1 Assess the types of risks
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse identified 4 types of child safety risks.
Organisational risk describes school attributes that make child abuse more likely to occur. The same attributes also make child abuse less likely to be identified and addressed.
These risks may occur when schools do not focus on prevention or when the school culture allows misconduct to happen. For example, a student disclosure is not believed.
School culture, policy and practice can influence whether harm or abuse will occur, be prevented, detected or stopped. They will also determine the how well a school responds to a student disclosure or reports abuse.
Factors to consider include:
- level of student empowerment in the school culture
- internal structures that support students speaking up or reporting abuse
- willingness among decision-makers to put protective factors in place
- whether school community, staff or volunteer behaviour discourages reporting.
Reporting may be discouraged if the school:
- has a strong hierarchical structure
- encourages deference to authority or unquestioning trust of leaders
- has a close-knit community, where people have known each other for years or are related
- includes people with the attitude that young people should be seen and not heard
- prioritises its reputation above the safety of students.
Protective factors include:
- appropriate child safe policies are in place and implemented
- the school trains staff and volunteers in child safe policies
- the school communicates child safe policies to the school community
- adequate staffing to put policies and procedures into practice.
- How do our school structures, attitudes and practices affect the risk of harm or child abuse?
- Does our school have protective factors in place? What are they?
- Does our school community act to stop students reporting abuse?
Propensity risk reflects the willingness of an individual to behave in an unacceptable way.
These risks may occur when people with a tendency to abuse children are able to access their victims. These people may:
- have a sexual interest in children
- display anti-social tendencies which allows harm to go undetected
- have engaged in sexual misconduct or abuse before.
To manage propensity risk, schools must operate on the assumption that everyone who works with students can pose some level of risk to them.
- Does our school understand the character of adults who engage with students in our school?
- Have staff, volunteers, contractors, and service providers been effectively vetted?
- Does training undertaken by staff and volunteers work to reduce the risk of harm or child abuse?
- How does our school set expectations for adult behaviour?
Situational risks are created when potential perpetrators of child abuse have opportunities to:
- be alone with a student
- form relationships that involve physical contact or emotional closeness
This can lead to grooming and unlawful sexual behaviour.
Factors to consider include:
- the setting and facilities where the activity takes place
- how often and for how long the activity occurs between a student and adult
- whether the activity enables physical contact between students and adults
- whether interactions can result in an emotional dependence on adults
- the degree to which the activity is supervised.
- Are there opportunities for adults to be alone with students, unseen by others?
- Are there opportunities for adults to form relationships with students that could lead to child abuse?
- Are there opportunities for physical contact or emotional closeness that could lead to child abuse?
- How does the physical environment of our school mitigate risks to child safety?
- How does the online environment of our school mitigate risks to child safety?
Note: Situational risks in activities like school camps and excursions require their own risk analysis. Government schools should review our Excursions Policy.
Vulnerability risk arise from the characteristics of students in the school. All students are inherently vulnerable to abuse.
Factors that may increase vulnerability include:
- Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander or culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds
- students who identify as LGBTIQA+
- a history of trauma, abuse, mistreatment or neglect
- students with an incentive to remain silent
- inability to live at home
- international students
- contact with the justice system
- history of drug or alcohol dependence
- poor mental or physical health
- academic achievement
- What circumstances or characteristics might make students in our school more vulnerable to harm or abuse?
For further information see:
2 Consider potential harm
It is standard practice to assess causes and consequences when analysing risks. For child safety risks, it is also important to consider all types of potential injury or harm to a child.
Harms related to child safety may occur at school, during school-related activities or at home.
Schools should assess child safety risks arising from the school, or failure by the school to protect a student from known harm outside the school.
Assessing the consequences of harm is complex. The same form of abuse can have very different impacts on children. This makes it difficult to predict how a harm will affect a child. Some consequences may take many years to surface and may have a cumulative impact. For this reason, harms caused by child abuse is always significant or severe for a child and their family. Therefore, all child safety risks have severe consequences.
To help identify and monitor risks, you can use our risk register template, which:
- separates consequences that may harm the school from those that may harm children
- does not require schools to assess the likelihood and consequence of a risk to identify a risk rating. Instead, schools assess whether their risk controls will mitigate the harms arising from each standard.
If your school uses an alternative risk assessment approach and template based on an assessment of likelihood and consequence, you should always consider the consequence of child abuse and harm to be severe or catastrophic.
3 Identify existing and new controls and treatments
Consider the following when identifying existing, and planning for new controls and treatments.
- Policies – what is our school policy towards a risk?
- Processes – what are the steps our school takes to deal with a risk? For example, appointing a child safety champion
- Programs – what existing programs can we put in place across our school to address a risk? For example:
- Physical changes – can our school change our physical environment to reduce risk?
- Online filters – can our school manage the online environment to reduce risk?
- Supervision – can our school improve visibility of high-risk areas (physical or virtual) to reduce the risk?
- how does our school observe the behaviour of students, staff and volunteers?
- how does our school support students to behave safely?
- Routines – can our school create a sense of predictability to reduce risk?
- Training – can our school upskill staff and volunteers to reduce risk?
- Communications – can our school promote child safety to reduce risk?
Child Safety Risk Register template
The Child Safety Risk Register template is aligned with each of the 11 Child Safe Standards and includes:
- pre-populated content for risk titles and descriptions, risk causes and risk consequences – schools do not need to change these columns
- sample content for risk controls – schools need to change this content to ensure it is accurate for their local circumstances
- a column for the school to record whether existing controls are sufficient (controls assessment)
- additional columns for risk treatments (future action that will be taken by the responsible person) and dates for completion – schools need to complete these columns where required following the controls assessment
This template is optional. Schools can use other risk templates to identify and monitor child safety risks.
Schools must tailor example content to be relevant to the school.
Not tailoring the sample content may result in non-compliance with Child Safe Standard 2 and Ministerial Order 1359.
Instructions for completing the template
- Save your own copy of the template.
- Consider the identified child safety risks for each standard, along with the causes and consequences relating to the risk.
- Review the sample content in the ‘existing controls’ column and change to ensure it is accurate for your school’s local circumstances. These risk controls will refer to some of your child safety and wellbeing policies and procedures so you will need to refer to these policies when assessing the adequacy of the controls.
- Assess whether your existing controls, when taken together, are sufficient to manage the identified risk, taking into account the identified risk causes and consequences.
- If all existing controls are currently in place and they are considered sufficient to address this risk, select ‘Yes’.
- If any existing controls are not in place or are not considered sufficient to manage the risk in your school, select ‘No’ and outline the actions that will be taken to address this in the treatment column. You may also need to change the existing controls column
- Add the position title of the person responsible for implementing the new treatments.
- Add a date for when the new treatments should be in place.
- Once the register is finalised, record the date at the top of the register and add a date for when the risk register will be reviewed. Risks should be monitored, reviewed and reported on every year. Risks may need to be reviewed more often if there is a child safety incident.
- Make sure the principal approves the Child Safety Risk Register. Provide copies to relevant staff and ensure the register is available to members of the school community on request.