Child Safe Standards: What’s happening in your jurisdiction?

In early 2019, the Australian Human Rights Commission released the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations (the National Principles). The National Principles were endorsed by all Commonwealth, state and territory governments, who all confirmed their commitment to the National Principles. While it is a national set of standards, implementation is the responsibility of the states and each state is taking a slightly different approach.

So, where are all of the states at now? And what are the current requirements in your state?

New South Wales

What are the current requirements?

In mid-2020, the NSW Office of the Children’s Guardian (OCG) released the NSW Child Safe Standards, together with a Guide to the Child Safe Standards, to “help organisations implement the Child Safe Standards recommended by the child abuse royal commission and endorsed by the NSW Government.”

The NSW Child Safe Standards are aligned with the National Principles, and the OCG has confirmed that if an organisation is complying with the National Principles, it will be considered to be also complying with the NSW Child Safe Standards.

The OCG recently released the results from a survey around the Child Safe Standards, which demonstrated that many organisations have begun to implement the NSW Child Safe Standards.

Which agency is responsible?

The NSW Office of the Children’s Guardian is responsible for the administration of the Working with Children Check and the implementation of the Child Safe Standards. 

What is to come?

The OCG has released an Exposure Draft of the Children’s Guardian Amendment (Child Safe Scheme) Bill 2020. The bill will provide the OCG with strengthened powers to monitor, investigate and enforce the Child Safe Standards. The bill also seeks to implement a strong, preventative child safe scheme by enabling the OCG to proactively address identified gaps in an organisation’s systems and processes before an incident occurs.

What is the timeframe?

Consultation on the draft bill closed on the 29th of January 2021. The OCG has said that implementation of the bill will be staged over time, with the focus for the first two years being on building capacity. They outlined that enforcement action will not commence until 2022. They’ve also stated that their “intention is not to over-burden organisations with unnecessary regulatory requirements, but take a strengths-based approach to promote cultural change.”

Victoria

What are the current requirements?

The Commission for Children and Young People in Victoria oversees compliance with the Victorian Child Safe Standards, which have been in effect since 2015.

In 2019, the Victorian Department of Health and Human services conducted a review of the Victorian Child Safe Standards and their final report recommended that the Victorian Child Safe Standards be amended to align with the National Principles. The Victorian Government has endorsed that recommendation.

Which agency is responsible?

The Commission for Children and Young People is responsible for administering the Child Safe Standards and the Reportable Conduct Scheme.

Department of Families, Fairness and Housing is responsible for child protection and investigating matters where it is alleged that a child is at risk of harm.

What is to come?

The Victorian Government has said that they plan to implement the recommendations from the review of the Victorian Child Safe Standards. This will involve amending the Victorian Child Safe Standards, as well as the Child Wellbeing and Safety Act 2005 (Vic). The Department plans to align the new standards with the National Principles, with some minor drafting changes and amendments required for the Victorian context. Once the changes have been made, there will be a transition process whereby organisations have 12 months to comply with the updated standards.

What is the timeframe?

The drafting of the new standards was pushed back in 2020 due to COVID-19, so we expect that they will be progressed during 2021 but the corresponding amendments to legislation will take time.

Queensland

What are the current requirements?

Queensland has accepted the National Principles, however they do not currently have any broad Child Safe standards in place. Currently there are several different legislative and other compliance requirements for organisations delivering services to children, however these requirements depend on the type of services provided. The Child Protection Act 1999 (Qld) contains 11 standards which apply to out of home and permanent care providers, and contains some cross-over with the National Principles.

Which agency is responsible?

Queensland Family & Child Commission works with government and non-government departments to advocate for and protect the rights, well-being and safety of children.

Queensland Department of Children, Youth Justice and Multicultural Affairs administers the Child Protection Act 1999 and the Adoption Act 2009 and works closely with non-government and government partners in the delivery of child protection services across Queensland. This department is also leading the work relating to the development of a new child safe framework.

What is to come?

In December 2019 the Queensland Government began initial consultations in relation to the establishment of a child safe framework. At this stage we understand that the government is, or has been, considering their options for building a stronger legislative, policy and practice framework for child safe regulation.

What is the timeframe?

There is currently no publicly available timeline for the development of Child Safe standards in Queensland. However, we will provide further update if any new information comes to light.

South Australia

What are the current requirements?

South Australia currently has a set of standards called the “Child Safe Environments – Principles of Good Practice”, which was first developed in 2012 and last updated in 2019. Organisations that provide services to children are required to comply with the Principles of Good Practice.

