New Child Safe Standards in Victoria

New Child Safe Standards will come into force on 1 July 2022 after an amendment to the Child Wellbeing and Safety Act 2005 (Vic) was passed by the Victorian Parliament in June 2021.

The amendments will replace the current 7 Child Safe Standards enforced by the Victorian Commission for Children and Young People (CCYP) with 11 Standards. The existing 7 Child Safe Standards only came into effect on 1 November 2018, demonstrating the constantly changing expectations regarding child safety.

The 11 Child Safe Standards commencing in 2021 (New Standards) are more specific, prescriptive and include additional obligations which align with recommendations from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

Although similar to Victoria’s current Child Safe Standards, key changes include new requirements:

  • to involve families and communities in an organisation’s efforts to keep children and young people safe
  • for a greater focus on safety for Aboriginal children and young people  to manage the risk of child abuse in online environments
  • in relation to governance, systems and processes to keep children and young people safe.

Prescribed organisations will need to make changes to policies, key documents and internal procedures and practices to comply with the new Standards. Compliance with the New Standards will be mandatory from 1 July 2022.

In addition to establishing the New Standards, the amending Act will increase the monitoring and compliance activities to better enforce compliance with the Standards. Further, there are also associated changes to the Education and Training Reform Act 2006 (Vic).

The New Standards do not change obligations related to mandatory reporting to the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing (formerly the Department of Health and Human Services) or police, the Reportable Conduct Scheme, the Working with Children Check requirements, the Child Information Sharing Scheme or other child safety laws.

A high level summary of key changes identified by the CCYP is outlined below.

New Child Safe Standards
(commencing 1 July 2022)
What’s new or changing
Child Safe Standard 1

Organisations establish a culturally safe environment in which the diverse and unique identities and experiences of Aboriginal children and young people are respected and valued
The new Child Safe Standard 1 requires organisations to take new steps to create a culturally safe environment for Aboriginal children and young people. Organisations must meet this requirement regardless of whether or not they know that there are Aboriginal children and young people currently using their services or facilities.
This new Child Safe Standard 1 means that most organisations will need to improve their current approach to creating a safe environment for Aboriginal children and young people and their families. Implementing this Standard will require ongoing effort, not just a once-off change.
This Standard links to new Standard 5 which requires that equity is upheld and diverse needs are respected in organisations.
Child Safe Standard 2

Child safety and wellbeing is embedded in organisational leadership, governance and culture
Many aspects of the new Child Safe Standard 2 are consistent with what organisations are currently required to do under existing Standards 1, 2 and 3.
The new Child Safe Standard 2 has a greater emphasis on information sharing, record keeping and governance arrangements to create a child safe culture at all levels in an organisation. The management of risks to children is required to be embedded in organisational leadership, governance and culture.
Child Safe Standard 3

Children and young people are empowered about their rights, participate in decisions affecting them and are taken seriously
The Child Safe Standards have always required organisations to have strategies in place to empower children and young people and promote their participation. These obligations remain.
Additional requirements for organisations under the new Child Safe Standard 3 include:
• informing children and young people about their rights
• recognising the importance of friendships and encouraging support from peers, to help children and young people feel safe and connected
• offering children and young people sexual abuse prevention programs where relevant
• equipping staff and volunteers to identify the signs of harm to children.
Child Safe Standard 4

Families and communities are informed, and involved in promoting child safety and wellbeing
Many organisations already inform and involve families and communities as part of complying with the current Child Safe Standards.
The new Child Safe Standard 4 creates specific obligations on organisations to involve families and communities in promoting child safety.
New obligations mean organisations must ensure they:
• seek the input of families and communities in decisions impacting children and young people
• involve families and communities in the development and review of their child safe policies and practices
• communicate effectively with families and communities about how to raise child safety concerns and how the organisation operates
• take into account the diversity of families and act to reduce barriers to inclusion.
Child Safe Standard 5

Equity is upheld and diverse needs respected in policy and practice
The Child Safe Standards have always required organisations to recognise and respond to diversity and understand that some children are more vulnerable to abuse than others. To date this has been expressed through three principles relating to the cultural safety of Aboriginal children, culturally and/or linguistically diverse children and the safety of children with disability.
These obligations continue, but the new Child Safe Standard 5 makes some additional obligations explicit, requiring organisations to:
• understand children and young people’s diverse backgrounds, circumstances and needs
• make any necessary adjustments and provide equal protection to all children and young people
• consider the needs of children and young people who are unable to live at home as well as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex children and young people.
This Standard links to new Standard 1, which requires organisations to establish a culturally safe environment in which the diverse and unique identities and experiences of Aboriginal children and young people are respected and valued.
Child Safe Standard 6

People working with children and young people are suitable and supported to reflect child safety and wellbeing values in practice
The current Child Safe Standards already require organisations to have child safety policies and procedures for recruitment and selection processes, screening, supervision, training, development and performance monitoring of staff and volunteers. They are also required to make staff and volunteers aware of the organisation’s reporting procedures for child safety issues.
Under the new Child Safe Standard 6, organisations will have new obligations to inform staff and volunteers about:
• the organisation’s record keeping processes in relation to child safety and wellbeing
• information sharing and reporting obligations.
Child Safe Standard 7

