The National Principles for Child Safe Organisations

As part of the Child Safe Organisations project, Australia’s National Children’s Commissioner, Megan Mitchell, is leading the development of National Principles for Child Safe Organisations. 

Download the draft National Principles here:
Download PDF
Download Word

Commissioned by the Commonwealth Department of Social Services, the National Principles aim to drive a child safe culture across organisations in all sectors, to protect the safety and wellbeing of children and young people across Australia.

The National Principles reflect ten child safe standards recommended by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, with a broader scope that goes beyond sexual abuse to cover other forms of potential harm.

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.

The final National Principles will be considered by Community Services Ministers before being submitted to COAG for endorsement in mid-2018.

Implementation of the National Principles will proceed in line with the responses of Australian 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 are being 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.

Since then, broader consultations have been 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 is continuing to consult with children and young people about the National Principles and what is important to them in terms of safety and wellbeing.

The National Children’s Commissioner has also briefed Australian Government officials and 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 has established two advisory groups to assist with development and implementation of the National Principles.

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

The Consumer Advocacy Advisory Group is co-chaired by the Commission and Families Australia. Its members include 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.

Updates on advisory group consultations are included in the Child Safe Organisations project monthly e-newsletters.

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, with a broader scope that goes beyond 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 include the following:
  • A commitment to 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 promoted and diversity is 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 for complaints and concerns are responsive, understood, accessible and used by children, young people, families, staff and volunteers.
  • 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.
  • Organisations regularly review and improve implementation of their child safety and wellbeing policies and procedures.
  • Policies and procedures document how the organisation is safe for children and young people.

The National Principles are high-level. They are intended to apply to all sectors that engage with children and young people, in organisations of different types and sizes.

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 standard 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 monthly e-newsletter to receive further updates on the National Principles. 

To find out more about the Child Safe Organisations project:

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