In this volume, the Royal Commission examined institutional responses to child sexual abuse in government and non-government schools, the nature and adequacy of these responses and highlighted the contributing factors to child sexual abuse in schools. The Royal Commission made recommendations to prevent child sexual abuse from occurring in schools and, where it does occur, to help ensure effective responses to that abuse.
The Victorian Government continues to implement historic reforms and initiatives to prevent sexual abuse from occurring within Victorian schools. These include reforms that enable the enforcement of Child Safe Standards (Standards) in Victorian schools and boarding schools.
New Child Safe Standards
Victoria’s new Standards and Ministerial Order 1359 – Implementing the Child Safe Standards - managing the risk of child abuse in schools and school boarding premises – began on 1 July 2022. Victoria’s Standards are aligned with the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations, which were informed by the findings of the Royal Commission. Victoria’s Standards also include an additional standard on Aboriginal cultural safety.
The Standards now include new requirements to keep students in schools safe, covering:
- the involvement of families and students in child safety efforts
- schools’ focus on safety for Aboriginal students
- better management of the risk of child abuse in online environments, and
- governance, systems and processes to keep students safe.
Implementation of the new Standards in schools
Victorian schools are building on their existing child safety strategies, policies and practices to strengthen their culture of child safety and protect children from abuse.
The Victorian Government developed Ministerial Order 1359 which acts as a framework to prepare schools to implement the Standards in schools, and also published guidance, policies and templates to support schools to meet the new Standards.
School leadership teams and child safety champions were also provided with a Child Safe Standards Action List. The list outlines what a school needs to do to implement the new Standards. Schools began updating local policies, procedures and practices in Term 2, 2022 and started training staff and volunteers in Term 3, 2022.
The Victorian Government’s child safety website for schools, PROTECT, includes implementation guidance that describes each Standard, why it is important and example actions schools can take to implement the new Standards. It also includes regulatory guidance that provides minimum standards advice and examples of common non-compliance.
In order to develop Ministerial Order 1359 and accompanying resources, the Victorian Government consulted widely with education stakeholders, including regulators, peak bodies, education unions, principal associations, Aboriginal education organisations and other government departments and statutory authorities.
To assist schools to implement the new Standards, the Victorian Government has:
- delivered online briefings to over 1,200 school staff from all sectors
- provided practical workshops to help government schools update their policies to achieve compliance with the new Standards, and
- published training presentations on the PROTECT website in June 2022 for schools to use to train school councils, school staff and volunteers to meet the Ministerial Order 1359 training requirements.
The response to the new guidance, training, policies and templates from education providers has been positive and the government continues to monitor implementation.
Implementation of the new Standards in boarding school premises
Due to the unique conditions of boarding school premises, the Victorian Government has developed a number of supporting materials and guidance to assist with the implementation and compliance with the new Standards in boarding schools. These include:
- Ministerial Order 1359 – Implementing the Child Safe Standards - managing the risk of child abuse in schools and school boarding premises
- Child Safety action lists for government and non-government schools
- Child Safety and Wellbeing Policy templates and guidance
- Child Safety Code of Conduct template and guidance
- Child Safe Standards Risk Register template and guidance
- Guidance for Child Safety Champions.
The Policy and Advisory Library for Victorian Government schools has also been reviewed and updated to align with the new Standards, including policies on Child Safe Standards, Protecting Children: Reporting and other Legal Obligations, and Working With Children and other Suitability Checks for Volunteers. Along with practical workshops to support government school staff to update child safety related policies, the government has provided more than 1,200 online briefs to school staff across all sectors and have made training presentations and implementation guidance for each Standard available on PROTECT.
Assessment of compliance with the new Standards
All Victorian Government schools are reviewed every four years to assess compliance with the minimum standards for school registration, which include the Child Safe Standards.
The Victorian Department of Education works closely with Victorian Government schools to address any areas of non-compliance identified in reviews. The department also undertakes targeted reviews of schools’ compliance with the Standards on referral from the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority or where the department has identified potential non-compliance with the Standards.
The Catholic Education Commission Victoria assesses compliance in the Catholic school sector, and the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority assesses independent schools against the Standards.