Processes for complaints and concerns are child focused
The current Child Safe Standards require organisations to have effective processes that support children and young people to raise complaints and ensure that the organisation can appropriately respond to and report suspected child abuse.
The new Child Safe Standard 7 emphasises the importance of complaints processes being child focused and understood by children and young people and their families, in addition to staff and volunteers.
The new Child Safe Standard 7 also makes explicit the obligations for organisations to:
• take complaints seriously, and respond to them promptly and thoroughly
• co-operate with law enforcement
• meet reporting, privacy and employment law obligations.
Child Safe Standard 8

Staff and volunteers are equipped with the knowledge, skills and awareness to keep children and young people safe through ongoing education and training
The current Child Safe Standards already require organisations to provide information and training to staff and volunteers so that they can create child safe environments and respond to allegations of abuse.
The new Child Safe Standard 8 spells out obligations for organisations to train and support staff and volunteers, and provide ongoing education and training to:
• implement the organisation’s child safety and wellbeing policy
• recognise indicators of harm (including harm caused by other children and young people)
• respond effectively to child safety issues and concerns and support colleagues who disclose harm.
This Standard links to new Standards 1 and 5, with all three Standards placing obligations on organisations to provide training and information for staff and volunteers on building safe environments for children and young people.
Child Safe Standard 9

Physical and online environments promote safety and wellbeing while minimising the opportunity for children and young people to be harmed
The current Child Safe Standards already require organisations to be mindful of the risks associated with both physical and online environments and to adopt measures to remove risks of child abuse.
The new Child Safe Standard 9 contains specific obligations for organisations to:
• consider online environments in addition to physical environments
• identify and mitigate risks in these environments without compromising a child or young person’s right to privacy, access to information, social connections and learning opportunities
• promote child safety and wellbeing as well as minimising the opportunity for children and young people to be harmed
• have procurement policies that ensure the safety of children and young people if the organisation contracts facilities and services from third parties.
Child Safe Standard 10

Implementation of the Child Safe Standards is regularly reviewed and improved
Review and continuous improvement are already part of the current Child Safe Standards.
The new Child Safe Standard 10 contains new obligations for organisations to:
• analyse complaints, concerns and safety incidents to identify causes and systemic failures to inform continuous improvement
• report on the findings of relevant reviews of child safe practices to staff and volunteers, community and families and children and young people.
Child Safe Standard 11

Policies and procedures document how the organisation is safe for children and young people
Preparing comprehensive policies and procedures to support implementation of child safe practices is already required by the current Child Safe Standards.
The new Child Safe Standard 11 contains new obligations for organisations to:
• make policies and procedures easy to understand
• use stakeholder consultation and best practice models to inform the development of policies and procedures
• ensure organisational leaders champion and model compliance with policies and procedures.

Further information on the key changes is available here.

A new standard for Aboriginal children and young people

A significant addition to the new 11 Standards is a specific standard requiring organisations to establish a culturally safe environment in which the diverse and unique identities and experiences of Aboriginal children and young people are respected and valued. Recommended by Justin Mohamed, Victoria’s second Commissioner for Aboriginal Children and Young People, this new standards requires organisations to embed strategies to equip all members to acknowledge and appreciate the strengths of Aboriginal culture and to ensure racism is identified, confronted and not tolerated.

The Commission for Children and Young People will have increased powers.  

The CCYP has oversight and enforcement of the Child Safe Standards. Its functions and powers will (from 1 July 2022) include:

  • Providing education, information and advice on the Child Safe Standards;
  • Publishing guidance notes for sector regulators (such as VRQA) to promote consistent enforcement of the Standards;
  • Being a sector regulator itself;
  • Collecting, analysing and publishing data relating to compliance with the Standards; and
  • Working collaborative with sector regulators and promoting information exchange between itself and other sector regulators.

The Victorian Registrations and Qualifications Authority will have increased enforcement powers regarding schools.

There are also increased responsibilities off sector regulators in monitoring and enforcing the Child Safe Standards. For example, the Victorian Registrations and Qualifications Authority (VRQA) will be responsible for monitoring and enforcing compliance of the Standards by schools and other education and training entities allocated to it.

Sector regulators, such as the VRQA are provided functions that include:

  • Providing education, information and advice on the Child Safe Standards;
  • Investigating, monitoring and enforcing the Standards;
  • Collecting, analysing and publishing data relating to compliance with the Standards; and
  • Promote the improvement by relevant entities in relation to child safety.

What do organisations need to do now?

To prepare for the New Standards organisations should:

The CCYP has said it will provide further information and guidance over the coming months to help organisations prepare for compliance with the New Standards by 1 July 2022.

How Moores can help

Child safety regulation is complex and constantly changing. Organisations need to be aware of the latest developments and reforms in order to maintain compliance. Strong governance is key to child safety.

Moores has extensive experience in child safety. We work closely with organisations to meet their obligations and create a child safe environment. Our education and child safety teams have deep expertise in child safety, regulation, education, and governance. For more information or expert advice on child safety matters, please do not hesitate to contact us.