The best we have to give: toward safer organisations for children

In August 2016, the Hon. Justice Peter McClellan AM, Chair of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, stated:

We are at an important point in the social history of children in Australia. This Royal Commission represents a one in a lifetime opportunity to acknowledge that we, the entire Australian community, failed to care for so many of our children. A failure that has had often devastating consequences. It also represents an opportunity…to give to children the best that we have to give.

Next month, the Royal Commission will present its findings. A particular focus will be the safety of children within organisations, such as sporting clubs, early childhood care and learning facilities, and recreational youth groups.

Relatedly, Commonwealth, State and Territory Community Services Ministers agreed in late 2016 to develop a National Statement of Principles for Child Safe Organisations under the umbrella of the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2009-2020 [1].

National Principles

The following ten draft National Principles, which align closely to those outlined by the Royal Commission, were developed for consultation. When finalised, they are expected to provide a national language and understanding with respect to creating organisations that promote children’s safety and wellbeing, complementing existing State and Territory government approaches and policies.

  1. A commitment to 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 promoted and diversity is 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 for complaints and concerns are responsive, understood, accessible and used by children, young people, families, staff and volunteers.
  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 while minimising the opportunity for children and young people to be harmed.
  9. Organisations regularly review and improve implementation of their child safety and wellbeing policies and procedures.
  10. Policies and procedures document how the organisation is safe for children and young people.

Next steps

The National Principles represent an important development in efforts to strengthen the safety and wellbeing of children. Currently, the National Children’s Commissioner, Megan Mitchell, is leading wide-ranging consultations, a phase that is expected to conclude in mid-2018 with the adoption of the National Principles by the Council of Australian Governments.

In addition to co-chairing one of the two national advisory committees with the National Children’s Commissioner, Families Australia will shortly launch an online consultation with members of the National Coalition on Child Safety and Wellbeing about the implementation, governance and monitoring of the National Principles. We look forward to the adoption and implementation of the National Principles.

Dr Brian Babington
14 November 2017

 

[1] Community Services Ministers’ Meeting Communiqué, 11 November 2016, retrieved from

<https://christianporter.dss.gov.au/media-releases/community-services-ministers-meeting-communiqu>.