Schools - culturally safe environments guidance

Guidance on Child Safe Standard 1: Establish a culturally safe environment in which the diverse and unique identities and experiences of Aboriginal children and young people are respected and valued.

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

This standard commences on 1 July 2022.


This is a new standard that requires schools to make sure Aboriginal children and young people feel safe.

This guidance applies to all schools, even if there are no students who have identified themselves as Aboriginal.

The term ‘Aboriginal’ includes Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. It is important to be respectful of how individual children, students, their families and community refer to themselves, and use appropriate language.

Cultural safety includes being provided with a safe, nurturing and positive environment where Aboriginal children:

  • feel comfortable being themselves
  • feel comfortable expressing their culture, including their spiritual and belief systems
  • are supported by carers who respect their Aboriginality and encourage their sense of self and identity.

Benefits of cultural safety

Being able to express their culture makes Aboriginal children stronger and safer. Aboriginal children and young people who don’t feel safe being themselves and expressing their individuality may be less willing to report abuse.

Providing safe environments for children has positive, lifelong impacts that cannot be underestimated, and cultural safety is a key dimension of safety for Aboriginal children.

Key elements of cultural safety

Understand identity

Identifying as Aboriginal is one part of a child or young person’s identity. Like everyone, Aboriginal people have different life experiences and characteristics. Schools must recognise that each person is unique with their own characteristics, strengths and challenges.

Respect culture

Culture and identity are linked. By supporting Aboriginal children to feel strong in their identity schools also help them enjoy their cultural rights.

Australia’s colonial history has caused significant trauma and hurt that individuals, families and communities still feel today. However, Aboriginal communities have a long history of resilience and growth in the face of adversity and trauma. Schools should show respect for the deep resilience of Victorian Aboriginal communities.

Eliminate racism and abuse

Making your school culturally safe means taking the specific action needed to keep Aboriginal children and young people safe from abuse and harm.

Schools need to address all forms of racism and consider attitudes and practices that are a barrier to providing a culturally safe environment and to address all forms of racism.

Actions schools must take

To comply with this standard, at minimum, schools must encourage and actively support a child or student’s ability to express their culture and enjoy their cultural rights in the following ways:

  • equip staff, students, volunteers and the school community to acknowledge and appreciate the strengths of Aboriginal culture and understand its importance to the wellbeing and safety of Aboriginal children and students
  • adopt measures to ensure racism is identified, confronted and not tolerated
  • address any instances of racism within the school environment with appropriate consequences
  • actively support participation and inclusion in the school by Aboriginal children, students and their families
  • ensure school policies, procedures, systems and processes together create a culturally safe and inclusive environment and meet the needs of Aboriginal children, students and their families
  • develop and endorse a policy or statement detailing the strategies and actions the school will take.

Relevant standards

Implementing the standard

Implementing this standard will require ongoing effort, not just a once-off change.

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 child safety policies

Consult with families, students and the local Aboriginal community when developing policies to address this standard.

For additional guidance, use Guidance on Family Engagement (CCYP).

Schools can use these templates to develop policies:

All schools

Government schools

Take all the necessary actions

Schools can use this checklist to implement 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 cultural safety

Build a strong school culture to support cultural inclusion

  • Begin events and meetings with a Welcome to Country or an Acknowledgement of Country as a standing agenda item. Use this as an opportunity to pause and reflect or open a discussion.
  • Fly the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags on school grounds.
  • Display plaques and signs to Acknowledge Country and Traditional Owners.
  • Make Aboriginal voice part of decision making in matters that affect Aboriginal students. Be open to different ways of doing and expressing things.
  • Celebrate the local Aboriginal community in communications with students, staff, volunteers and families. Share information through school newsletters, school assemblies, parent information nights.
  • Lead on safety and inclusion for all Aboriginal students and their families. Learn more about Aboriginal histories and cultures, both locally and across Australia. Speak with respect and confidence about Aboriginal culture, knowledge systems and people.
  • Build schoolwide knowledge of Aboriginal histories, cultures, perspectives, values, skills and attitudes.

Provide a welcoming environment for Aboriginal children

  • Acknowledge and draw on the existing knowledge of Aboriginal students and their families.
  • Ask for feedback from Aboriginal students and their families about what the school does well, and what can be improved.
  • Implement the Koorie Education Policy to create a learning environment for all students that acknowledges, respects and values Aboriginal cultures and identities (Government schools).
  • Use Koorie Engagement Support Officers (KESOs) to provide advice to government schools about creating culturally inclusive learning environments.
  • Use the Marrung Aboriginal Education Plan 2016–2026 to guide the school’s support for Aboriginal self-determination.

Actively address racism

  • Express zero tolerance of racism in your statement of commitment to child safety included in your Child Safety and Wellbeing Policy and other documents.
  • Address racism from students, staff, volunteers or visitors directly. Make sure racist speech or actions are always dealt with, and the culture of the school works to prevent incidents from occurring.
  • Put school leaders at the front of anti-racist action. Discuss racism and work to address unconscious bias and racism in the school community.
  • Encourage non-Aboriginal school leaders and teachers to commit to ways they can work as an effective ally to Aboriginal students, their families and communities.

Guide and train staff and volunteers

  • Train staff and volunteers to understand the importance of Aboriginal culture to the wellbeing and safety of Aboriginal students.
  • Work with the local Aboriginal community to build staff, volunteer and student knowledge and respect for Aboriginal culture and to promote cultural inclusion.
  • Arrange Community Understanding Safety Training (CUST) or equivalent for staff.

Build knowledge of Aboriginal culture in school planning and curriculum

  • Find out about the Traditional Owners of the land/s where the school is situated at the Map of Indigenous Australia and learn about the importance of acknowledging Traditional Owners.
  • Include Aboriginal history and culture in professional learning for staff and volunteers and in curriculum planning for students.
  • Develop a resource bank of digital, hardcopy print and other artefacts that support the inclusion of Aboriginal content across the curriculum.

Partner with Aboriginal communities

Review and assess how the school supports cultural inclusion

  • Use the Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency cultural safety continuum reflective tool to make a tailored learning and development plan focused on staff cultural competence learning needs.
  • Develop and implement an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Reconciliation Action Plan.

Recognise key events and anniversaries

  • 2008 National Apology to the Stolen Generations

    13 February

  • Close the Gap Day

    18 March

  • Harmony Day

    21 March

  • Sorry Day and Anniversary the 2017 Uluru Statement of the Heart

    26 May

  • Anniversary of the 1967 Referendum

    27 May

  • Reconciliation Week

    27 May to 3 June

  • Mabo Day

    3 June

  • Anniversary of the 1988 Barunga Statement

    11 June

  • Coming of the Light

    1 July

  • NAIDOC week

    First week of July

  • National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day

    4 August

  • International Day of Indigenous People

    9 August

  • 1963 Yirrkala Bark Petition to Parliament anniversary

    14 August

  • Anniversary of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

    13 September

  • Redfern Address

    10 December


For further help to meet Child Safe Standard 1 and Ministerial Order 1359, contact