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  • Child Safety

     

    Catholic school communities place the highest priority on the care, wellbeing and protection of children and young people. Founded in Christ and sustained by faith, Catholic schools seek to fulfil their mission of enabling each student to come into the fullness of their own humanity. This includes paying attention to the inherent dignity of children and young people, and their fundamental right to be respected, nurtured and safeguarded by all.
     
    Catholic education has done much to strengthen its wellbeing and protection environment and remains committed to continuous improvement and review of its policies, procedures and practices.
     
    Supporting an absolute commitment to child safety, Catholic Education Melbourne has a dedicated Wellbeing & Community Partnerships Unit and a Professional Conduct, Ethics and Investigations Unit. We continue to work closely with the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority (VRQA), the Department of Education and Training, and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) to improve child protection through the promotion and implementation of the Victorian compulsory minimum Child Safe Standards and other relevant legislative obligations emanating from recommendations associated with the:

    • Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse
    • Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry into the Handling of Child Abuse by Religious and Other Organisations which culminated in the report titled Betrayal of Trust.

    Mandatory reporting is a legal requirement under the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 (Vic.) to protect children from harm relating to physical injury and sexual abuse and is non-negotiable in our schools. 

    Policies and Guidelines

    Policy 2.19 Child Protection – Reporting Obligations
    Policy 2.19a Police and DHHS Interview Protocols  

    There has been a review of school policies and procedures to reflect recent Victorian legislative amendments with respect to managing the risk of child abuse. This policy update complements the introduction of new Victorian Child Safe Standards, which will come into effect for all Victorian schools in 2016.

    Catholic schools must comply with legal obligations related to mandatory reporting and managing the risk of child abuse to ensure that all school policies and procedures are continually reviewed and updated to reflect Victorian legislative requirements.
     

    The Victorian Child Safe Standards

    On 26 November 2015, the Victorian Parliament passed the Child Wellbeing and Safety Amendment (Child Safe Standards) Bill 2015 (Vic.) to introduce Victorian Child Safe Standards (the standards) into law. The standards will be phased in from 1 January 2016 for most organisations working with children and will come into force for schools from 1 August 2016. 

    Ministerial Order No 870 has been made and was gazetted on Thursday 7 January 2016. The Ministerial Order, developed in consultation with stakeholders from government and non-government school sectors, specifies the actions schools must take to meet each of the child safe standards.

    As a minimum requirement for school registration, schools must take action in accordance with Ministerial Order No 870 to manage and reduce the risk of child abuse. The Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority (VRQA) will have responsibility for ensuring compliance against the standards in schools.

    Regulatory compliance will take effect from 1 August 2016, to give schools time to familiarise themselves with the child safe standards and to prepare to meet the requirements of the Ministerial Order. Catholic Education Melbourne and the VRQA will provide information and support materials to assist Catholic schools to implement the standards.

    What are the Victorian Child Safe Standards?

    The standards were publicly released on 29 September 2015 after consultation with stakeholders. They are aimed at creating child safe environments and promoting cultural change in the way organisations manage the risk of child abuse and neglect.

    Child safe organisations must have:

    1. strategies to embed an organisational culture of child safety, including through effective leadership arrangements
    2. a child safe policy or statement of commitment to child safety
    3. a code of conduct that establishes clear expectations for appropriate behaviour with children
    4. screening, supervision, training and other human resources practices that reduce the risk of child abuse by new and existing personnel
    5. processes for responding to and reporting suspected child abuse
    6. strategies to identify and reduce or remove risks of child abuse
    7. strategies to promote the participation and empowerment of children.

     In complying with the child safe standards, organisations must include the following principles as part of each standard: 

    • promoting the cultural safety of Aboriginal children
    • promoting the cultural safety of children from culturally and/or linguistically diverse backgrounds
    • promoting the safety of children with a disability.

     Links 

    Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority (VRQA) Child Safe Standards
    Department of Health and Human Services 
    Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse 
    Truth Justice and Healing Council 
    Department of Justice