Making institutions child safe (volume 6)

The Victorian Government is working to achieve lasting change in institutions and the community to ensure children’s rights are respected, including under Victoria’s Charter of Human Rights, and their safety and best interests are paramount.

Child Safe Standards

Victoria’s Child Safe Standards require organisations to promote child safety by embedding the protection of children in the organisation’s everyday thinking and practice. The Standards were a key response to the Betrayal of Trust report and were implemented progressively starting in 2016. They broadly align with the ten Child Safe Standards recommended by the Royal Commission, which informed the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations (Table 1).

Table 1. National Principles for Child Safe Organisations

1. Child safety and wellbeing is embedded in organisational leadership, governance and culture.
2. Children and young people are informed about their rights, participate in decisions affecting them and are taken seriously.
3. Families and communities are informed and involved in promoting child safety and wellbeing.
4. Equity is upheld and diverse needs respected in policy and practice.
5. People working with children and young people are suitable and supported to reflect child safety and wellbeing values in practice.
6. Processes to respond to complaints and concerns are child focused.
7. Staff and volunteers are equipped with the knowledge, skills and awareness to keep children and young people safe through ongoing education and training.
8. Physical and online environments promote safety and wellbeing will minimising the opportunity for children and young people to be harmed.
9. Implementation of the national child safe principles is regularly reviewed and improved.
10. Policies and procedures document how the organisation is safe for children and young people.

The final report of the Victorian Government’s Review of Victoria’s Child Safe Standards was published in December 2019. In order to understand if Victoria’s Child Safe Standards have been implemented in a way that promotes child safe culture, the review considered:

  • more than 1000 survey responses and written submissions
  • the outcomes from consultations with community stakeholders and government agencies, and
  • children’s own perceptions of safety in institutional settings.

The review found that people who responded to the survey strongly support Victoria’s Child Safe Standards and consider the Standards have improved organisational culture and safety for children. There was also strong support to align Victoria’s Child Safe Standards with the National Principles.

The review made 15 recommendations for changes to Victoria’s Child Safe Standards and the regulatory scheme that supports them, all of which were endorsed by the Victorian Government. Work is underway to align Victoria’s Child Safe Standards with the National Principles (Table 2).

Table 2. Examples of work underway to align Victoria’s Child Safe Standards with the National Principles

Recommendation summary Work underway
2 and 3

Replace Victoria’s Child Safe Standards with standards and action areas that will align with the National Principles

Work to align Victoria’s Child Safe Standards with the National Principles is underway and the new standards are due to be completed in early 2021.

4 Ensure the concept of 'child empowerment' is retained Consultations are occurring with key stakeholders, including children and young people, to ensure child empowerment is appropriately embedded in the new standards.
5 Ensure cultural safety for Aboriginal children is included as a stand-alone focus

Consultations are occurring with Aboriginal stakeholders to determine how to best make cultural safety for Aboriginal children a focus of the new standards.

Online safety

The Royal Commission recommended that governments implement measures to improve child safety online, including mitigating the risk of sexual abuse online.

The Victorian Government has created the Protect website, which provides resources and guidance that support education staff to create child-safe online environments. In 2020, the Victorian Government also provided specific advice to government schools about how to maintain child-safe online environments when engaging in remote and flexible learning.

The Office of the eSafety Commissioner launched the eSafety Toolkit for Schools on 20 February 2020. The Toolkit is designed to support schools to create safer online environments. The resources are backed by evidence and support a nationally consistent approach to preventing and responding to online safety issues. The Toolkit was developed in consultation with a range of government and non-government education sector representatives across every state and territory.

The Victorian Government is continuing work to develop resources to improve online safety in school contexts through the Bully Stoppers online toolkit. The Bully Stoppers online toolkit was developed in partnership with national and international experts. It provides evidence-based, practical advice and resources to empower school leaders, teachers, parents and students to understand what to do when they see bullying, or if they are being bullied for any reason.