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Child Abuse Royal Commission

Last updated: 21/08/2018 10:24 PM
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​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse was completed in December 2017 and investigated the systemic failures of public and private institutions to:

  • protect children from child sexual abuse
  • report abuse
  • respond to child sexual abuse

The findings and recommendations of the Royal Commission are extensive, have a broad community impact and require careful consideration on how the reforms will be implemented to provide child safe environments in the future. 

The State Government has committed to working on the reforms with the Commonwealth Government, other States and Territories, local government, non-government institutions (including religious institutions) and community organisations. In the second half of 2018, the State Government is developing a staged implementation plan that will identify priorities, approaches to reform, timeframes and resourcing options.

The department has commenced engagement with its key stakeholders and funded bodies to:

  • provide information and understanding of the Royal Commission
  • gather feedback that will be considered when finalising the State Government's implementation plan.

The department's engagement on the Royal Commission will cover key stakeholders and funded bodies from:

  • local government
  • state sport and recreation
  • culture and the arts
  • multicultural interests
  • Aboriginal Culture and History

Consideration of the Royal Commission recommendations relevant to the Department is being supported by an Information and Discussion paper.

Feedback

Feedback on the Royal Commission's findings and recommendations relevant to the department can be provided up to 31 September 2018 by emailing gordon.macmile@dlgsc.wa.gov.au

Related resources​

 View information and discussion paper

​​

Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse

Information and discussion paper

31 July 2018

Contents

Introduction to the Royal Commission and the Western Australian Government response

Introduction to the Royal Commission and the Western Australian Government response

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (the Royal Commission) was established in January 2013, to investigate systemic failures of public and private institutions* to protect children from child sexual abuse, report abuse, and respond to child sexual abuse. The Royal Commission's Terms of Reference required it to identify what institutions should do better to protect children in the future, as well as what should be done to:

  • achieve best practice in reporting and responding to reports of child sexual abuse
  • eliminate impediments in responding to sexual abuse
  • address the impact of past and future institutional child sexual abuse

* For clarity in this paper, the term 'institution' means any public or private body, agency, association, club, institution, organisation or other entity or group of entities of any kind (whether incorporated or unincorporated), however described, and:

  • Includes for example, an entity or group of entities (including an entity or group of entities that no longer exist) that provides, or has at any time provided, activities, facilities, programs or services of any kind that provide the means through which adults have contact with children, including through their families.
  • Does not include the family.

The Western Australian Government (the State Government) strongly supported the work of the Royal Commission throughout the five years of inquiry, presenting detailed evidence and submissions and participating in public hearings, case studies and roundtables.

The Royal Commission released three reports throughout the inquiry: Working with Children Checks (August 2015); Redress and Civil Litigation (September 2015) and Criminal Justice (August 2017).

The Final Report (Final Report) of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse was handed down on 15 December 2017.

Access a full version of the Royal Commission's Findings and the Final Report.

The Royal Commission made 409 recommendations to prevent and respond to institutional child sexual abuse through reform to policy, legislation, administration, and institutional structures. These recommendations are directed to Australian governments and institutions, and non-government institutions.

Of the 409 recommendations, 310 are applicable to the State Government. The State Government examined the 310 applicable recommendations and provided a comprehensive and considered response, taking into account the systems and protections the State Government has already implemented.

The State Government has accepted or accepted in principle over 90 per cent of the 310 applicable recommendations.

The State Government's response was released on 27 June 2018 fulfilling the Royal Commission recommendation 17.1, that all governments should issue a formal response within six months of the Final Report's release, indicating whether recommendations are accepted; accepted in principle; not accepted; or will require further consideration.

The WA Government's response to the Royal Commission recommendations can be accessed online.

The State Government has committed to working on the recommendations with the Commonwealth Government, other states and territories, local government, non-government institutions (including religious institutions) and community organisations.

