Child safeguarding

Every child has the right to feel safe when participating in arts, cultural, community, sporting and recreation activities.

Organisations that undertake child-related work have a duty of care to keep children and young people (those aged under 18 years) safe from harm. Protecting children and young people from abuse, discrimination and harassment is both a legal requirement and an ethical obligation.

The State Government, through the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries (DLGSC), encourages organisations undertaking child-related work to:

  1. understand child safety and child safeguarding 
  2. implement the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations 
  3. undertake a self-assessment against the national principles
  4. develop an action plan to improve existing child safe practices
  5. meet existing legislative requirements relating to child safety.

DLGSC's approach to child safeguarding responds to the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

National Principles for Child Safe Organisations

In 2018, the Council of Australian Governments endorsed the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations which show how an organisation can create a culture, adopt strategies and act to promote child wellbeing and prevent harm. The Commissioner for Children and Young People WA has developed guidelines to implement the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations.

A child safe organisation:

  • creates an environment where children’s safety and wellbeing are the centre of thought, values and actions
  • emphasise genuine engagement with and valuing of children
  • creates conditions that reduce the likelihood of harm to children and young people
  • creates conditions that increase the likelihood of identifying any harm.

WA resources for child safe organisations

The Commissioner for Children and Young People WA has developed a range of resources for organisations, their leaders, staff and volunteers that reflect the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations. Information also includes tips for children and young people on how to make a complaint. Arts, cultural, community, sport and recreation organisations and local governments are encouraged to use the Commissioner’s resources.

Existing child safety legal requirements

In Western Australia, legislation applies to organisations and individuals undertaking child-related work. Examples include:

A common law duty of care also applies to ensure that reasonable steps are taken to prevent injury and harm to another person.

Self-assessment against national principles and action plan

DLGSC has developed a self-assessment tool and action plan for WA’s arts, cultural, community and sporting organisations to reflect current child safe practices and identify areas for improvement.

The tool was adapted from the Australian Human Rights Commission's introductory self-assessment tool so that it relates to arts, cultural, community and sporting organisations in Western Australia.

Child safe self-assessment tool

Organisations that undertake child-related work or activities have a duty of care to create a safe environment for children and young people to participate.

When an organisation provides a safe environment, children and young people usually have more fun, are more engaged and are more likely to continue participating in the future.

The self-assessment tool is a resource that assists organisations to reflect upon and improve their child safe practices.

Self-assessment tool

DLGSC has adapted the Australian Human Rights Commission’s self-assessment tool to:

  1. assist arts, cultural, community, sport and recreation organisations to reflect upon their current child safe practices against the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations
  2. identify areas for improvement, to act and make positive changes.

Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (the Royal Commission) was established in January 2013 to inquire into “institutional responses to allegations and incidents of child sexual abuse and related matters”.

The Royal Commission examined the nature and adequacy of institutional responses and identified common failings.

The key findings relating to arts, cultural, sport, community and other hobby groups were:

  • sexual abuse can occur in a range of settings and have different enablers
  • adults are sometimes valued over children’s wellbeing
  • perpetrators exploited their positions of power and authority
  • erosion of personal boundaries – there was continuous disregard and invasion into personal space.

The impacts of child sexual abuse can be devastating. Common impacts include disengagement from the activity, isolation from social groups, long-term mental health problems, difficulties with interpersonal relationships, and social and wellbeing implications for families.

The Royal Commission acknowledged past failings and provided 409 recommendations to prevent abuse from occurring in the future.

Western Australian Government response

The findings of the Royal Commission are extensive and require careful and thorough consideration as to how to implement recommended reforms.

Reform will be a long-term commitment. Given the large scale and scope of the Royal Commission’s recommendations, some reforms will be implemented early, with others needing more time.

The State Government has responded to the Royal Commission’s recommendations and is determined to use resources efficiently and effectively and to prioritise reform work. The focus will be on using existing resources to achieve the greatest benefits for victims of child sexual abuse, and to protect children now and in the future.

A coordinated effort is required across local, State and Commonwealth governments, with a commitment from the non-government sector and community groups to:

  • keep children safe
  • improve institutional responses
  • strengthen criminal justice responses
  • provide compensation to victims of child sexual abuse.

State Government consultation

The State Government is currently consulting with organisations on the following child safeguarding reforms to collectively create safer arts, cultural, community sport and recreation environments for WA children.

Local Government Child Safety Officers

The Royal Commission has recommended that local governments should designate child safety officer positions from within existing staff profiles. The department, with the Department of Communities, has drafted a discussion paper to enable local governments to respond to this recommendation.

This consultation is now closed.

For more information email childsafeguarding@dlgsc.wa.gov.au

Discussion paper on the implementation of child safety officers in local governments

Discussion paper on the implementation of child safety officers in local governments

Discussion paper
Recommendation 6.12 of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse

Reportable conduct 

Ombudsman WA has drafted the Parliamentary Commissioners Amendment (Reportable Conduct) Bill 2020. The Bill obliges heads of organisations, including local governments, religious institutions and private camp operators, to notify an independent body of misconduct involving children, known as reportable conduct, by their employees, volunteers and contractors. Ombudsman WA has developed an information sheet about the proposed Reportable Conduct Scheme for Western Australia..

Independent oversight system

The Royal Commission recommended that organisations engaged in child related work or activities implement the Child Safe Standards and be overseen by an external body to improve child safe practices and handling of child abuse complaints.

The National Principles for Child Safe Organisations represent the Child Safe Standards.

The Department of the Premier and Cabinet is leading the work to develop a system of independent oversight that improves child safe cultures and practices in organisations.

National Redress Scheme

The National Redress Scheme was established in response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

About the scheme

The National Redress Scheme:

  • acknowledges that many children were sexually abused in Australian institutions
  • recognises the suffering they endured because of the abuse
  • holds institutions accountable for this abuse, and
  • helps people who have experienced institutional child sexual abuse gain access to counselling, a direct personal response, and a Redress payment.

WA State Government's involvement

The WA State Government joined the National Redress Scheme on 1 January 2019.

The Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries and the Department of Premier and Cabinet led an information and consultation process with the WA local government sector about the scheme. All 137 local governments resolved to join the National Redress Scheme in July 2020 as a participating institution within the State Government's amended declaration of participation.

Non-government institutions joining the scheme

Non-government institutions including; arts, cultural, sporting, recreation and community organisations only need to act if they are named in a survivor’s application and are contacted by the Scheme operator. The scheme is scheduled to operate up to 30 June 2027.

Organisations that are part of a federated structure such as affiliated state sporting associations should discuss their willingness to join the scheme with their peak body.

Details of institutions that have joined the scheme in WA to date are published on the National Redress Scheme website.   

Further information

Further information is available on the National Redress Scheme website or by calling 1800 737 377 during business hours.
Page reviewed 26 August 2021