Child Safe Standards have been mandatory in Victoria since January 2016. In the 2017 Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, recommendations were made for new child safe standards. Further to the report and its recommendation, in 2019 the Department of Health and Human Service (DHHS) undertook its own review of Victoria’s Child Safe standards. The review looked into the strengths of the standards and how better to align with the recommendation of the Royal Commission. Upon its finding in 2020, Victoria would adopt the changes recommended by DHHS to further strengthen the administration of the standards.
The Victorian Approach- Recent changes
On July 1st of 2022 Victoria adopted 11 new Child Safe Standards to better reflect and align with the National Principles for Child Safe Organisation. The new standards set out the minimum requirements that organisation must follow to keep young people and children safe. While many organisations may find that they already comply with the new standards, organisations will nonetheless be required to review and develop their existing child safe policies and practice to ensure further compliance with the new standards.
Organisations that must comply with the standards are listed in Schedules 1 and 2 of the Child Wellbeing and Safety Act 2005 (Vic). The Commission for Children and Young People (CCYO) have resources in place to assist organisations with implementing the new standards.
The new Child Safe standards include:
- Further involvement from families and communities in organisation to keep children and young people safe.
- Child safety and wellbeing embedded in leadership, governance and culture
- Greater focus on safety for Aboriginal children and young people
- Managing the risk of child abuse in online environments and online behaviour, minimising the opportunity for harm
- Ongoing support and training for staff and volunteers to better reflect child safety and wellbeing values in practice.
- Empowering young people and children to understand their rights and participate in decisions that affect them.
- Greater opportunity and support from organisations for children and young people to participate in decisions that affect them.
- Child Safe Standards are to be regularly reviewed and improved.
The new Child Safe Standards are an explicit requirement for organisations and will need to be incorporated in their policies and procedures. These policies must also be made accessible and understood by young people and children.
Amongst the new standards are ensuring that organisations have a child focused processes for raising complaints and concerns. Standard 7 relates to complaint handling processes and requires that:
- Organisations have complaint handling policy and systems in place that are accessible and child focused. These processes are understood by staff, volunteers, children and families.
- Complaints are taken seriously, responded to promptly and thoroughly, and reporting, privacy and employment law obligations are met.
- Organisation have policies and procedures in place that address reporting of complaints and concerns to relevant authorities, regardless of whether the law requires reporting, and co-operates with law enforcement.
The standard further emphasises the need for greater accessibility and understanding of an organisations complaint process for children, young people and families. Child-related organisations in Victoria will need to ensure that their complaint handling practices reflect these standards and work to continuously improve them. The new Child Safe Standards will work towards making a more culturally safe environment for children and young people
Look out for Changes to Victorian legislation for Child Safe Standards
In June 2021, The Child Wellbeing and Safety (Child Safe Standards Compliance and Enforcement) Amendment Bill was passed. The Bill makes changes to legislation concerning Child Safe Standards and will include powers for the Commission and other regulators to take action on organisation for non-compliance with Child Safe Standards. These new laws are said to come into effect 1 January 2023.
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