Victoria government logo

Early childhood services - child and student empowerment

Guidance on Child Safe Standard 3: Children are empowered about their rights, participate in decisions affecting them and are taken seriously.


Standard 3 focuses on creating a culture that:

  • values and promotes child participation
  • informs children about their rights including to safety
  • encourages the importance of friendships.

It will require very different approaches for children in school aged services compared to services for children under school age.

All information and engagement should be age-appropriate. However, this does not mean young children can be forgotten. Just like adults, all children have rights.

All but the very youngest children can be supported and encouraged to participate. Include it in your programming using visual aids, posters, infographics and videos as appropriate.

Implementing this standard

Implementing this standard includes:

  • engaging children and explaining their rights and responsibilities in an age-appropriate way
  • recognising the importance of friendships and peer support
  • enabling children to actively participate in creating a culture that is safe for them and their peers
  • ensuring all staff and volunteers:
    • are attuned to signs of harm
    • facilitate ways for children to express their views, participate in decision-making and raise their concerns.

Benefits of empowering children

Empowering children improves child safety. Policies and practices shaped by children's views can better prevent the risk of harm. And children are more likely to speak up when they feel respected and confident they will be heard.

Supporting friends and peers

Children benefit from strong friendships. They often view their friends as their main source of support, information and advice, and will go to them for help.

Support children to raise concerns about the safety or wellbeing of their friends.

  • Services approved under the National Quality Framework (NQF):

    • long day care
    • family day care
    • kindergartens (preschool)
    • Outside School Hours Care (OSHC)
    • school holiday programs that operate for 28 days or more per year.

    Services approved under the Children’s Services Act (CS Act):

    • limited hours
    • occasional care
    • school holiday programs that operate for less than 28 days per year
    • early childhood intervention services
    • former Budget Based Funded services
    • mobile services.

Actions services must take to comply with Standard 3

Standard 3: Children are empowered about their rights, participate in decisions affecting them and are taken seriously.

Early childhood services must comply with all the following elements of this Standard:

  • Children and young people are informed about all of their rights, including to safety, information and participation (3.1).
  • The importance of friendships is recognised and support from peers is encouraged, to help children and young people feel safe and be less isolated (3.2).
  • Where relevant to the setting or context, children and young people are offered access to sexual abuse prevention programs and to relevant related information in an age-appropriate way (3.3).
  • Staff and volunteers are attuned to signs of harm and facilitate child-friendly ways for children and young people to express their views, participate in decision-making and raise their concerns (3.4).
  • Services have strategies in place to develop a culture that facilitates participation and is responsive to the input of children and young people (3.5).
  • Services provide opportunities for children and young people to participate and are responsive to their contributions, thereby strengthening confidence and engagement (3.6).

How to comply - examples and ideas

Start by reflecting on how your service already involves and empowers children.

The way children are informed, included and empowered will look very different depending on their age and temperament. Use a variety of approaches including images on posters, infographics, flowcharts, and videos.

    • Educate staff to uphold Aboriginal cultural safety and respect the identity and culture of all children at the service.
    • Train staff and volunteers to provide child-friendly ways for children to:
      • express their views
      • take part in decision-making
      • raise their concerns.
    • Educate staff and volunteers about children's rights, including the 4 guiding principles in the Convention on the Rights of the Child.External Link
    • Display visually engaging and easy-to-read posters promoting children’s voice and agency.
    • Invite children to provide feedback on service-wide decisions, and take their views into account.
    • Involve children in consultation processes, and inform them of their impact on decision-making.
    • Provide children who find it harder to speak up or be heard with multiple communication methods including writing, drawing, or physical forms of communication.
    • Discuss commitment to the child’s voice with parents at enrolment, and with the child themselves where appropriate. Organise orientation activities focused on activating children’s voices.
    • Document children’s participation in activities that contribute to the life of the service.
    • Demonstrate that the service takes children seriously by acting on their concerns. Note that what might seem unimportant to an adult may be important to a young person.
    • Give children information about complaints processes.
    • Offer children a variety of ways to raise concerns. For example:
      • an anonymous, year-level child suggestion box
      • regular online surveys
      • information about the adults children can talk to if they have a concern.
    • Make sure children have opportunities, both formal and informal, to have their say on safety issues.
    • Highlight child views in your service community or public-facing documents, including quoting children where appropriate.
    • Create opportunities for all child voices by being aware of:
      • discriminatory barriers
      • over reliance on the input of child leaders.
    • Teach children practical protective strategies, including:
      • what to do when they feel unsafe
      • phrases they can use to raise an objection
      • pathways for raising safety concerns, and
      • online safety behaviours.
    • Provide a range of age-appropriate picture books, fiction and non-fiction that include:
      • children's rights and empowerment themes
      • cultural and linguistic diversity
      • neurodiverse characters and people with disability
      • diversity in sexual orientation and gender.
    • Support all children to identify trusted adults and friends they can talk to about a concern at service, at home or in the community.
    • Empower children with the knowledge that adults are accountable and that children have a right to safety.
    • Provide contact information for independent child and youth advocacy services or helplines.
    • Display posters acknowledging sexuality and gender diversity. Identify safe spaces where children can go if they need support.
    • Discuss healthy boundaries for friendships. Point out that the risk of harm can occur in child-to-child interactions, as well as adult-to-child interactions.
    • Information on the Bully Stoppers programExternal Link may be relevant for school age children in OSHC services.
    • Are there any practices that disempower children? If so, take action to change them.
    • Do you provide regular opportunities for children to have their say about safety issues?
    • Are all children able to fully participate at the service? If not, how can you support their participation? Can you provide more opportunities to strengthen their confidence and engagement?
    • What could you do to develop a culture that encourages participation and responds to what children say?
    • How can you raise awareness of child safety issues with children attending your service in an age-appropriate way?
    • Are all staff and volunteers confident to recognise and act on any signs of child abuse and harm? If not provide support and training to develop these skills.
    • Do all staff and volunteers understand child rights? If not, provide support and training to develop these skills.
    • How can you help the children build their skills in supporting their peers and challenge bullying or isolating behaviour?
    • Consider offering sexual abuse prevention programs for children in an age-appropriate way.
    • Standard 1 - culturally safe environments for Aboriginal children.
    • Standard 7 - processes for complaints and concerns are child focused.
    • Standard 8 - child safety knowledge, skills and awareness.
  • The National Law and the Children’s Services Act Services already require services to consider the rights and best interests of children as paramount, and to:

    • empower children about their rights
    • engage children in decisions that affect them
    • take children seriously
    • encourage them to express themselves and their opinions
    • allow them to undertake experiences that develop self-reliance and self-esteem
    • maintain their dignity and rights at all times
    • provide opportunities to interact and develop respectful and positive relationships with each other and with staff members and volunteers
    • ensure all staff and volunteers are aware of child protection law.

    The Victorian Early Years Learning and Development FrameworkExternal Link (VEYLDF) also promotes this approach:

    • children are citizens with equal rights that are consulted meaningfully, with families and communities, about issues that affect them
    • educators engage respectfully with children to promote confidence and empowerment in everyday routines and experiences
    • positive, respectful engagement that allows children to form strong bonds and friendships with others.

    The National Quality StandardExternal Link (NQS) also requires NQF services to promote each child’s agency, their dignity and rights, and many other requirements.

    Find out how Standard 3 aligns with existing regulatory requirements, the NQS and the VEYLDF at Mapping the Child Safe Standards (DOCX, 96KB)External Link .


Reviewed 28 June 2022

Child Safe Standards

Was this page helpful?