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Early childhood services - child safety and wellbeing

Guidance on Child Safe Standard 2: Ensure that child safety and wellbeing are embedded in service leadership, governance and culture.


Standard 2 focuses on embedding risk management in service leadership, governance and culture.

A culture of child safety must be driven by service leaders and supported by effective systems and processes. It requires services to:

  • make a public commitment to child safety
  • actively monitor, review and evaluate child abuse risks
  • reduce the risk of harm and abuse to children
  • embed a child safety culture at all levels of the service, led by leaders' behaviour
  • create an open environment where identifying and reporting harm is encouraged
  • respond appropriately to allegations or suspicions of harm or disclosures.

The 2016 Standards already required services to comply with many aspects of this standard. However, the new standard emphasises information sharing, record keeping and governance arrangements to create a child safe culture at all levels.

Reasons for the changes

The Betrayal of Trust InquiryExternal Link and the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child AbuseExternal Link examined systemic failures to protect children. Many failures were the result of poor leadership, governance and culture, including:

  • leaders who failed to act or were complicit in covering up child safety complaints
  • governance structures that did not have adequate oversight or review mechanisms
  • cultures that put adult offenders or organisational reputation above children's safety.
  • 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 2

Standard 2: Child safety and wellbeing is embedded in leadership, governance and culture.

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

  • The service makes a public commitment to child safety (2.1).
  • A child safe culture is championed and modelled at all levels of the service from the top down and bottom up (2.2).
  • Governance arrangements facilitate implementation of the child safety and wellbeing policy at all levels (2.3).
  • Code of Conduct provides guidelines for staff and volunteers on expected behavioural standards and responsibilities (2.4).
  • Risk management strategies focus on preventing, identifying and mitigating risks to children and young people (2.5).
  • Staff and volunteers understand their obligations on information sharing and record keeping (2.6).

How to comply - examples and ideas

Start by reviewing your existing policies and procedures. Then compare them with the Standard 2 requirements.

    • Make a public commitment to child safety
      • display your commitment prominently on your website, in the principal’s reception, and service premises
      • include it in newsletters, recruitment and enrolment packages
      • make it an agenda item for discussion at every staff meeting
      • reference it in relevant policies, your service philosophy or child safety policies
      • include it in training and inductions.
    • Communicate and demonstrate that:
      • racism is not tolerated in any way
      • complaints and concerns are taken seriously and acted upon
    • Create accessible versions of child safety and anti-racism information, including translations and visual versions for children such as posters or flowcharts.
    • Make sure all service leaders publicly champion and model child safety, and that child safety is reflected at all levels of the service.
    • Conduct a risk assessment of abuse and harm to children that considers the service setting, activities, personnel, and physical and online environments. Review this regularly, especially if there are changes to legislation, policy or the physical environment at the service.
      • Develop a risk management strategy focused on preventing, identifying and mitigating risks of abuse and harm to children
      • Actively monitor, review and evaluate child abuse risks
      • Use this information to inform your policies and procedures.
    • Make sure your Code of Conduct outlines acceptable and unacceptable behaviour for everyone at the service, including all adults and children, and the consequences for breaching it.
      • Make sure all new and existing staff and volunteers are aware of the Code of Conduct and what it contains.
      • Review and update the Code of Conduct following any incidents, complaints, concerns or near misses.
      • Make the Code of Conduct publicly available.
    • Require leaders, staff and volunteers to disclose any potential conflicts of interest and manage relationships and situations to reduce risks arising from conflict of interest.
    • Make sure your philosophy, policies, procedures and practices all prioritise protecting children from harm and abuse.
    • Governance systems should support leaders in monitoring whether risk assessment and management is working properly.
    • Promote regular open discussion on child safety issues at:
      • staff meetings
      • leadership team meetings
      • supervision meetings and annual reviews
      • at parent information meetings
      • informally, during conversations between educators and parents at pick up/drop off.
    • Support children, families, staff and volunteers to safely disclose any child safety concerns or complaints. Report back to complainants about the actions taken as a result of their complaint.
    • Provide regular refresher training to all staff and volunteers on their reporting obligations. This should include:
  • A good record keeping system is central to transparency, accountability, and the overall integrity of your service.

    Make sure everyone at the service:

    • Clearly understands what information they can lawfully shareExternal Link (both internally and externally) while maintaining confidentiality and privacy. Sharing relevant information about risks to children within your service and externally can be critical to managing child safety.
    • Attends an online session or completes an e-module on the child information sharing and family violence reforms. Alternatively, invite a speaker to present to a staff meeting.
    • Understands their record keeping obligations, including:
      • what records they must keep about incidents, concerns or complaints of abuse or harm to a child
      • that the records must be made as soon as possible to the time of the incidents, and as accurate as possible
      • how the records must be kept (either electronically or in hard copy)
      • where these records are stored at the service
      • why record keeping is important (so complaints or abuse allegations can be investigated properly).
    • Consult with staff, volunteers and families during all reviews.
    • Get input from experts and others to improve your systems.
    • Ask students what matters to them, what makes them feel safe and whether the service's child safety strategies are meeting their needs. Use focus groups or other methods.
  • Standard 7 - Processes for complaints and concerns are child focused.

  • Both the National Quality Framework and the CS Act have extensive requirements to protect children’s safety, health and wellbeing and ensure services meet their developmental needs. These include:

    • requirements to adequately supervise children
    • take every precaution to protect children from harm
    • prohibiting corporal punishment or unreasonable discipline.

    Quality Area 7 of the National Quality Standard (NQS) also focuses on governance to support the operation of a quality service.

    Under both schemes, services must keep records in a safe and secure place for prescribed period of time. Records specifically relating to an incident, injury or trauma suffered by a child at a service must be stored in a safe and secure place until the child is aged 25 years. Other records must be kept for other periods.

    Find out how Standard 2 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

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