The National Office For Child Safety

Overview

The National Office for Child Safety (the National Office) provides national leadership, working across governments and sectors, to deliver national policies and strategies to enhance children’s safety and reduce future harm to children.

Our priorities are:

  • Collaborating with governments, sectors and the community to raise awareness and drive cultural change in institutions and the community to support child safety and wellbeing
  • improving collaboration between jurisdictions and institutions to support design, development and implementation of national strategies and prevention initiatives
  • promoting the participation and empowerment of children and young people in the design, development and evaluation of child safe initiatives
  • leading capacity building and continuous improvement of child safe initiatives through resource development, best practice material, evaluation and reporting.  

About

The National Office was established on 1 July 2018 within the Department of Social Services. On 24 January 2019, the National Office moved to the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. This reflects the importance of the work being led by the National Office and the high priority the Australian Government places on the safety and protection of children.

The National Office leads the development and implementation of a number of national initiatives recommended by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Sexual Abuse (the Royal Commission), including the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations, the Commonwealth Child Safe Framework and the National Strategy to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse.

The National Office’s role builds upon existing initiatives such as the National Redress Scheme and the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2009-2020. The establishment of the National Office does not change the statutory responsibilities of state and territory governments with regard to child protection or law enforcement.

Key Activities

National Principles for Child Safe Organisations

The National Principles for Child Safe Organisations (National Principles) have been developed through a national consultation process involving key sectors engaging with children and young people, as well as advocacy groups and academics.

The National Office is leading the finalisation, national coordination and implementation of the National Principles, working with the National Children’s Commissioner, states and territories, and  non-government sectors to make organisations across Australia safe for children.

The National Principles are expected to be endorsed by Council of Australian Governments (COAG) in early 2019. Once endorsed, the National Principles will give effect to the Royal Commission’s recommendations related to the Child Safe Standards.

Following COAG endorsement, state and territory governments will be responsible for giving effect to the National Principles and determining compliance arrangements.

Commonwealth Child Safe Framework

The National Office is supporting implementation of the Australian Government’s child safety arrangements under the Commonwealth Child Safe Framework (the Framework). The Framework provides a consistent and transparent approach to child safety for Commonwealth entities.

The Framework sets minimum standards for creating and embedding child safe practice and culture in Commonwealth entities, by requiring them to:

  1. Undertake risk assessments annually in relation to their activities, to identify the level of responsibility for, and contact with, children and young people, evaluate the risk of harm or abuse, and put in place appropriate strategies to manage identified risks.
  2. Establish and maintain a system of training and compliance to make staff aware of and compliant with, the Framework and relevant legislation, including Working with Children Checks and mandatory reporting requirements.
  3. Adopt and implement the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations within 12 months of the Council of Australian Governments endorsement.

The Framework is also being rolled out to include requirements for third parties funded by the Commonwealth.

National Strategy to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse

The National Office is overseeing the design and implementation of a National Strategy to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse (the National Strategy).  

The National Strategy will be developed in consideration of the Royal Commission’s recommendations and will encompass a range of initiatives with a particular focus on cultural change, including through education and awareness‑raising, and measures which provide victims of child sexual abuse with access to the right supports at the right time. It will also include specific consideration of the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, culturally and linguistically diverse communities, people with disability, and regional and remote communities.  

The National Office has begun consultations with survivors of child sexual abuse and their support organisations, academics, practitioners, child protection experts and law enforcement to assist Government to understand priorities for the National Strategy.

The National Office is also undertaking co‑design workshops for the strategy in early 2019.

As part of its work to develop the National Strategy, the National Office is mapping existing and proposed initiatives, policies and services, which prevent, mitigate and respond to child sexual abuse across Australia.

Reporting

The Royal Commission recommended that non-government institutions and peak bodies involved in child-related work report on their progress implementing the Royal Commission’s recommendations within 12 months of its Final Report.

In its recommendation, the Royal Commission identified nine institutions, which, at a minimum, should report. The National Office worked with those nine institutions to facilitate their annual progress reporting for 2018, and these reports are available at http://www.childabuseroyalcommissionresponse.gov.au.

The Royal Commission also recommended that other major institutions or peak bodies that are involved in child‑related work should consider reporting annually. The National Office is assessing which other institutions and peak bodies are in scope for reporting in 2019, including:

  • religious institutions
  • out-of-home care providers
  • education providers
  • sporting organisations, and
  • arts and recreation organisations.

The National Office will work with the other major institutions and peak bodies to facilitate public reporting for the next Annual Report in December 2019.