Organisations are also required to lodge a Child Safe Environments compliance statement with the Department of Human Services via their CSEC online lodgement system. The compliance statement must demonstrate that they meet the requirements of the Principles of Good Practice. The statement must be lodged every 5 years and organisations must update their compliance statement whenever there are changes to their organisation.

Which agency is responsible?

The Department of Human Services South Australia is responsible for the implementation of the National Principles and the monitoring of organisations’ compliance statements.

The Commission for Children and Young People South Australia promotes and protects the rights, interests and well-being of children and young people, and advocates for children and young people.

What is to come?

We understand that DHS may be developing an implementation plan for the National Principles, however organisations will likely still need to lodge a Child Safe Environments compliance statement in line with current systems and processes.

What is the timeframe?

There is currently no publicly available timeline for implementation of the National Principles in South Australia.

Tasmania

What are the current requirements?

While the Tasmanian government has committed to implementing the National Principles, there are currently no child safe standards in Tasmania. The Children, Young Persons and their Families Act 1997 (Tas) has a number of requirements including mandatory reporting of any reasonable suspicions of children being, or at risk of being, abused or neglected, as well as mandatory Registration to Work with Vulnerable People Checks.

Which agency is responsible?

The Department of Justice Tasmania is responsible for administration of the Act.

The Commissioner for Children and Young People in Tasmania is responsible for advocating for children and young people in Tasmania generally, and for promoting, monitoring and reviewing their wellbeing.

What is to come?

On the 23rd of December 2020, the Tasmanian Department of Justice asked for public submissions regarding its Draft Child Safe Organisations Bill 2020. The Child Safe Standards referred to in the bill largely align with the 10 standards in the National Principles. The bill will require organisations to report annually on the implementation of, and compliance with, the Principles and Standards.

The Tasmanian government is also drafting some new Out-of-home Care standards. We understand that if providers are meeting the new Out-of-home Care standards, they will be seen as compliant with the National Principles.

What is the timeframe?

Consultation on the Draft Child Safe Organisations Bill 2020 closed on Friday the 19th of February. In their latest progress report and action plan, the Tasmanian government stated that throughout 2021 they will:

  • continue to progress the legislative framework for Child Safe Organisations;
  • finalise and commence implementation of Tasmanian Standards for Children and Young People in Out-of-Home Care; and
  • work with Aboriginal organisations to identify actions to further improve and embed the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Child Placement Principles across the Child Safety Service System.

ACT

What are the current requirements?

Most providers operating in the ACT are required to comply with the relevant streams of the Children and Young People Standards. For example, organisations providing care and protection services are required to comply with the Children and Young People (Care and Protection Organisation) Standards and organisations providing Out of Home Care must comply with the Children and Young People (ACT Out of Home Care) Standards.

Which agency is responsible?

ACT Community Services Directorate monitors implementation of the Children and Young People Standards.

ACT Children and Young People Commissioner promotes and protect the rights and well-being of children and young people, and advocates for children and young people.

What is to come?

In October 2019, the ACT government decided to regulate the Child Safe Standards in the Territory and began the development of a scheme. Public consultation ran from November 2019 until February 2020. The government stated that the language of the ACT standards would be similar to the National Principles, but would also look closely at the Victorian and NSW versions of the Standards. The government had planned to develop legislation during 2020, however we understand that the standards have been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information click here.

What is the timeframe?

There is currently no publicly available timeline for implementation of the National Principles in the ACT.

Western Australia

What are the current requirements?

Western Australia currently has a voluntary approach to the implementation of the National Principles, focused on capacity building, led by the Commissioner for Children and Young People (CCYP), while options for legally requiring implementation are developed. CCYP has enabling legislation to raise awareness, provide capacity building and consult with children. In 2019, CCYP revised their child safe resources to align with the National Principles.

Which agency is responsible?

The Department of the Premier and Cabinet is leading the development of a system of independent oversight, which will include the monitoring and enforcing of the National Principles for organisations engaged in child-related work.

The Commissioner for Children and Young People monitors laws, policies and practices that affect the wellbeing of children and young people and advocates for children and young people by valuing and promoting their voice within society.

The Department of Communities is working with other government agencies, the community services sector, peak bodies and other jurisdictions to drive the implementation of the National Principles.

What is to come?

In Western Australia, implementation of the National Principles is being led by the Department of Communities and the Department of the Premier and Cabinet, in partnership with key government agencies and the Commissioner for Children and Young People (CCYP).

The Department of the Premier and Cabinet is leading the development of advice to the State Government on an independent oversight system, which will include the monitoring and enforcing of the National Principles for organisations engaged in child-related work.

The Department of Communities is leading the implementation of the National Principles through a range of administrative and legislative levers such as funding agreements and regulatory frameworks. They are also providing support to government and non-government agencies to implement the National Principles in preparation for independent oversight.

