Making institutions child safe (Volume 6)

Implementation status of Volume 6 recommendations directed at the Victorian Government

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In this volume, the Royal Commission made recommendations for improving institutional safety for children through a national child sexual abuse prevention strategy and proposed child safe standards that organisations must take to protect children.

The Victorian Government has worked closely with other governments to progress recommendations that require national cooperation and has been a national leader in developing minimum standards for organisations that work with children to create child-safe environments.

The National Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Child Sexual Abuse 2021–2030

The Royal Commission recommended a national strategy be established to prevent child sexual abuse, overseen by the National Office for Child Safety. To implement this recommendation, Victoria, together with other states and territories, worked closely with the Australian Government to develop the National Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Child Sexual Abuse 2021–2030 (National Strategy).

The National Strategy focuses on five themes. These are:

  • awareness raising, education and building child safe cultures
  • supporting and empowering victims and survivors
  • enhancing national approaches to children with harmful sexual behaviours
  • offender prevention and intervention, and
  • improving the evidence base.

The first two plans coming out of the National Strategy are the First National Action Plan and the First Commonwealth Action Plan, both of which will run for four years from 2021–2024.

The Victorian Government has representatives in the eight officer-level working groups that lead the day-to-day implementation activities to progress measures under the First National Action Plan. These working groups are:

  1. Children with Harmful Sexual Behaviours
  2. Operation Griffin
  3. Research, Evaluation and Data
  4. Victim Support and Workforce Development
  5. Adult Prevention and Secondary Victim Response (co-chaired by Victoria)
  6. Child Safe Organisations
  7. Education and Awareness Raising, and
  8. Information Sharing.

The National Strategy Advisory Group has been established and will be a key group for engaging with non-government stakeholders and reflecting the views and experiences of priority groups in the design, implementation, and evaluation of National Strategy measures. The Advisory Group consists of 20 members who are academics, advocates and representatives of non-governmental organisations like the Daniel Morcombe Foundation, the Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare, SNAICC – National Voice for our Children (the national non-government peak body for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children). The Advisory Group is also supported by two specialist advisers – the National Children’s Commissioner and a representative from the National Centre for Action on Child Sexual Abuse.

National Strategy priority groups include:

  • victims and survivors of child sexual abuse and their advocates
  • children and young people and their support networks
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples
  • culturally and linguistically diverse communities
  • people with disability
  • LGBTIQA+ people, and
  • people in regional and remote communities.

The Victorian Government is committed to continue working closely with the other states and territories and the National Office for Child Safety to implement the National Strategy. More information on the National Strategy can be found in the Australian Government’s Annual Progress Report 2022

Safe and Supported: The National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2021–2031

Safe and Supported: The National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2021–2031 (National Framework) was released in December 2021 following endorsement by Community Services Ministers and the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Leadership Group (Leadership Group).

The National Framework sets out governments’ 10-year strategy to improve the lives of children, young people and families experiencing disadvantage or vulnerability. It includes the following focus areas:

  • a national approach to early intervention and targeted support for children and families experiencing vulnerability or disadvantage
  • addressing the over-representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in child protection systems
  • improving information sharing, data development and analysis, and
  • strengthening the child and family sector and workforce capability.

The Victorian Government has collaborated with the Australian Government, other states and territories, the Leadership Group and non-government organisations on the development of the National Framework’s first two Action Plans – a First Action Plan and an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander First Action Plan

The Action Plans were endorsed by Community Services Ministers and the Leadership Group in late 2022, and released on 31 January 2023.

The National Framework aligns, and will interact, with other national initiatives to support systemic change for Australian children, young people, and families, including the:

It also aligns with Victoria’s commitment to advance Aboriginal self-determination outlined in strategic plans, including:

The vision outlined in these plans is being implemented through a range of reform initiatives designed to provide holistic, early supports for children and their families, and reduce engagement with criminal justice and child protection services.