Of the 99 recommendations that are not applicable to the State Government:

  • 58 are for religious institutions specifically
  • 9 are for 'non-government institutions'
  • 29 are for the Commonwealth Government
  • 2 are for other state governments
  • 1 refers to legislation that is not applicable in Western Australia

Some of the recommendations of the Royal Commission have already been addressed through past work of the State Government, and others working in the Western Australian community to create safe environments for children. This work is acknowledged and where appropriate, will be built upon when implementing reforms and initiatives that respond to the Royal Commission's recommendations.

The State Government recognises that everyone in our community has a role to play in preventing child sexual abuse. The State Government has called on local governments, non-government institutions and community organisations, including churches, religious schools, charities, and non-government social and welfare services, to match the State Government's strong commitment to progressing the Royal Commission's recommendations.

The information in this paper may contain material that is confronting and distressing. If you require support, a list of available support services. The Royal Commission's Final Report and other publications can be accessed online.​

Western Australian Government: next steps

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

Reform will be a long-term commitment. Given the large scale and scope of the Royal Commission's recommendations, some reforms will be implemented in early phases, with others over a longer timeframe.

In the second half of 2018, the State Government will develop a staged implementation plan which will identify reform priorities, timeframes and resourcing options.

The State Government is determined to use resources efficiently and effectively and to prioritise reform work. In developing a staged implementation plan, the focus will be on ensuring the optimal allocation and use of existing resources to achieve the greatest benefits for victims and survivors of child sexual abuse, and for children, present and future, within Western Australia.

Additionally, the State Government will work in partnership with other states and territories, and the Commonwealth Government to progress recommendations identified as being national priorities.

There has already been progress with implementing some Royal Commission recommendations. A report on progress will be tabled in the State Parliament at the end of 2018.

Implementing recommended reforms that are aimed at keeping children safe, improving institutional responses, strengthening criminal justice responses, and providing restitution and reparation to victims of child sexual abuse, will require a coordinated and dedicated effort across all levels of government; local, state and the Commonwealth, together with a commitment from the non-government sector and community groups.

The breadth of the Royal Commission's recommendations confirms that keeping children safe is everybody's business.

Information and consultation

The Royal Commission used an expansive definition of 'sport and recreation' to include: sport, recreation, exercise groups, dance, martial arts, cadets and other defence force activity for children, outdoor adventure groups, Scouts and Girl Guides, hobby groups, community groups, arts groups, crafts groups, cultural pursuits, musical pursuits, and tuition groups.

The Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries (DLGSC) accepts this broad definition as also reflecting our stakeholder organisations, as well as the broader community that our stakeholders operate in, support and deliver services to. This information and discussion paper focuses on the findings and recommendations in the Final Report relevant to DLGSC's stakeholders, funded bodies and the broader community.

DLGSC has commenced engagement with stakeholders and funded bodies to provide information and understanding of the Royal Commission, as well as to gather feedback that will be considered when developing the State Government's implementation plan.

DLGSC engagement will occur over two phases:

1. Inform (early to mid-August 2018): the key promise of this phase will be to provide stakeholders with detailed information regarding the Royal Commission's recommendations. The key aim/outcome will be that stakeholders have a greater understanding of recommendations and (potential) implications to further consider.

This phase will be underpinned by the distribution of this information and discussion paper, focused on:

  • providing general information on Royal Commission recommendations
  • proposing several key questions to prompt consideration and discussion within the stakeholder organisation

These discussion prompts will be further explored during the consultation phase and can be, at the organisation's option, the trigger for a written submission to DLGSC.

2. Consult (mid-August to late-September 2018): the key promise of this phase will be for DLGSC to consult on the key recommendations highlighted in this paper that potentially impact on stakeholders, the industries and communities that they operate in, support and deliver services to. The aim will be that the feedback from stakeholders will be taken into account when developing the implementation framework.

The consultation phase will focus on the recommendations highlighted in this paper with presentations and briefings at select stakeholder events, meetings and workshops. A departmental representative will be available to answer enquiries at other events (where the agenda of the event may not be suitable for a presentation or briefing).

Key DLGSC contact details for further enquiries are provided at the end of this paper.

