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Having conversations with organisations

Questions about child safe practices you can ask staff or volunteers at organisations that work with children and young people.

Everyone has a role to play in keeping children and young people safe from harm. This includes the organisations children and young people regularly engage with, like their early learning centre, school, after school care or sports club. These organisations have a duty of care to keep children and young people safe and respect their rights.

 

My name is Phil Doorgachurn and I'm an international safeguarding consultant, and I've been working in this space for over the past 15 years.

It's actually everyone's responsibility to keep children safe, whether you’re a frontline worker all the way up to the boardroom. But what's really key to that it’s not one person's job it’s anyone who works for that organisation.

My advice to any adults who want to start to have this conversation is to research a little bit. You can find the facts, so find the facts about child safety and child sexual abuse and you can do that through Child Safety’s website on childsafety.gov.au, which is really great because they've got the information and the facts there.

So if you're an adult and you want to find out about an organisation's child safe practices, a lot of the time you can find that information on their website and I'd probably say it's a great idea to have a chat with somebody at the organisation to find out what child safety look like to them. What have they got in place to make sure that the child that you care about is safe within the organisation?

I'd actually look at the ten national child safe principles. I honestly believe that they're the best in the world.

It’s everyone's responsibility to keep children and young people safe. It's not just the police, doctors, social workers, teachers and educators. It's everyone who intersects with children across society, including you.

So if you're ever worried or concerned about a child, speak up about it, talk to someone, have a conversation. If we all change our views and our attitudes to supporting children and young people, we can eradicate this issue.

Phil Doorgachurn, child safeguarding specialist, talks about the conversations and actions that will help adults ensure the children and young people in their lives are safe within organisations, such as early learning centres, after school care or sports clubs.

This conversation guide includes questions you can ask staff or volunteers at any organisations that children or young people in your life engage with, to make sure their practices and policies safeguard children and young people.

Guidance about what to look for in answers to these questions is included, as well as links to relevant information and resources to support adults to learn more.

How will your organisation keep my child safe? Who in the organisation is responsible for child safety and wellbeing?

It is important that child safety is championed and modelled at all levels of the organisation. The organisation’s leadership should be proactive in ensuring policies and procedures create safe environments for children and young people.

Some organisations will have dedicated child safety leads who oversee the organisation’s work to keep children and young people safe, including ensuring child safe principles and standards are embedded.

Do staff and volunteers have Working with Children Checks, other relevant checks or qualification requirements? Do you have an approach to seeking references from recent employers?

WWCC screening processes differ depending on each state and territory’s requirements, but typically include police checks and professional conduct reports. Relevant checks, including Working with Children Checks (WWCC), assess staff and volunteers’ eligibility to work with children and young people. However, it is important to remember that they are only one of the many safeguarding tools necessary to ensure children and young people are safe. Additional verification processes, such as referee checks, can help organisations confirm that staff and volunteers are right for the job and are committed to child safety and wellbeing.

What are your safeguarding policies?

Organisational policies set out how the organisation keeps children safe. The policies should create a culture, adopt strategies and take action to promote child wellbeing and prevent harm to children and young people. The organisation may mention they implement the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations or a state or territory Child Safe Standards scheme. The National Principles set out a nationally consistent approach to creating organisational cultures and practices that promote the safety and wellbeing of children in Australia. In some states and territories, certain organisations are legally required to implement the National Principles and may refer to them as the Child Safe Standards.

Do you have information on display demonstrating your organisation’s commitment to child safety and wellbeing?

This could be in the form of posters indicating this commitment and can include information about feedback or complaints processes, who to contact and where more information is available. It is important that appropriate information is made available to both adults and children and young people.

Do you have a code of conduct for staff, volunteers and other parents?

A code of conduct should provide guidelines on expected behavioural standards and responsibilities to ensure the safety and wellbeing of children and young people. The Australian Human Rights Commission has an example code of conduct.

Children and young people should be made aware of how the code of conduct applies to adults who care for them. This will ensure they understand what boundaries are in place for all adults, not just for staff and volunteers.

Do staff and volunteers know their child sexual abuse mandatory reporting obligations?

Mandatory reporting legislation applies to particular occupations in each state and territory. Mandatory reporters must report suspected or known cases of harm, such as child abuse and neglect. Visit our Make a report page to find your relevant state and territory child protection agency’s website.

Is child safety training provided to staff and volunteers?

Staff and volunteers should receive appropriate training to ensure they are aware of their responsibilities to children and young people, including record keeping, information sharing and reporting obligations. Training may also focus on recognising and responding to signs and indicators of child sexual abuse and understanding perpetration, including identifying tactics that are used to target children and young people. Our website contains more information about signs and indicators of child sexual abuse, who perpetrates child sexual abuse, and grooming.

Are children and young people involved in decision-making processes?

Children and young people should be given a voice in the organisation’s decision-making, particularly in matters that concern their own safety. Children and young people should be told how their feedback is or is not used.

