The Victorian Government is introducing compulsory child safe standards for organisations that work with children as part of its response to the Betrayal of Trust Inquiry.
Registered schools have an important responsibility for keeping children safe, and will be among the first organisations required to meet the standards from 2016.
The standards aim to create a culture where protecting children from abuse is part of everyday thinking and practice in organisations. They will strengthen existing approaches to preventing and responding to child abuse.
The requirement for registered schools to meet child safe standards will be formalised via a Ministerial Order, which is provided for under the Education and Training Reform Amendment (Child Safe Schools) Act 2015 (the Act). The Ministerial Order has not yet been finalised.
Further information and guidance material will be provided ahead of the implementation of the proposed standards.
The proposed child safe standards
The proposed child safe standards will require organisations to have:
- strategies to embed an organisational culture of child safety, including through effective leadership arrangements
- a child safe policy or statement of commitment to child safety
- a code of conduct that establishes clear expectations for appropriate behavior with children
- screening, supervision, training and other human resources practices that reduce the risk of child abuse by new and existing personnel
- processes for responding to and reporting suspected child abuse
- strategies to identify and reduce or remove risks of child abuse
- strategies to promote the participation and empowerment of children.
In complying with the child safe standards, relevant organisations must include the following principles as part of each standard:
- promoting the cultural safety of Aboriginal children
- promoting the cultural safety of children from culturally and/or linguistically diverse backgrounds
- promoting the safety of children with a disability.
The VRQA’s role
The VRQA will be responsible for ensuring that registered schools and other organisations meet the requirements of the child safe standards. This includes working with school review bodies responsible for the registration and monitoring of government, Catholic and Seventh-day Adventist schools in Victoria.
On 1 July 2015 the VRQA gained new powers for the regulation of school education under the Act. These powers may be used to ensure children’s safety.
The VRQA will continue to communicate with schools and stakeholders, including school review bodies, as the Victorian Government works towards implementing the child safe standards.