The Victorian Government continues work to improve the identification and prevention of, and responses to, incidents and risks of child sexual abuse. One key area is improving recordkeeping and information sharing between key agencies and institutions with responsibility for children’s wellbeing and safety, and between relevant professions. This work is vital to identifying, preventing and responding to child abuse.
Retention of records by institutions
The Public Record Office Victoria (PROV) issued a Retention and Disposal Authority for Records of Organisational Response to Child Sexual Abuse Incidents and Allegations in 2019. The authority specifies those records that must be retained permanently and sets out minimum retention periods for other records. For example, records relating to reporting and investigations must be retained for 99 years and records relating to training and development must be retained for 45 years. In 2020, PROV have also reviewed 120 Retention and Disposal Authorities and updated and re-issued more than 30 which did not set this minimum retention requirement. All Victorian public offices must comply with these authorities.
Guidance for institutions on recordkeeping
PROV is the Victorian Government representative on the Council of Australasian Archives and Records Authorities Working Group. This Working Group gathers Australian Government and state and territory archives and records bodies to consider the complexities and issues relating to the Royal Commission’s recommendations on the custody and disposal of, and access to, records. In September 2019, the Council published a record-keeping guideline for institutions engaged in child-related work. PROV similarly published guidance focussing on Victorian requirements. In January 2020, PROV released a free online training module for institutions to use to increase staff understanding of good recordkeeping practices. .
The Recordkeeping Standards and Specifications set by PROV, which are mandatory for all Victorian public offices, have been amended to ensure consistency with the Royal Commission’s recommendations. In April 2020, , which institutions can use to measure their compliance with PROV Standards, including those related to the Royal Commission’s recommendations.
Sharing information about teachers and students
The Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership is working on the development of a Best Practice Framework for Teacher Registration, which includes Information Sharing, Suitability to Teach and Mutual Recognition. The Victorian Government and the Victorian Institute of Teaching are participating in this work. Following further direction from the Australian Government in relation to this Framework, Victoria expects to undertake an audit of its registration practices against the best practice standard to identify any gaps and areas that need to be addressed.
The Victorian Government is considering changes to strengthen the disclosure and collection of information arrangements between:
- the Victorian Institute of Teaching
- State or Territory Government Departments
- Australian Government Departments
- any Australian Government, State and Territory public authority
- any municipal council or equivalent body, or
- an employer of a registered teacher
to promote the safety and wellbeing of a child or group of children.
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’) to share information with each other to promote the wellbeing and safety of children in partnership with children and their families.
Currently, frontline services, including Child Protection, integrated family services (such as CHILD First), maternal and child health services, and Victoria Police, can share information under CISS.
In 2020, the Victorian Government consulted on options to authorise universal health, education and justice services to participate in CISS. This included schools, early childhood services and public hospitals. This expansion of CISS in Phase 2 (estimated at 7,500 organisations employing some 370,000 workers) will improve early identification of risk and support for children and their families and increase collaboration and integration between services. Phase 2 of CISS was due to commence in 2020 but has been delayed until 2021 due to the Victorian Government's prioritisation of the response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
In 2020, the Victorian Government continued its support for workforces to prepare for and establish child information sharing reforms through training and resources. As at 30 August 2020, 12,655 professionals have registered for training, either face-to-face or online, on information sharing. In addition, since the launch of an enquiry line in September 2018, the Victorian Government has responded to 427 queries via the enquiry line and inbox about information sharing and Multi-Agency Risk Assessment and Management (MARAM), which aims to increase the safety and wellbeing of Victorians by ensuring relevant services can effectively identify, assess, and manage risk. Professionals were also supported through the release of toolkits in 2020 that provide practical and easy-to-adapt resources to use when sharing information.
Information sharing to promote child wellbeing and safety will also be facilitated by a digital register known as Child Link. Child Link will bring together data from existing systems and services to provide key professionals access to a single source of factual information about children in their care. The Proof of Concept for Child Link was successfully delivered in 2020 and the pilot phase has commenced, which involves the development of the Child Link system and pilot testing with a limited group of Child Link users. Child Link will become available for authorised key professionals progressively from December 2021.
Reviewed 21 December 2020