1. Royal Commission: summary of findings

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse was established in response to allegations of sexual abuse of children in institutional contexts that had been emerging in Australia for many years.

The Royal Commission conducted their work through a combination of public hearings, policy and research, case studies, private sessions and community engagement.

This summary details extracts from the Final Report and focuses on the findings and recommendations published relevant to DLGSC, our stakeholder organisations and funded bodies, as well as the broader community that our stakeholders and funded bodies operate in, support and deliver services to.

Royal Commission – Summary of Findings in the Community Setting

The Royal Commission adopted a broad definition of sport and recreation, all reference to 'sport and recreation' in this summary accepts this definition, as no distinctions were provided in the Final Report.

The Royal Commission defined the 'sport and recreation' to include: sport, recreation, exercise groups, dance, martial arts, cadets and other defence force activity for children, outdoor adventure groups, Scouts and Girl Guides, hobby groups, community groups, arts groups, crafts groups, cultural pursuits, musical pursuits, and tuition groups.

From a broad sport and recreation perspective, the Royal Commission categorised the various institutional types that provided services to children into two main groups:

  • Federated (or partly) institutions with compliance obligations that typically operate at a national level with affiliate bodies working at the state, regional and local level;
  • Unaffiliated institutions with minimal compliance obligations that typically includes not-for-profit institutions and for-profit institutions operating as small businesses and sole traders providing activities or private tuition to children.

The definition of sport and recreation used by the Royal Commission extensively covers the sphere of operation for DLGSC (sport and recreation, arts and culture, multicultural interests and Aboriginal culture and history) and the setting (including local government and the broader community).

The Final Report does not consider what the broader industry related to 'sport and recreation' is currently doing in the child safeguarding area, rather presenting the findings and future considerations (some of which may already be actioned and / or in the process of implementation).

The past work of the State Government and others working in the community has already made a strong contribution to creating safer environments for children. This work is acknowledged and where appropriate, will be built upon when implementing reforms and initiatives that respond to the Royal Commission's Final Report.

The Royal Commission examined the nature and adequacy of institutional responses and drew out common failings. The recommendations made are aimed at preventing child sexual abuse from occurring in sport and recreation institutions and the community setting and, where it does occur, to help ensure an effective response.

The Royal Commission references the importance of volunteers and parent contributions stating that 'without their contribution, children's sport and recreation opportunities would be seriously curtailed'. This statement is paramount to all findings from the Royal Commission relevant to the industries that DLGSC operate and partner in. Also acknowledged is that most volunteers and parents contribute to sport, recreation and community activities with a genuine intent, goodwill and appropriate conduct.

The industry is heavily reliant from an operational perspective on parents and volunteers, and any recommendations should consider the practicality of implementation and the balance of responsibility and capability through this mechanism.

Current responsibilities of institutions

International, national and state legal and policy frameworks provide guidance and regulate the many different institutions that provide sport and recreation services to children. These include:

  • United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child
  • National Framework for Protecting Australia's Children 2009 to 2020
  • State and Territory schemes for conducting Working with Children Checks (WWCC)
  • State and Territory obligatory reporting laws
  • Various other Commonwealth, State and Territory laws, statutes and regulations
  • Use of funding as a regulatory tool to promote compliance with certain child safe obligations

The Western Australian sport and recreation industry and community organisations are primarily guided by the Working with Children (Criminal Record Checking) Act 2004 which has always been promoted within a broad child safety context.

Other state and territories governments currently have different legislation that relates to child safeguarding.

Current institutional responses to improve child safety

Some of the measures most commonly used by sport and recreation institutions and the community to help mitigate the risk of child sexual abuse identified in the Final Report were:

  • Preventative measures
    • Screening of adults with specified roles through Working with Children Checks
    • Following mandatory child safety requirements where required by law
    • Following member protection policies and establishing member protection information officers
    • Registration and club accreditation through peak bodies
  • Complaint handling
    • Policies and procedures enacted through institutions to respond to complaints
    • Play by the Rules resource provision
    • Risk management and insurance

The Royal Commission provided key insights into the background of institutional abuse, a research area that had previously been quite rudimentary.