Are child safety and wellbeing policies in place and are they regularly reviewed and updated?

It is important that organisations regularly review, evaluate and improve child safe practices. Complaints, concerns and safety incidents should be analysed to identify causes and failures, and inform continuous improvement.

Where can I find information about your safeguarding policies?

Information about an organisation’s safeguarding policies may be available in hard copy at the organisation or on their website. Organisations should publish their commitment to safeguarding and ensure relevant safeguarding information is easily accessible to all.

Are children adequately supervised? What is the ratio of staff and volunteers to children?

Some organisations, such as early learning centres, may have mandatory ratios of staff and volunteers depending on the age of the children.

Is there a policy and clear procedures that children are only to be collected by authorised people?

Are there policies to assess risks and safeguard children when they go offsite (e.g. on excursions or camps)?

Does the organisation have bathroom safety policies and supervision for different age groups?

A suitable answer to the supervision questions above will depend on a number of factors, including the type of organisation and the age of children. The important thing is that the organisation is able to demonstrate it has given appropriate thought to these issues in its policies and practices.

Do you have a complaints policy?

The organisation should have an accessible, child-focused complaints handling policy. The policy should clearly outline:

  • the roles and responsibilities of leadership, staff and volunteers
  • approaches to dealing with different types of complaints, breaches of relevant policies or the code of conduct
  • obligations to act and report.

For more information, refer to Principle 4 of the National Principles or the Complaint Handling Guide: Upholding the rights of children and young people. The Complaint Handling Guide gives organisations advice about how to put in place a complaint-handling system that puts child safety first and promotes the rights of children and young people to have a voice in decisions that affect them. It was developed in 2019 by the Office of the NSW Ombudsman on behalf of the National Office.

Is training provided to staff and volunteers about how to listen and act on children and young people’s expressions of concern?

Children and young people have a right to speak up when they feel unsafe, unhappy or unfairly treated. Children may not always directly speak about an issue, so it is important for staff to be trained to understand how children may communicate issues, how to respond and what the organisation’s complaint management process is. The Speak up and make a complaint resources on our website include more information.

How do you show you are welcoming and inclusive to all families and children with different cultural backgrounds, abilities and circumstances?

Staff and volunteers should value and respect children and young people’s identity and culture, be comfortable and skilled in engaging with them, understand their developmental needs and build on their strengths and capacities.

How do you manage children and young people’s privacy?

Organisations should identify and mitigate risks to ensure children and young people’s privacy is upheld. This should include aligning policies and practices with relevant privacy obligations and legislation.

Do you have a social media policy? What platforms does your organisation use and who monitors the account/s?

Organisations that use social media should have policies that clearly outline how accounts are to be used and monitored. There should be mechanisms in place to ensure staff and volunteers who access organisational social media accounts comply with relevant protocols and expectations of online behaviour, and can appropriately respond to or report any concerning conduct observed on accounts. Where appropriate, organisations should aim to ensure social media accounts are not publicly accessible and require approval to join.

What is your policy about taking and sharing photographs or recordings of children and young people, including on social media?

Consent should be given before the organisation takes or shares any photographs or recordings of children and young people. They should have policies in place that limit who can view and access photographs or recordings of children and young people. Posting on social media should never compromise a child or young person’s safety or right to privacy.

What are your policies around staff and volunteer use of private phones and smart watches?

The organisation should have policies in place that outline how staff and volunteers can use private phones and smart watches. These policies should address online risks and ensure that private devices are used in accordance with the organisation’s policies to uphold children and young people’s privacy and rights.

Do you use a platform or software to share updates with or contact parents or children and young people? Who is able to view the updates, and is there a possibility for direct communication with children and young people?

Organisations that use these platforms should have policies that clearly outline if direct communication with children and young people is permitted, and include how the platform is used and monitored. Direct communication with children and young people should not be permitted via unmonitored personal accounts or platforms.

eSafety is Australia's national independent regulator and educator for online safety. Find out more about online safety on the eSafety website.

Are children and young people taught about their rights and where they can go for help?

Organisational culture should support children and young people to understand what child safety and wellbeing means. Children and young people should be informed about their rights and responsibilities in age- and developmentally-appropriate ways. Responsibility for organisational child safety and wellbeing ultimately rests with the organisation, but children or young person should understand who to talk to if they are feeling unsafe and know what will happen if they raise a concern or make a complaint.

Do you teach children and young people about body safety, personal boundaries, consent and respectful relationships? Is this education tailored to age groups and developmentally appropriate?

Educating children and young people about body safety, personal boundaries, consent and respectful relationships keeps them safe by empowering them to understand their rights and make informed decisions. Depending on the organisation’s role, this education should be ongoing and tailored to children and young people’s age and developmental needs.

Components

If you or a child are in immediate danger, call Triple Zero (000).

Information on reporting child safety concerns can be found on our Make a report page.

Get support

The information on this website may bring up strong feelings and questions for many people. There are many services available to assist you. A detailed list of support services is available on our Get support page.