Parents Voice in Government School Education

Commission for Children and Young People

Your child’s safety at school

In Victoria, children are protected in organisations not just by the criminal law, but by other laws, including the Reportable Conduct Scheme and the Child Safe Standards. These laws make it more difficult for risks to children’s safety to be hidden and left without an appropriate response. They apply not just to schools, but to a broad range of organisations that work with children.

Responding to abuse and harm through the Reportable Conduct Scheme

The Reportable Conduct Scheme requires certain organisations, including schools, to respond to the protection of children when there is an allegation of ‘reportable conduct’ involving children and young people.

‘Reportable conduct’ covers a range of serious behaviours by adult workers and volunteers towards children under 18 years, including sexual offences and sexual misconduct, physical violence, any behaviour that causes significant emotional or psychological harm to a child, and significant neglect of a child.

The conduct does not need to have taken place in the presence of a parent or carer, and a notification can be made even where time has elapsed since it occurred.

The head of the organisation, often the Principal in the case of schools, must notify the Commission within strict time limits where someone raises an allegation that reportable conduct has happened. The report could come from staff, volunteers, a parent or carer, a child or young person, or any member of the public.

Anyone, including parents and carers, can notify the Commission directly if they don’t feel comfortable reporting to the organisation.

Notifications of reportable conduct trigger an investigation that is carried out by the organisation with oversight by the Commission.

Building a child-safe culture with the Child Safe Standards

The Child Safe Standards require a range of organisations, including schools, religious organisations and sporting clubs to take specific steps to prevent harm and abuse from happening in organisations.

Organisations are required by law to have robust policies and practices designed to keep children safe from abuse and harm.

There are 11 Child Safe Standards, and, as well as clear processes to effectively respond to safety concerns, the Standards cover things like making sure staff and volunteers working with your child are appropriate, how they should be trained to focus on child safety, and how children should be taken seriously when they are worried about their safety.

The Standards also require that children are empowered to have a say in the decisions affecting them and that organisations understand that every child is different and has different needs.

Recently, the Standards were strengthened so that, for Aboriginal children, organisations must ensure they feel safe to be themselves. There are new requirements to involve families and communities in organisations’ efforts to keep children and young people safe and also manage the risk of child abuse in online environments.

If the Standards are properly in place, organisations should be able to provide parents clear information about how they prevent abuse and harm of children, and also respond to harms if they do happen. The Commission has an information sheet to help parents and carers know if an organisation is meeting Standards.

The Commission is one of six regulators for the Standards, based on the different types of services organisations provide. You can find out more about the six regulators and who they regulate here.

School compliance is regulated by the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority (VRQA). For early childhood education and care services, the regulator is the Department of Education.

If your concerns regarding the Standards relate to other organisations, you can contact the Commission – this includes concerns regarding sporting clubs, dance schools, religious organisations, tutoring businesses, youth services, overnight camps, photography services, government departments and local councils.

What can the Commission do?

You can contact the Commission about allegations under the Reportable Conduct Scheme, or about organisations that the Commission regulates where you are concerned they may not be complying with the Child Safe Standards.

Under the Reportable Conduct Scheme, the Commission can receive notifications about alleged abuse and harm from organisations or from the public, including from parents and carers.

It’s important to note that where the Commission is notified of conduct that may be criminal, Victoria Police are notified. Any other investigation, including by the school, must stop until Victoria Police says it can proceed.

Investigations of reportable conduct allegations are conducted by the organisation and overseen by the Commission. The Commission receives the organisation’s findings and can refer them to bodies such as the Victorian Institute of Teaching for teachers and Working With Children Check Victoria if allegations are substantiated.

Where organisations do not meet the Child Safe Standards, the relevant regulator can work with them to improve compliance and support a child-safe culture.

If the organisation your child attends has not made you aware of their child safety approach, we encourage you to ask them about their child safety and wellbeing policy and reporting processes.

The Commission also welcomes questions from parents and carers. To contact the Commission:

Ring 1300 78 29 78 (9:30–11.30am; 2.00–4:00pm, Monday to Friday)
Access our resources for parents and carers.

In the case of immediate safety risk to children, please ring 000. Further contacts can be found on our website.

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