Why focus on child safety?
The care, safety and wellbeing of children and young people is a central and fundamental responsibility of Catholic education. The CECV is committed to strengthened practice for the protection of children in line with the Victorian Government child safety reforms.
The Victorian Government’s 2012–2013 Betrayal of Trust Parliamentary Inquiry found that more must be done to prevent and respond to child abuse in all organisations working with children. The Betrayal of Trust report highlighted gaps and inconsistencies in child safe practices in organisations and recommended immediate steps for the safety of children through the introduction of a comprehensive set of child safe standards.
On 26 November 2015, the Victorian Parliament passed the Child Wellbeing and Safety Amendment (Child Safe Standards) Bill 2015 (Vic.) to introduce the Victorian Child Safe Standards into law.
Preventing and responding to child abuse requires a whole of community response to bring about broad cultural change. To this end, the Victorian Child Safe Standards apply to a broad range of organisations that provide services for children, including schools, churches, sporting clubs and youth services.
For schools, these child safe standards represent holistic education and organisational preventative measures in ensuring the safety of children and young people.
The Catholic sector’s response to the Victorian child safe reforms reflect our commitment to ‘lead the way’, not only by meeting our compliance and legislative requirements but through cultural change and strategies that ensure child safe practices are embedded in everyday practice.
What are the current Child Safe Standards?
There are seven minimum Child Safe Standards with an overarching principle of inclusion which applies to each of the Standards.
The intention of the Child Safe Standards is to make organisations, including schools, consider and address child abuse situations and risks in an integrated and proactive fashion.
Principle of inclusion
Ministerial Order No. 870 ensures that school governing authorities must take account of the diversity of all children, including (but not limited to) the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, children from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, children with disabilities, and children who are vulnerable.
The seven standards are:
- Organisational culture for child safety
- Child safety policy
- Code of conduct
- Human resources practices
PROTECT: Identifying and responding to all forms of abuse
The cross-sectoral protocol and associated documents for identifying and reporting child abuse:
- Reducing or removing risks of child abuse
- Empowerment of children
What are the new Child Safe Standards?
In July 2021, the Victorian Government announced new Child Safe Standards to further strengthen child safe environments and protect children from abuse. The new standards come into effect on Friday 1 July 2022.
The 12-month period from 1 July 2021 to 1 July 2022 is a transition phase during which schools must continue to comply with the current Child Safe Standards (including Ministerial Order No. 870).
From 1 July 2022, 11 new Victorian Child Safe Standards will replace Victoria’s seven current Child Safe Standards and principles (Ministerial Order No. 870) in place since 2016.
The new Victorian Child Safe Standards support greater national consistency, reflecting the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations, developed following the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. The new Child Safe Standards include new requirements, including:
- the involvement of families and students in child safety efforts
- focus on the safety of Aboriginal children and young people
- management of the risk of child abuse in online environments
- governance, systems and processes to keep students safe.
The new Child Safe Standards are underpinned by Ministerial Order No. 1359 which was gazetted by the Victorian Government on 10 February 2022. Ministerial Order No. 1359 defines the actions schools and school boarding premises must take to meet the requirements associated with the new Child Safe Standards.
New Victorian Child Safe Standards
- Culturally safe environments – Organisations establish a culturally safe environment in which the diverse and unique identities and experiences of Aboriginal children and young people are respected and valued.
- Leadership, governance and culture – Child safety and wellbeing is embedded in organisational leadership, governance and culture.
- Child and student empowerment – Children and young people are empowered about their rights, participate in decisions affecting them and are taken seriously.
- Family engagement – Families and communities are informed, and involved in promoting child safety and wellbeing.
- Diversity and equity – Equity is upheld and diverse needs respected in policy and practice.
- Suitable staff and volunteers – People working with children and young people are suitable and supported to reflect child safety and wellbeing values in practice.
- Complaints processes – Processes for complaints and concerns are child focused.
- Child safety knowledge, skills and awareness – Staff and volunteers are equipped with the knowledge, skills and awareness to keep children and young people safe through ongoing education and training.
- Child safety in physical and online environments – Physical and online environments promote safety and wellbeing while minimising the opportunity for children and young people to be harmed.
- Review of child safety practices – Implementation of the Child Safe Standards is regularly reviewed and improved.
- Implementation of child safety practices – Policies and procedures document how the organisation is safe for children and young people.
Support for schools
In preparing to meet the new Child Safe Standards, schools can build on their existing child safety strategies, policies and practices to strengthen their school’s culture of child safety and protect children and young people from abuse.
To support schools to implement the new Child Safe Standards and meet the requirements of Ministerial Order No. 1359, school governing authorities must ensure their schools review, develop, contextualise and implement policies, procedures and practices to create and maintain a child safe culture and environment.
Schools should contact their relevant governing authority for child safety guidance and support.
Archdiocese of Melbourne
Diocese of Ballarat
Diocese of Sale
Diocese of Sandhurst
The links below provide further information on child safety: