Over 50,000 Victorian organisations (including schools, sporting clubs, hospitals and churches) that provide services and facilities to children and young people have one year to familiarise themselves with a new child safety standard and will be required to devise a plan by 1 July 2022.
The changes support greater national consistency and reflect ‘national principles for a child safe organisation’ that resulted from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
Acting minister for child protection Gabrielle Williams said the standards were also designed to respond to Victoria’s 2013 Betrayal of Trust Inquiry, which called for better systems to respond to allegations of abuse and misconduct against children and young people.
“The new child safe standards will help organisations embed child safety into their everyday practice,” Williams said.
“These standards will help organisations, clubs and individuals that interact with children do all they can to prevent abuse and respond quickly if it is alleged.”
The minimum standards require organisations to implement policies and procedures that promote safe environments for young people, and equip them with the resources to respond to allegations of abuse and misconduct.
Some of the key amendments include new requirements to involve families in organisational efforts to keep young people safe; manage the risk of child abuse online; greater clarity over governance, systems and processes to keep young people safe.
Victorian commissioner for Aboriginal children and young people Justin Mohamed said one of the unique features of these new child safe standards was specialised focus on cultural safety for children and young people with an Aboriginal background.
“Organisations will have requirements to ensure racism within the organisation is identified, confronted and not tolerated,” Mohamed said.
“We know that if Aboriginal children and young people feel safe to be themselves in an organisation, this better protects them from child abuse.”
Victoria’s new child safe standards were devised in extensive consultation with stakeholders, including Aboriginal leaders and Victoria’s commissioners for children and young people.
The minimum standards come into effect following new laws that were passed in the Victorian parliament last week.
A statement issued by Williams on Friday outlined that the amendments strengthened the regulatory framework for the standards.
Organisations have until 1 July next year to create a plan to meet the standard, and the regulatory framework amendments come into effect on 1 January 2023.
Current minimum standards will continue to apply until the 2022 deadline.