The Victorian Government is committed to continue working collaboratively with the Australian Government, other states and territories, the Leadership Group and non-government organisations on this important national initiative. More information on the National Framework can be found in the Australian Government’s Annual Progress Report 2022

National Office for Child Safety

In May 2022, Victoria, along with all other states and territories, collaborated with the National Office for Child Safety (NOCS) to develop resources to support organisations to create safe environments for children and young people. This includes organisations identifying their child safety risks and understanding how to monitor and reduce these risks.

The Victorian Government is also represented on several cross-jurisdictional groups under the National Strategy that support information sharing between states and territories. More information on NOCS can be found in the Australian Government’s Annual Progress Report 2022

Child Safe Standards

In response to the Royal Commission, Victoria committed to review its Child Safe Standards (Standards). The Review of the Victorian Child Safe Standards Final Report (2019) recommended aligning Victoria’s Standards with the National Principles, while retaining a focus on child empowerment and a stand-alone focus on Aboriginal cultural safety. On 1 July 2021, Victoria introduced the 11 new Child Safe Standards. The new Standards came into effect on 1 July 2022

The new Standards now set out minimum requirements and outline the actions organisations must take to keep children and young people safe from abuse. They provide more clarity for organisations and are more consistent with standards in the rest of Australia. Further information on the Standards and associated rollout can be found in the section on Schools (Volume 13) of this report.

To help organisations understand the new Standards, the Commission for Children and Young People (CCYP) developed a suite of new resources. New resources include information sheets, a short guide to the Standards, an updated Guide for creating a Child Safe Organisation and a range of tools and templates.

The CCYP has engaged widely on the new framework via education forums and communities of practice. In addition to the development of guidance and support on the new Standards, the CCYP also ran a media, social media and advertising campaign to raise awareness in the community, and among the more than 50,000 organisations required to comply.

In June 2021, the Victorian Parliament passed new laws to strengthen the regulatory framework for the Standards. The new laws came into effect on 1 January 2023. The CCYP has facilitated 11 Child Safe Standards Implementation Reform Working Group meetings between December 2021 and December 2022. This Working Group consists of both regulators under the current framework and regulators that will administer the Standards post 1 January 2023, including the CCYP, government departments and Wage Inspectorate Victoria.

The Working Group prepared for 1 January 2023 by developing policies, materials and proposed approaches to co-regulation, information sharing, transitional arrangements, and communications to stakeholders.

Operation Griffin

Operation Griffin is a national coordination group acting as the primary source of advice to the Serious Organised Crime Coordination Committee on all matters relating to child protection. Convening four times a year, this group includes representation from all Australian state and territory police agencies, as well as from:

  • the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation
  • the Australian Federal Police
  • the Australian Border Force
  • the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission
  • New Zealand Police.

At these meetings, agencies share information about emerging trends and technological advances with the objective of identifying and investigating the exploitation and abuse of children nationally and internationally.

Victoria Police is a key stakeholder to Operation Griffin and its Joint Anti-Child Exploitation Taskforce maintains the role of Chair for this national group. Operation Griffin is supported by several working level groups, of which Victoria Police chairs the Victim Identification Sub Working Group.

To ensure frontline officers continue to have the capability to identify and respond to signs of Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE), Victoria Police released a CSE Disruption e-learning package in July 2022. The course is available to all Victoria Police employees but is mandatory for the following work streams:

  • frontline members
  • Protective Services Officers
  • transit members
  • Sexual Crimes Squad
  • Sexual Offences Child Investigation Teams (SOCITs)
  • Youth Portfolio Holders
  • Youth Resource Officers, and
  • Proactive Policing Units.

The e-learning package supports the following learning outcomes:

  • enhance police understanding of CSE and how to detect and disrupt the activities
  • ensure consistency of practice regarding detection and disruption of CSE
  • improve data collection of CSE related activities through increased reporting, and
  • encourage collaboration between agencies.

Victoria Police will continue to participate in Operation Griffin and contribute to this group by identifying opportunities to improve the identification and management of online child sexual abuse.

More information on Operation Griffin can be found in the Australian Government’s Annual Progress Report 2022