Australian Child Safe Standards – A State By State Guide 2024

What Are The Current Child Safe Standards & Principles For State In Australia?

Child safety is a paramount concern across Australia, and developing comprehensive Child Safe Standards has been a crucial step towards protecting children and young people.

Over the decades, different legislation in Australia has addressed the protection of children. In 2009, the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children was endorsed, with federal, state and territory governments working together to further develop the framework over time.

In 2017, the Royal Commission’s recommendations paved the way for creating National Principles for Child Safe Organisations. These principles serve as a foundation for creating a unified approach to child safety, ensuring that organisations prioritise the protection and well-being of children and young people in both physical and online environments.

You can read the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse here. In 2019, the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations were introduced on a federal level.

The National Principles for Child Safe Organisations are:

  1. Child safety and wellbeing is embedded in organisational leadership, governance and culture.
  2. Children and young people are informed about their rights, participate in decisions affecting them and are taken seriously.
  3. Families and communities are informed and involved in promoting child safety and well-being.
  4. Equity is upheld, and diverse needs are respected in policy and practice.
  5. People working with children and young people are suitable and supported to reflect child safety and well-being values in practice.
  6. Processes to respond to complaints and concerns are child-focused.
  7. Through ongoing education and training, staff and volunteers are equipped with the knowledge, skills and awareness to keep children and young people safe.
  8. Physical and online environments promote safety and well-being while minimising the opportunity for children and young people to be harmed.
  9. Implementation of the national child safe principles is regularly reviewed and improved.
  10. Policies and procedures document how the organisation is safe for children and young people.
children playing in a safe enviroment

How Has Each State & Territory Implemented The National Principles?

Since the introduction of The National Principles on a federal level, each state and territory has taken steps towards implementing statewide frameworks and reportable conduct schemes.

While Victoria and New South Wales have established legislation following the National Principles, Tasmania and Western Australia are just beginning to introduce theirs.

Queensland, the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), and the Northern Territory have yet to fully implement these standards. This article serves as a comprehensive state-by-state guide, providing insights into the development, application, and current status of Child Safe Standards nationwide in 2024.

Here is where each state has landed as of 2024, including a recent implementation of the Tasmanian framework and changes to Western Australia’s Reportable Conduct Scheme.

New South Wales Child Safe Standards

In 2020, the NSW OGC (Office of the Children’s Guardian) introduced the NSW Child Safe Standards framework, similar to the National Principles. As of 2022, under the Child Safe Scheme, NSW legislated their statewide framework as the state’s guiding standard for children’s safety and wellbeing. You can learn more about the New South Wales framework here.

Victoria’s Child Safe Standards

In 2016, Victoria introduced the Child Safe Standards, and in 2022 the Child Safe Standards were amended to be reflective of The National Principles for Child Safe Organisations. Victoria has an additional standard that is focused on creating a culturally safe environment for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people. You can view them here.

Safe, Happy & Engaged Children Graphic

Tasmania’s Child and Youth Safe Standards & Reportable Conduct Scheme

From 1 January 2024, Tasmania’s Reportable Conduct Scheme and Child and Youth Safe Standards have come into effect under the Child and Youth Safe Organisations Act, 2023. These principles align with the Australian Government’s National Principles, with a slightly expanded name. They aim to keep children safe, mitigate incidents of child abuse and protect the cultural safety of Aboriginal children. You can view the framework here.

Western Australia’s Reportable Conduct Scheme Changes

As of 2024, Western Australia is still guided by the Australian Government’s National Principles for Child Safe Organisations however has not implemented the Principles into legislation.

In a recent website release on 10 January 2024, the WA’s Department of Communities stated:

“The WA Government is committed to supporting the development of safe organisations for children and young people and is working to develop an independent oversight system that includes monitoring and enforcing the National Principles. 

In the meantime, the WA Government encourages organisations across the state that engage with children and young people to implement the National Principles. WA Government departments that engage with children and young people, including the Department of Communities, are also taking steps to be child safe organisations.”

In 2023 Western Australia implemented a Reportable Conduct Scheme and from 1 January 2024 – The Reportable Conduct Scheme in Western Australia has expanded its definitions of reportable allegations to include emotional and psychological harm and neglect. Previously, it only covered sexual abuse, misconduct and physical abuse.

