National Principles for Child Safe Organisations
National Principles for Child Safe Organisations
In a huge step towards ensuring the safety of all Australian children, the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations were recently endorsed by members of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) including Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the state and territory First Ministers.
Developed to provide a nationally consistent approach to creating organisational cultures that foster child safety and wellbeing, the National Principles have made it easier for carers to identify and respond effectively to signs of abuse, among other things. Training resources and practical tools are also available to help educators implement the National Principles, and teach carers and parents about child safe organisations.
What are Child Safe Organisations?
Child Safe Organisations puts the best interests of children and young people first.
Many organisations are already working to ensure child safety and wellbeing by having a child safety and wellbeing policy or screening workers for suitability to work with children. However, policies and procedures alone are not enough to keep children safe and well in these organisational settings.
A child safe organisation is one that creates a culture, adopts strategies and takes action to promote child wellbeing and prevent harm to children and young people. A child safe organisation consciously and systematically:
- Creates an environment where children's safety and wellbeing is at the centre of thought, values and actions.
- Places emphasis on genuine engagement with and valuing of children and young people.
- Creates conditions that reduce the likelihood of harm to children and young people.
- Creates conditions that increase the likelihood of identifying any harm.
- Responds to any concerns, disclosures, allegations or suspicions of harm.
The National Principles for Child Safe Organisations
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse found that many organisations in Australia failed to protect children from abuse, failed to listen to children who tried to disclose abuse, and failed to respond appropriately when abuse came to light.
To ensure this doesn't happen again, as part of the Child Safe Organisations project, the Australian Government commissioned the National Children's Commissioner, Megan Mitchell, to lead the development of National Principles for Child Safe Organisations.
These National Principles were developed under the guidance of Community Services Ministers across Commonwealth, State and Territory governments under the National Framework for Protecting Australia's Children 2009-2020, and respond to recommendations of the Royal Commission.
With the primary aim to provide a nationally consistent approach to creating organisational cultures that foster child safety and wellbeing across all sectors, the National Principles are designed to help keep children and young people safe and reduce future harm in organisational settings.
Understanding the National Principles
The National Principles for Child Safe Organisations can be downloaded here and reflect ten child safe standards recommended by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. They have a broader scope that goes beyond child sexual abuse though, to cover other forms of potential harm to children and young people.
The National Principles are as follows:
- Child safety and wellbeing is embedded in organisational leadership, governance and culture.
- Children and young people are informed about their rights, participate in decisions affecting them and are taken seriously.
- Families and communities are informed and involved in promoting child safety and wellbeing.
- Equity is upheld and diverse needs respected in policy and practice.
- People working with children and young people are suitable and supported to reflect child safety and wellbeing values in practice.
- Processes to respond to complaints and concerns are child focused.
- Staff and volunteers are equipped with the knowledge, skills and awareness to keep children and young people safe through ongoing education and training.
- Physical and online environments promote safety and wellbeing while minimising the opportunity for children and young people to be harmed.
- Implementation of the national child safe principles is regularly reviewed and improved.
- Policies and procedures document how the organisation is safe for children and young people.
The National Principles are also:
- Underpinned by a child rights, strengths-based approach.
- Designed to allow for flexibility in implementation across all sectors engaging with children and young people, and in organisations of various sizes.
- Aligned with existing child safe approaches at the state and territory level.
The National Principles backed by the Prime Minister
Earlier this year the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations were endorsed by the members of the Council of Australian Governments, including the Prime Minister and state and territory First Ministers.
"The National Principles for Child Safe Organisations form a national benchmark for organisations working with children and young people across sectors and the country to develop and maintain a child safe culture. I am proud to have worked with the Australian Government in developing and promoting the National Principles," said National Children's Commissioner, Megan Mitchell in a statement.
"The Australian community should be confident that all organisations working with children and young people provide safe environments where their rights, needs and interests are met. I hope all organisations take the time to consider how they can implement these National Principles, to ensure the safety and wellbeing of children and young people," Commissioner Mitchell said.
Implementing the National Principles at your service
To support organisations to implement the National Principles, the Australian Human Rights Commission has developed practical tools and resources. You can find these on the Child Safe Organisations website.
These tools and resources include:
- The Introductory self-assessment tool for organisations which will help organisations consider their current child safe practices and areas for improvement.
- The Child Safety and Wellbeing Policy template that addresses the ten National Principles.
- The Example Code of Conduct that organisations can adapt to set out expected standards of behaviour when engaging with children and young people.
- The Charter of Commitment to children and young people template which would be developed in consultation with children and young people in the organisation.
- The Checklist for online safety, developed with the Office of the e-Safety Commissioner, that assists organisations to consider potential safeguarding risks and aspects of online safety to better protect children and young people.
- The Guide for parents and carers helps parents and carers to think about how an organisation operates and to consider its safety and wellbeing arrangements for children.
The Australian Human Rights Commission is also developing e-learning tools for each of the National Principles. These will be available free of charge on its Child Safe Human Rights website later this year.
"Children make up nearly a quarter of Australia's population. We owe it to every single one of them to make sure we do all we can to protect and empower them. I look forward to continuing to help drive national implementation of the Principles across the whole Australian community," said Ms Mitchell.
This child care article was last reviewed or updated on Monday, 30 December 2019
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