The National Principles for Child Safe Organisations

The National Principles for Child Safe Organisations aim to provide a nationally consistent approach to creating organisational cultures that foster child safety and wellbeing across all sectors in Australia.

The National Principles reflect the Royal Commission's child safe standards and are the vehicle for giving effect to Royal Commission recommendations relating to the standards. They have a broader scope that goes beyond child sexual abuse to cover other forms of potential harm to children and young people.

Download the draft National Principles here, current as of 15 May 2018:

 

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.

Draft National Principles were endorsed by Commonwealth, State and Territory Community Services Ministers in October 2017.

In February 2018, COAG welcomed progress on the National Principles and agreed to respond to the Royal Commission’s recommendations in June 2018.

Draft National Principles have been agreed to by Community Services Ministers and will be submitted to COAG for endorsement in late 2018.

Implementation of the National Principles will proceed in line with the responses of Commonwealth, state and territory governments to the Royal Commission’s recommendations.

Click here to read more about the background to the Child Safe Organisations project. 

Consultation on the National Principles

The National Principles have been developed through consultations with Australian governments, national peak bodies from sectors that work with children and young people, national advocacy and research organisations, and children and young people.

The National Children’s Commissioner, Megan Mitchell, undertook targeted consultations in the first half of 2017 with key experts and stakeholders.

Broader consultations were then held on draft National Principles with representatives of the sports, disability, health, education, early childhood, recreation, arts and recreation sectors; child and family support services; and religious bodies.

The National Children’s Commissioner also undertook consultations with children and young people about the National Principles, discussing what is important to them in terms of safety and wellbeing.

The National Children’s Commissioner has also briefed Australia’s Children’s Commissioners and Guardians on the National Principles, and continues to advocate for child safe organisations through speeches, conferences and meetings.

Advisory groups

The Australian Human Rights Commission established two advisory groups to assist with development and implementation of the National Principles.

The Implementation Advisory Group was co-chaired by the Commission and the Commonwealth Department of Social Services. Its members included representatives of key sectors working with children and young people.

The Consumer Advocacy Advisory Group was co-chaired by the Commission and Families Australia. Its members included researchers and advocates in the areas of disability, children and young people, parents, mental health, family and domestic violence and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander services.

The list of members of the advisory groups is available here.

Forums

In January 2018, the Child Safe Organisations project held a forum on Child Safe Organisations and cultural safety for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people.

The Hon Ken Wyatt, MP, Minister for Indigenous Health opened the forum, which was co-chaired by the National Children’s Commissioner and Richard Weston, CEO of the Healing Foundation. Indigenous leaders in the fields of health, mental health, and child and family support attended.

The forum considered a background paper on cultural safety for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people.

The forum also sought feedback on the draft National Principles and on how cultural safety for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people can be implemented across a broad range of organisations. Key themes emerging from the forum were outlined in the Child Safe Organisations project’s February 2018 e-newsletter

The approach underlying the National Principles

The National Principles for Child Safe Organisations reflect ten child safe standards recommended by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, and are the vehicle for giving effect to recommendations relating to the standards.

The National Principles have a broader scope that goes beyond child sexual abuse to cover other forms of potential harm to children and young people.

The National Principles are:

  • 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.

A child rights, strengths-based approach recognises, respects and protects the human rights of children in the development and implementation of laws, policies, practices and other decisions affecting them. These rights are set out in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), which Australia is a party to.

The guiding principles of the CRC include:

  • respect for the best interests of the child as a primary consideration
  • the right of children to survival and development
  • the right of children to express their views freely on all matters affecting them
  • the right of all children to enjoy all the rights of the CRC without discrimination.

A child rights, strengths-based approach includes emphasising genuine engagement with children and young people; taking action to promote their right to safety and right to have their views heard; and prioritising the safety and wellbeing of children.

This type of approach acknowledges that children and young people gain great benefits from being involved with various organisations. It also acknowledges that most organisations and their workers and volunteers want to do what is best for children and young people.

Improving child rights knowledge throughout organisations that work for and with children and young people across Australia is another important part of a child rights approach.

Click here for further information about children’s rights and the CRC.

Key features of Child Safe Organisations

Policies and procedures are not enough to keep children safe and well in organisational settings.

The National Principles collectively show that 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 the centre of thought, values and actions.
  • Places emphasis on genuine engagement with and valuing of children.
  • 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.
Overview of the National Principles
The draft National Principles for Child Safe Organisations are:
  • 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.

In order to allow flexibility in implementation and in recognition of the variety of organisational types, sizes and capacities, the National Principles outline at a high level the ten elements that are fundamental to making an organisation safe for children.

Each principle has key action areas and indicators. The key action areas are based on the core components of the Royal Commission’s child safe standards. The indicators will act as a guide as to whether the organisation is implementing that principle in practice.

Organisations should be safe and welcoming for all children and young people. The National Principles also highlight ways that organisations should consider the needs of children from diverse backgrounds and circumstances.

Further information

Subscribe to the Child Safe Organisations project e-newsletter to receive further updates on the National Principles. 

For more information:

You can also contact the Child Safe Organisations project team at childsafe@humanrights.gov.au.