“From 1 January 2024, the definition of reportable conduct will expand to also include:

  • Significant neglect of a child

  • Any behaviour that causes significant emotional or psychological harm to a child.”

New legislation under 2.1.9 ‘Reportable Conduct’ can be found here, on the Department of Communities website.

Safe Space Legal Child Safety and Safeguarding

South Australia’s Child Safe Environments Program

The Child Safe Environments Program is overseen by the Department of Human Services in South Australia. They have adopted the National Principles as well as state-informed policy.

The DHS assists organisations in creating Child Safe policies. Organisations can submit a compliance statement indicating they are a Child Safe organisation.

Australian Capital Territory’s (ACT) Child Safe Standards

In 2019, the ACT government ran a four-month-long public consultation to develop a Child Safe Standards Scheme for 2020. The ACT government cited delays due to the pandemic and, as of 2024, has yet to implement any territory-specific legislation. This means the ACT still uses the National Principles to inform their child safety efforts.

Queensland’s Child Safe Standards & Reportable Conduct Scheme

In Queensland, the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations has been endorsed and organisations are encouraged to comply with the Principles, however legislation has not yet been implemented.

Following the recent criminal investigation into a childcare worker facing over 1600 charges, the Queensland Government are considering implementing a Reportable Conduct Scheme.

Queensland has not implemented a Reportable Conduct Scheme despite Royal Commission findings, nor have they developed a statewide framework of Child Safe Standards.

On 10 August 2023, the ‘Growing Child Safe Organisations’ consultation regulatory impact statement (CRIS) was published after feedback was sought from key stakeholders and the public of Queensland.

As of 18 December 2023, the Queensland Government has stated that they are ‘working on options for the implementation of child safety standards and a reportable conduct scheme in Queensland.’

Currently, no public timeline is available for the development or implementation of this legislation.

Northern Territory’s Child Safe Standards & Mandatory Reporting

At this stage, the Northern Territory is aligned with the National Principles but has yet to implement any territory-specific legislation. The Office Of The Children’s Commissioner oversees Child Safe Organisations.

Mandatory Reporting in NT is currently not informed by specific careers or working in particular organisations; instead, it is the responsibility of all residents over 18 who believe a child may be at risk of harm. No further changes are expected in these areas at the time of writing this.

Young Girl on Laptop

Online Environments and Cultural Safety

Acknowledging the evolving landscape, the National Principles recognise the need for online safety and institutional responses to protect children from potential harm, including child sexual abuse. Additionally, a culturally safe environment is essential, fostering an inclusive Child Safe culture that considers every child’s diverse needs.

The Role of Organisations in Implementation

Organisations play a pivotal role in the implementation of the National Principles. They must create Child Safe cultures and provide practical tools for their staff to live and breathe these principles.

These standards require a commitment to ongoing education, regular reviews of procedures, and the adoption of a comprehensive approach to child safety and wellbeing.

Keeping Children Safe Nationwide

The Australian Human Rights Commission, in collaboration with the National Office of the National Children’s Commissioner, is actively working to support the implementation of the National Principles. The aim is to keep children and young people safe by encouraging organisations to reflect child safety in every aspect of their operations.

As the implementation of the National Principles progresses across states, Australia is moving closer to the goal of creating Child Safe organisations that protect children and young people from abuse and harm, both online and offline.

While each state is at a different stage in implementing Child Safe Standards, the unified vision is clear – to create an Australia where every child is safe, supported, and able to thrive in diverse and unique environments. The journey towards a nationally consistent approach to child safety is ongoing, and the collective efforts of organisations, communities, and the government are essential to achieving this shared goal.

Championing Non-Mandatory Child Safe Initiatives

While some frameworks and legislation across Child Safe standards and Reportable Conduct Schemes are mandatory, many are not – or will require time to implement fully.

This is where organisational leadership and organisational cultures have a unique opportunity to shape the landscape, regardless of what has been mandated. Organisations that embody the values of Child Safe principles and are dedicated to reporting will likely become organisations of choice and significantly impact the creation of genuine Child Safe cultures.

If you require assistance in implementing the Child Safe Standards or National Principles in your organisation, please get in touch with our team today.

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