What is the timeframe?

Western Australia is currently in the consultation phase for design of the independent oversight system which will include monitoring and enforcement of the National Principles. Organisations were asked to complete an online survey which asked questions around what an independent oversight system should look like, how compliance with the National Principles should be implemented, and what powers the independent oversight body should have. The survey also asked about what a reasonable timeframe would be for organisations to comply with the National Principles. The survey closed on the 26th of February 2021. More information is available here.

Northern Territory

What are the current requirements?

There are no general child safety standards currently in force in the Northern Territory. Territory Families operates the Quality Assurance Program, however this applies specifically to children in out of home care.

The National Principles have been endorsed by the NT Government, but compliance is not monitored.

Which agency is responsible?

Territory Families is the agency responsible for providing support services across child protection, domestic and family violence, and youth justice services.

The Northern Territory Children’s Commissioner has the remit of monitoring and safeguarding the wellbeing of vulnerable children.

What is to come? / What is the timeframe?

The Northern Territory has not yet indicated that it will legislate the National Principles. It is unclear at this time what the timeline towards implementation will be.

National Catholic Safeguarding Standards

What are the current requirements?

As well as the National Principles, The National Catholic Safeguarding Standards (Ed. 1, 2019) were also established in response to the Royal Commission. They are designed to be implemented by all Catholic entities, ministries and organisations across Australia. The Standards are closely aligned with the National Principles, with 42 of the 49 criteria coming directly from the National Principles. The seven additional criteria have been developed in response to specific recommendations from the Royal Commission and consultations across the Catholic Church. 

Which agency is responsible?

Australian Catholic Safeguarding Ltd (ACSL) is the national body for safeguarding. The ACSL audits compliance with these Standards, they publicly report audit findings and they provide education and training in respect to the Safeguarding Standards. 

What is to come?

In November 2019, ACSL commenced work on the development of the second edition of the Standards to expand the framework to include safeguarding requirements and practices for the protection of ‘vulnerable adults’.  The drafting of the standards was guided by a National Reference group, comprising members with experience from within and external to the Catholic Church and with expertise across various sectors and groups.  In July 2020 ACSL released a draft 2nd edition of the Standards. They engaged in a mix of consultation methods including group consultations, targeted consultation and an online survey open to any individuals/groups. 

What is the timeframe?

Draft consultation on the new standards closed on 28 August 2020. The feedback is now being reviewed and consolidated to inform the development of the final draft of the National Catholic Safeguarding Standards, Edition Two. A complete report on the input and recommendations from the consultation phase will be published in the coming months. 

The information in this blog post has been gathered through the relevant websites as well as through contact with the relevant state or territory agencies. We weren’t able to confirm the review status from some states at the time of publication, however we will update this blog post if any new information comes to light.

How can we help?

In 2019, we incorporated into SPP a self-assessment for the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations. This self-assessment is tailored to address all of the principles, key action areas and indicators of the National Principles. 

In 2020, we added a self-assessment for the NSW Child Safe Standards. These Standards are closely aligned with the National Principles. However, we have provided a separate self-assessment so that organisations can easily demonstrate that they are meeting both frameworks, or NSW organisations may choose to focus on the NSW Child Safe Standards. The standards are mapped to each other, meaning that progress against one of the standards will result in organisations simultaneously making progress against the other set of standards. 

SPP also contains a self-assessment for the National Catholic Safeguarding Standards (Ed. 1, 2019), which are also closely aligned to the National Principles.

We will be closely monitoring the progress of other states in their implementation of the National Principles, and we plan on adding new self-assessments for new standards that arise from the implementation process.

To access these self-assessments and all of our child safe resources, log in to SPP.

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I like the speed and ease of SPP, I love how it maps multiple standards. It’s so convenient, I couldn’t imagine the nightmare to do the work manually. The templates are great for gap analysis. SPP resource templates are great for implementing new policies in the office and for what we do day to day.
Large provider of settlement services to immigrants, New South Wales
I have found the SPP system amazing. It provides a structured way to work through the standards and then provide a succinct report on the evidence being provided for a surveyor to view how we meet the standard. I used this in our recent accreditation survey, the auditor was very impressed, AND we are now accredited for ISO 9001. Thanks again. A great system.
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We really like SPP. We use the resources in the Reading Room and couldn't have passed our accreditation with flying colours without SPP.
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Everything is going well with SPP. It’s helped us through three lots of accreditation over the past nine months plus some internal auditing, so I’m very glad to have had it to assist us through the processes.
Large regional multi-service provider, Victoria