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Early childhood services - diversity and equity

Guidance on Child Safe Standard 5: Equity is upheld and diverse needs are respected in policy and practice.


Standard 5 focuses on equity and diversity, and making sure all children feel welcome.

It requires that:

  • children’s needs are understood and respected
  • any necessary adjustments are made so all children are equally protected at the service
  • children have access to information, support and complaints processes that are culturally safe, accessible and easy to understand.

Each child has the right to fully participate at the service. All barriers must be consciously addressed using a strengths-based approach.

Services must pay particular attention to the needs of children at higher risk of harm due to their vulnerability:

  • Aboriginal children
  • children from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds
  • children who are unable to live at home
  • gender diverse children.
  • 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 5

Standard 5: Equity is upheld and diverse needs are respected in policy and practice.

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

  • The service, including staff and volunteers, understands children’s diverse circumstances, and provides support and responds to those who are vulnerable (5.1).
  • Children have access to information, support and complaints processes in ways that are culturally safe, accessible and easy to understand (5.2).
  • The service pays particular attention to the needs of children with disability, children from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, those who are unable to live at home, and transgender and intersex children (5.3).
  • The service pays particular attention to the needs of Aboriginal children and provides/promotes a culturally safe environment for them (5.4).

How to comply - examples and ideas

Start by reviewing your existing policies and procedures, and compare them with the requirements of Standard 5.

In particular, consider if your service provides:

  • equitable outcomes to children specially mentioned in this standard
  • a culturally safe environment reflecting the diversity of the children, their families and the local community
  • a complaints policy children can understand, and that is culturally safe.
  • Recognise the diverse backgrounds and family attributes of the children at your service. Pay attention to:

    • cultural safety for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children
    • the needs of :
      • children with disability and responses to disability
      • children from diverse religious and cultural communities
      • very young children.
    • the impact of prior trauma
    • gender differences
    • the experiences of gender diverse children
    • challenges for children who are in foster care, out of home care, living away from home
    • socio-economic factors such as:
      • children whose family is experiencing homelessness
      • insecure employment or accommodation
      • individual or family contact with the justice system
      • poverty
      • addiction
      • low educational attainment
      • remote or regional isolation.
    • Download the CCYP’s tip sheets from Resources and support for the Child Safe StandardsExternal Link on:
      • ‘Safety of children from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds’
      • Cultural safety for Aboriginal children
      • Safety of children with a disability
      • CCYP | Resources and support for the Child Safe Standards
    • Use contemporary, culturally sensitive and inclusive examples when discussing families, relationships, professions and activities.
    • Normalise asking for and using people’s preferred pronouns and names.
    • Communicate that the service does not tolerate discrimination and bullying. Address any incidents of bullying or discrimination in line with the service’s policy.
    • Respond to family violence in an accessible, culturally responsive, safe, child-centred, inclusive and non-discriminatory way.
    • Offer buddying and mentoring for children at risk of social isolation.
    • Pay attention to diverse child groups and individuals in your community, as they may be at a higher risk of harm.
    • Validate children’ feelings. Children may feel they have not been listened to or believed in the past.
    • Let children know they can raise concerns or report incidents at the service and outside it.
    • Check in with vulnerable children and their families to confirm their needs are being met. You can do this at pick-up or drop-off, one-on-one meetings, or informal discussions.
    • Engage genuinely with children. Find out what matters to them, what they know and don’t know about safety, and what they need to be safe and feel safe.
    • Discuss how children feel about discussing their personal circumstances and respect their wishes. Note that staff or volunteers may be required to share information despite the child’s desire for confidentiality if they reasonably believe it is necessary to lessen or prevent a serious threat to an individual’s life, health, safety or welfare.
    • Make service environments welcoming and inclusive. For example:
      • display flags representing different cultures
      • provide materials in different languages
      • decorate with artistic expressions from children.
    • Regularly remind staff and volunteers about diversity and accommodating children’s needs.
    • Train staff and volunteers to identify and address racism, bullying and discrimination.
    • Anticipate the needs of children from diverse backgrounds and life circumstances. Don’t expect all children to be equally empowered or comfortable asking for what they need.
    • Seek out expert advice to support inclusion. For example, an occupational therapist, speech pathologist, or provision planning.
    • Recognise dates that connect with your children and families, for example:
      • Cultural Diversity Week (March)
      • Hearing Awareness Week (1–7 March)
      • IDAHOBIT (International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersexism and Transphobia, 17 May)
      • National Reconciliation Week (27 May–3 June)
      • Crazy Hair Day (Cystic Fibrosis Awareness, 26 July)
      • World Mental Health Day (10 October)
      • International Day of Persons with Disability (3 December)
    • Compile a range of age-appropriate instructional materials for exploring differences and similarities including:
      • Books, and resources that reflect diverse views and perspectives
      • Dolls and toys that reflect different (or no) genders, cultural backgrounds and physical abilities
      • Speech and drama scripts that explore themes around diversity.
      • Use images of children with diverse characteristics in publications.
  • Standard 1 - culturally safe environments for Aboriginal children.

  • The guiding principles of equity, inclusion and diversity are found in both the NQF and CS Act. Each Act has extensive requirements to help make sure services uphold equity and meet children’s diverse needs.

    Both Acts require that service educational programs contribute to the following outcomes for each child:

    • have a strong sense of identity
    • be connected with and contribute to his or her world
    • have a strong sense of wellbeing
    • be a confident and involved learner
    • be an effective communicator.

    Equity and diversity is also a practice principal in the Victorian Early Years Learning Development FrameworkExternal Link (VEYLDF). It promotes:

    • working with families, in particular those experiencing vulnerability and disadvantage
    • providing equitable opportunities for children with diverse capabilities and life circumstances
    • acknowledges each child’s uniqueness and that children require different levels of support – some significantly more than others
    • working with families, particularly those experiencing vulnerability and disadvantage
    • that the interests, abilities and culture of each child and their family are understood and valued.

    Find out how Standard 5 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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