job descriptions and duty statements
  • additional screening procedures and guidance on assessing the suitability of potential staff or volunteers
  • an increased focus on values-based interviewing and questions to direct to applicants to test their suitability to work with children
  • a new section on induction for staff and volunteers, including guidance on the topics to follow when training new starters.

Standard 5: Processes for Responding to and Reporting Suspected Child Abuse

Key updates to this section of the Guide include:

  • information about the importance of having clear procedures and how this was reflected in the Royal Commission’s findings, and the Betrayal of Trust inquiry
  • guidance on recurring themes in victims’ response to abuse from the Royal Commission’s findings
  • increased guidance on key components in supporting a child that has disclosed abuse
  • additional guidance on how to guard against contamination of evidence
  • the addition of Reportable Conduct Scheme guidance
  • an updated reporting flowchart for parents, children, staff members and volunteers.

Standard 6: Strategies to Identify and Reduce or Remove Risks of Child Abuse

Key updates to this section of the Guide include:

  • the introduction of the four types of risk in child-related organisations as identified in the Royal Commission’s research: situational risk, vulnerability risk, propensity risk and institutional risk (for more information see our previous School Governance article: Latest Royal Commission Report on Child Sexual Abuse Risk: Is your school a high risk institution).
  • increased guidance on developing a risk management plan including a new risk matrix for organisations to rate their risks
  • updated guidance in relation to cyber, online and mobile phone safety to reflect new technologies and popular apps.

Standard 7: Strategies to Promote the Participation and Empowerment of Children

The key change to this section of the Guide is the significant increase in guidance on what is meant by empowerment and participation, what it looks like in an organisation and practice advice for organisations in applying this Standard that had not been available in the past.

How to Respond to this Guide

The CCYP’s Guide is exactly that – a guide. It is not mandatory for organisations to implement the recommendations or guidance in this document. However, the updated Guide reflects key findings and recommendations of the Royal Commission that are being adopted across the country. Non-government schools are required to implement the Victorian Child Safe Standards (the Standards) and this Guide provides practical solutions to key areas of compliance that had been opaque or vague in the past, for example how to implement Standard 7: Strategies to promote the participation and empowerment of children. The Guide helps organisations to take child safety beyond policies and procedures and to practically implement the Standards.

The CCYP also strongly encourages all organisations in Victoria to adopt the Standards, and the guidance in this document, irrespective of whether compliance is mandated as a move towards best practice in child safety and protection from abuse and harm.

Cara Novakovic

Cara is a Content Product Manager at CompliSpace. She works predominantly with education clients to ensure ongoing compliance with the myriad of laws, regulations and guidance notes that apply to schools across Australia. Cara’s key area of expertise is Child Protection governance, risk and compliance. Cara holds both a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications (Journalism) and a Juris Doctor from the University of Technology, Sydney.