Why we must be vigilant: Creating Child Safe Organisations

Feb 18
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The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has shone a light on the systematic abuse of children, highlighting the importance of continuous review and improvement of child safe systems and culture. With over 400 recommendations made calling for sweeping reforms, the Commission has insisted that more needs to be done to ensure the safety of children within organisations.

While changes are anticipated at state and federal levels following official government responses to the Commission, organisations need to hit the ground running in preparation. “If the problems we have identified are to be adequately addressed, changes must be made”, said Justice Peter McClellan, after handing down the final report .

As one of the ten Child Safe Standards and crucial to the conversation, organisations such as Life Without Barriers, have stressed the importance of leadership in driving the continuous review and improvement of Child Safe Standards.  Child safety should not be a compliance task but rather something that shapes the fabric of an organisation. Furthermore, the Royal Commission stressed that the focus for organisations in implementing Child Safe Standards should be on “supporting cultural change through leadership and capacity building.”

Likewise, Child safe organisations don’t just happen but instead require deliberate and purposeful action both in prevention and response. And while the Royal Commission reviewed many historic cases, unfortunately, recent cases both locally and internationally, have shown how current systems still fail children.  Specifically, a case that involved the pervasive sexual abuse of several gymnasts on the USA Olympic team revealed that Olympic officials failed to intervene or investigate the abuse after being told about it.

As many organisations begin to digest and implement the recommendations of the Royal Commission, the challenge isn’t just that robust systems be laid out in policy and procedures, but importantly, that they are effective in practice. And, fundamentally, understanding what a Child Safe organisation – one champions the voice of the child – should look like.

The Creating Child Safe Organisations conference, running at the end of May in Sydney, will explore what organisations can do to ensure the safety of children in their care. It will look at what can be done now as well as policy and mandates that may occur in the future.

Former Royal Commissioner, Robert Fitzgerald will speak about the national future direction of creating child safe organisations and on the need to drive good leadership. Other presentations will come from senior people in the Royal Commission, Government, OOHC, Schools, Religious institutions, Disability Services and Sports and Recreational groups.

Submitted by Ellen Foxall

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