Schools - child and student empowerment guidance

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

All references to 'schools' in this guidance include school boarding premises.

This standard commences on 1 July 2022.


This standard supports schools to create a culture that values and promotes student participation. This includes:

  • informing students about their rights and responsibilities in an age-appropriate way
  • recognising the importance of friendships and peer support
  • enabling students to actively participate in creating a culture that is safe for them and their peers.

Benefits of empowering students

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

Supporting friends and peers

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

Supporting students to raise concerns about the safety or wellbeing of their friends to encourage students to support their peers.

Actions schools must take

To comply with this standard, at minimum, schools must:

  • inform students about all their rights, including their rights to safety, information and participation
  • recognise the importance of friendships and encourage support from peers, to help students feel safe and be less isolated
  • make sure staff and volunteers:
    • are attuned to signs of harm
    • facilitate child-friendly ways for students to express their views, participate in decision-making and raise their concerns
  • to develop a culture that encourages participation and responds to what students say
  • give students opportunities to participate, and respond to their contributions to strengthen confidence and engagement
  • offer students access to sexual abuse prevention programs and related information in an age-appropriate way. School boarding premises are required to offer sexual abuse prevention programs and related information where it is relevant to the setting or context
  • develop curriculum planning documents or other documentation that details how the school will address these requirements.

Relevant standards

Implementing the standard

Think about actions your school might take

There are many actions schools may use to address this standard. To get started, review the example actions on this page.

Develop policies

Talk to families and students when developing these policies if it is safe, reasonable and appropriate to do so. For guidance, use Child Safe Standard 4: Family Engagement.

Schools can use these templates to develop the policies:

All schools

Government schools

Take all the necessary actions

Use this checklist to make sure your school is doing everything required to comply with this standard:

Review child safety policies

Schools must review their child safety and wellbeing policies:

  • after any significant child safety incident
  • at least once every 2 years.

Examples of actions to support the child and student empowerment

Inform students of their rights

Empower students to contribute to school life

  • Display visually engaging and easy-to-read posters promoting student voice and agency.
  • Discuss commitment to student's voice at enrolment and organise orientation activities focused on activating student's voice.
  • Conduct year-level meetings and form groups to discuss students' rights and safety issues.
  • Invite students to provide feedback on school-wide decisions and take their views into account in school decision-making.
  • Document student participation in activities that contribute to the life of the school.
  • Involve students in consultation processes and inform them of their impact on decision-making.
  • Demonstrate that the school takes students seriously by acting on their concerns, noting that what might seem unimportant to an adult may be important to a young person.
  • Become a VicSRC Partner School.
  • Provide students who find it harder to speak up or be heard with multiple avenues for communicating, including writing, drawing, or physical forms of communication.

Empower students to raise their concerns

  • Provide students with information about complaints processes.
  • Give students a variety of ways to raise concerns. For example:
    • provide an anonymous, year-level student suggestion box
    • distribute regular online surveys
    • display information about the adults who students can talk to if they have a concern.
  • Highlight student views in your school community or public-facing documents, including quoting students where appropriate.
  • Create opportunities for all student voices by being aware of discriminatory barriers and any overreliance on the input of student leaders.

Strengthen peer support for safety and wellbeing

  • Display posters acknowledging sexuality and gender diversity and identify safe spaces where students can go if they need support.
  • Carry out regular whole school wellbeing assessment surveys.
  • Use the Bully Stoppers survey tool to assess bullying in your school.
  • Establish Student Action Teams to investigate issues of inclusion and exclusion.
  • 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.
  • Use school transition programs, like Transition: A Positive Start to School (DOCX, 4.3MB) or Transition – Year 6 to 7, to provide support for students entering the school.
  • Provide buddying or mentoring programs for new students transitioning to the school mid‑year or outside of the regular transition timeline.

Establish protective factors

  • Teach students 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 contact information for independent child and youth advocacy services or helplines.
  • 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 students to identify trusted adults and friends they can talk to about a concern at school, at home or in the community.
  • Deliver age-appropriate curriculum content about respectful relationships, sexuality, consent and sexual abuse prevention through the Resilience Rights and Respectful Relationships teaching and learning materials as part of implementing the whole school approach to Respectful Relationships.
  • Use the School's Mental Health Menu to support students in your school.
  • Empower students with the knowledge that adults are accountable and that students have a right to safety.

Communicate in a respectful and age-appropriate way

  • Educate staff to uphold Aboriginal cultural safety and be respectful of identity and culture.
  • Train staff and volunteers to facilitate child-friendly ways for students to express their views, participate in decision-making and 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.

Use sensitivity and build trust

  • Provide training to staff and volunteers to be attuned to signs of harm and risk factors in students.
  • Remind staff and volunteers to recognise that students might communicate in different ways, including through verbal and non-verbal cues, play, body language, facial expressions, drawings or behaviours.
  • Follow through on your commitments – show students that the leadership team and staff are trustworthy and take their worries or concerns seriously.


For further help to meet Child Safe Standard 3 and Ministerial Order 1359, contact