The Victorian Government is continuing its work to improve the identification, prevention and response to incidents and risks of child sexual abuse by improving records and record keeping practices within institutions that care for, or provide services to, children. Information sharing between key agencies and institutions with responsibility for children’s wellbeing and safety, and between relevant professions, is vital to identifying, preventing and responding to child abuse.
Retention of records by institutions
The Royal Commission recommended that institutions engaged in child-related work should retain records related to child sexual abuse for at least 45 years. The Public Record Office Victoria (PROV) issued a Retention and Disposal Authority for Records of Organisational Response to Child Sexual Abuse Incidents and Allegations on 10 July 2019. This requires Victorian public offices to retain child sexual abuse incident or allegation records for 45 or 99 years. In addition, some classes of records must be kept permanently. Over 100 existing Retention and Disposal Authorities are under review to ensure they are consistent with PROV advice.
Guidance for institutions on recordkeeping
The Royal Commission recommended that state and territory records authorities provide guidance to government and non-government institutions on identification, retention and disposal of records that may become relevant to child sexual abuse. PROV is a member of the Council of Australasian Archives and Records Authorities Working Group, which has developed a record-keeping guideline for government and non-government institutions engaged in child-related work. This was published in September 2019 and will be communicated through record-keeping newsletters and promoted at conferences and events.
In March 2019, the Victorian Government established a cross-sector school records working group to oversee the effective development, coordination, and integration of common records management standards between government and non-government schools. The working group will also agree on an approach to ensure the effectiveness and operational impact of common standards, including the retention periods for records relating to child safety and wellbeing in Victorian schools.
The working group consists of representatives from non-government schools, PROV, the Australian Society of Archivists and the Victorian Regulation and Qualifications Authority.
Supporting institutions to adopt and implement the principles for records and recordkeeping
The Royal Commission recommended that all institutions that engage in child-related work should implement five principles for records and recordkeeping. Victoria’s Recordkeeping Standards and Specifications set by PROV, which are mandatory for all Victorian public offices, have recently been amended to ensure consistency with the Royal Commission principles. One of these important reforms is outlined in the PROS19/05 Create, Capture and Control Standard which requires that the rights of individuals or groups to correct or add information to the records created and captured by public offices must be upheld to the fullest extent possible. This places power back in the hands of survivors to correct their own personal records, for example, by correcting their date of birth.
Improving information sharing across sectors
The Victorian Government’s Child Information Sharing Scheme (CISS) commenced in 2018. CISS enables authorised professionals working in prescribed organisations (known as ‘information sharing entities’) who work with children, young people and/or their families to share information with each other to promote children’s wellbeing and safety. The list of prescribed organisations includes:
- Child Protection
- registered community-based child and family services
- Maternal and Child Health Services
- Victoria Police
From September 2020, CISS will capture a broader range of professionals and organisations delivering universal services, including schools, early childhood services, public hospitals and general practitioners.
The Victorian Government implemented CISS throughout 2019 by facilitating training for prescribed organisations, and developing a range of resources, such as a helpline, to assist organisations to understand CISS.
Sharing information about teachers and students
The Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) is conducting research and consultation to support implementation of the recommendations of a National Review of Teacher Registration. The Victorian Government is working with AITSL and other states and territories to strengthen and ensure consistency of teacher registration requirements. The Victorian Government is also considering how it can support information sharing between the Victorian Institute of Teaching and other teacher regulatory authorities to better promote child safety.
The Royal Commission outlined ways to help care service providers make informed decisions about carer suitability.
Victoria maintains a carer register under Part 3.4 of the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 that contains information about current foster carers, and out-of-home care residential carers including other providers of services to children in residential care.
As recommended by the Royal Commission, the Victorian Government continues to work with the Australian Government and other states and territories on a national approach to collecting and sharing information about carers.