“Child abuse and neglect is preventable. If we all work together as a community we can create an Australia where all children can grow up safe and well. What role can you play in supporting children and their families?”
– Richard Cooke, CEO, NAPCAN
According to the latest Australian Institute of Health and Welfare Child Protection Australia 2016– 17 report, the number of children receiving child protection services continues to rise. Around 168,000 children received child protection services in 2016-2017 which equates to one in every 32 children. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were seven times more likely to receive child protection services than non-Indigenous children. The report also highlights that the majority of children in the child protection system are repeat clients.
The National Association for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (NAPCAN) invites us all to get involved with National Child Protection Week this week and play a part in creating safe and nurturing environments for all Australian children. Held annually, and commencing on Father’s Day each September, National Child Protection Week (Sunday 2 – Saturday 8 September this year) reminds us that we all have a role in protecting children from harm. By building stronger communities, we can create safer environments for our children.
The National Quality Framework (NQF) recognises the importance of creating safe environments for every child. From the National Law and Regulations to the National Quality Standard (NQS), creating and maintaining safe and nurturing environments for all children is recognised as quality practice, guiding us as we play our part in protecting children from harm.
Creating safe and nurturing environments
Creating safe environments within education and care settings is sometimes complex and challenging. Many of us are confident in our ability to create and design learning spaces with children that nurture the development of the individual child and fulfil their curiosity. We strive to ensure children are supervised as they play and relax in a variety of settings, from our homes to school settings. However, it is sometimes harder to build our capacity to respond confidently and to challenge our thinking about how we support the ongoing health, safety and wellbeing of every child.
Quality Area 2 – Children’s health and safety, reinforces each child’s right to experience quality education and care in an environment that provides for their ongoing health and safety. Element 2.2.3 requires that management, educators and staff be aware of their roles and responsibilities to identify and respond to every child at risk of abuse or neglect.
Under Section 162A of the Education and Care National Law, the approved provider has the responsibility of ensuring that each nominated supervisor and each person in day-to-day charge of the service has successfully completed child protection training, if required in their state or territory.
The approved provider also has the responsibility of ensuring that the nominated supervisors and staff members at the service are advised of the existence and application of the current child protection law and that they understand any obligations they may have under that law (Education and Care Services National Regulations, r 84).
Are you a mandatory reporter?
Across Australia, state and territory legislation prescribes occupations that are mandated to report a child at risk of abuse or neglect. Those who frequently deal with children in the course of their work, such as education and care professionals, are usually mandatory reporters.
For more information on the legal provisions and your role as a mandatory reporter, head to: https://aifs.gov.au/cfca/publications/mandatory-reporting-child-abuse-and-neglect.
What does mandatory reporting mean?
Mandatory reporting is a strategy that acknowledges the prevalence, seriousness and often hidden nature of child abuse and neglect. It enables the detection of cases that otherwise may not come to the attention of agencies. The laws help to create a culture that is more child-centred and build a community that will not tolerate serious abuse and neglect of children.
Research has shown that mandated reporters make a substantial contribution to child protection and family welfare.
Child Safe Organisations Project
As part of the Child Safe Organisations Project and commissioned by the Commonwealth Department of Social Services, Australia’s National Children’s Commissioner, Megan Mitchell, is leading the development of National Principles for Child Safe Organisations. The National Principles are intended to apply to all organisations, including education and care services across Australia. They are due to be endorsed by the Council of Australian Governments in mid-to late 2018.
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. The National Principles aim to drive the implementation of a child safe culture across all sectors, providing services to children and young people to ensure the safety and wellbeing of children and young people across Australia.
Organisations should be safe and welcoming for all children and young people. The National Principles highlight ways in which organisations should consider the needs of children from diverse backgrounds and circumstances. The principles emphasise the importance of culturally safe environments and practices for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people.
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. This may begin with the development of your service philosophy and policies and procedures, which underpin and lead to, the creation of ongoing quality practices. These practices, informed by critical reflection and meaningful engagement with families and community members, allow educators and staff to proactively identify and respond confidently to issues related to the safety and protection of children attending the service.
A child safe organisation consciously and systematically:
- creates an environment where children’s safety and wellbeing is the centre of thought, values and actions
- emphasises 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.
Let’s all be a part of National Child Protection Week
To get involved with National Child Protection Week, you can:
- Check out the NAPCAN website for events in your area or plan an event at your service. Some examples of events you could consider for your service include:
– a display made collaboratively by children and educators
– a shared meal at your service
– attending a local forum supporting child safety, or
– joining in with a local family to support services fundraiser.
- Encourage your families and staff to attend an event being held in your local community.
- Make your influence positive; start a conversation today with your colleagues and families about listening to and valuing the voice of children and young people. What might this look like within your service?
- How do you inform families and community members about the service’s role and responsibility in protecting children?
- How do new employees become informed about child protective measures that your service has in place?
- How are the Exceeding NQS themes reflected in your practices for Quality Area 2?
- Does your philosophy reflect your service’s child safe practices?
- Is your service a child safe organisation?
Further reading and resources
ACECQA – Reporting requirements about children. Guidance on the different reporting requirements under the National Law and Regulations.
NAPCAN – free downloadable resources to share with families, staff and children.
Australian Institute of Family Studies website – provides information on Children’s Commissioners and Guardians in each state and territory.
Australian Human Rights Commission – Child Safe Organisations: Tools and resources.
Australian Institute of Family Studies – Child Protection Legislation Resource Sheet 2018