These insights are important to help the industry appropriately understand the reasons why child sexual abuse occurs, as well as how best to prevent it and respond if it does occur.

Below is a summary of the Royal Commission's findings presented on a national perspective, gathered from the combination of public hearings, policy and research, case studies, private sessions and community engagement. It is unclear from the findings presented what information specifically relates to Western Australia.

Where child sexual abuse occurred

Child sexual abuse can occur in a range of settings and contexts. Throughout the Royal Commission the following were identified as common places of abuse:

  • Camps, overnight competitions and excursions
  • Overnight stays
  • Billeting and hosting arrangements
  • Travel arrangements
  • Change rooms and concealed or obscured environments
  • The internet and associated technology
  • Public environments

These settings and contexts have different enablers that have allowed sexual abuse to occur. The industry would need to collectively work together to help mitigate associated risks.

Children with harmful sexual behaviours

The term 'children with harmful sexual behaviours (HSB)' refers to children under the age of 18 years who have behaviours that fall across a spectrum of sexual behaviour problems, including those that are problematic to the child's own development, as well as those that are coercive, sexually aggressive and predatory towards others.

The Royal Commission received information about a small proportion of children who were abused by other children in a sport and recreations context.

While research is limited on children with HSB in sport and recreation, some studies suggest the sexual abuse and harassment of children by teammates and peers in sport is significant.

Children with HSB are not the same as adult perpetrators and do not necessarily go on to be adult offenders. Reponses need to be considered in context of the child experiencing the abuse, as well as the child engaging in HSB.

Grooming

The Royal Commission identified grooming in sport and recreation as an issue in the sector. Common grooming strategies described included:

  • Coaching relationships: perpetrators exploiting their positions of authority
  • Inappropriate activity and adult material: alcohol and other enticements used by perpetrators
  • Erosion of interpersonal boundaries: shifting the boundaries from the acceptable (e.g. correcting technique) to the inappropriate
  • Targeting vulnerability: those who are experiencing difficulties in their home life can be targets for perpetrators
Risk factors

Sport and recreation institutions often have unique environments that they operate within and are often highly permeable to broader cultural influences.

The following characteristics can create risk factors for child sexual abuse:

  • Violent and aggressive behaviours can become normalised in competitive environments
  • Sexualised cultures can be normalised
  • Adults (coaches and instructors) are sometimes valued over children's wellbeing, especially when highly driven by performance

Children who have a high level of involvement may be at greater risk.

Impacts

The impacts of child sexual abuse can be devastating. The commonalities of child sexual abuse identified in sport and recreation contexts include:

  • Mental and emotional health: long-term mental health problems were the most common impact of child sexual abuse.
  • Disengagement: often irreparably damaging the passion and enthusiasm that the child once had for sport and recreation.
  • Isolation: 'high-level' athlete's lives can be insular, and contact limited to those in sporting community. Disengaging from these small communities as a consequence of abuse, can be severely isolating.
  • Interpersonal relationships: survivors described difficulties with interpersonal relationships, including with intimate partners, family members and friends.
  • Impact to families, carers and others can also be devastated by both the abuse and response of the institution.
  • Social and wellbeing implications, impacting education, employment and overall economic security.

Institutional responses

An overview of the areas that the industry should consider and address to keep children safe were identified and are summarised below.

Barriers to disclosing

Common barriers that were identified by the survivors in disclosing their abuse include:

  • Fear of not being believed: this was especially dominant when they felt the abuser had greater credibility and power. The elevated status of the perpetrator contributed to this perception.
  • Fear of consequences, especially in small or close-knit communities.
  • Feelings of shame and embarrassment: perception that disclosing harassment and abuse may be associated with weakness.
  • Uncertainty as to what is abusive.
  • Fear of negative impacts on future successes.

Future policy and education needs to consider these barriers in helping to create child safe environments.

Enabling factors

A varied range of factors can lead to child sexual abuse including the following enabling factors in a sport and recreation context.

  • Institutional leadership, governance and culture:
    • Unchecked and unaccountable leaders and poor leadership: operation without appropriate governance structures and accountability mechanisms
    • Pursuit of excellence at any cost: an institution's commitment to success may result in a lack of vigilance, or challenge to, inappropriate behaviour
    • Protection of reputation: both from legal action and negative publicity
    • Institutional cultures of physical abuse and bullying
  • Inadequate institutional policies and procedures:
    • No policies or procedures in place
    • Lack of understanding around existing policies and procedures
    • Lack of support and guidance to enact appropriately
  • Education, training and communication of policies:
    • Challenge identified for peak bodies member protection policies filter down to a local level, particularly at a grassroots level where there is a high turnover of staff and volunteers
  • Inadequate recordkeeping and information sharing:
    • Not appropriately recording or sharing information in a timely manner
    • Limited or no practices existing
    • Perpetrators are consequently able to continue their involvement or move to another institution.
Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse

The Royal Commission heard numerous scenarios as to how institutions responded to child sexual abuse including:

  • No action taken to known or suspected child sexual abuse. The factors that contributed to this inaction are complex and varied. Some reasons included:
    • Not legally obliged to do so
    • Fears about consequences, especially in small or close-knit communities
    • Institutions culture, leadership and governance
    • Personal relationships within the institution
    • Complaints of child sexual abuse were poorly or inappropriately managed
    • Complaint inadequately investigated

Where an investigation was conducted, it was often initiated after considerable delay and handled in an inappropriate or insensitive manner.

Action was not taken immediately, and failed to adequately assess and manage the risk, enabling the alleged perpetrator to have continued access to the children.

Small sport and recreation institutions faced particular challenges in handling complaints including:

  • Limited resources and capacity to implement complaint handling procedures
  • Closely connected groups of people (confidentiality implications)
  • Subject of the complaint was also the owner of the institution

These barriers and challenges should help formulate future policy and support to the sport and recreation industry, as well as the broader community to respond effectively to child sexual abuse disclosures.

2. Royal Commission: key recommendations

This section details the key recommendations of the Royal Commission that relate to DLGSC, our stakeholders and funded bodies, as well as the broader community.

Importantly, while the State Government has provided an initial response to the Final Report, the implementation of reforms and initiatives that respond to these and other recommendations remain under consideration.

Consideration needs to be given to how reforms and initiatives may be applied, particularly noting the varying resources and capacity of organisations, as well as local context differences between states and territories, as well as metropolitan, regional and remotes areas.

Creating child safe environments through prevention

The Royal Commission made a total of 409 recommendations and noted 'that for institutions to be safe for children, the communities in which they operate need to be safe for children. The whole nation can contribute to change to keep children safe'.

The Royal Commission believes the Commonwealth Government should oversee the development and implementation of a national strategy to prevent child sexual abuse (recommendation 6.1) and that this work should be undertaken by a proposed National Office for Child Safety.

The Commonwealth Government accepted recommendation 6.1 and the National Office for Child Safety was established within the Department of Social Services on 1 July 2018.

The National Office for Child Safety will establish a mechanism in consultation with state and territory governments and non-government stakeholders to advise on the development and implementation of a strategy to prevent child sexual abuse.

The Commonwealth Government will prioritise collaboration with other jurisdictions to progress a new National Framework on Child Safety (Recommendation 6.15).

The new framework will focus on prevention, education, evaluation and cultural change.

The strategy will apply a public health approach to the issue.

The Royal Commission recommended (recommendation 6.2) that the national strategy encompasses several complementary initiatives that could contribute to change in communities, including:

  • Social marketing campaigns for all communities
  • Prevention education through early childhood centres, schools and other institutional settings for children and parents
  • Online safety education for children, young people and their parents
  • Prevention education for tertiary students intending to work in child-related activities
  • Help-seeking services for potential perpetrators
  • Information and help-seeking services for bystanders who are concerned that an adult they know may perpetrate child sexual abuse or that a child may be at risk of displaying harmful sexual behaviours​

Child safe institutions*

*For clarity in this paper:

  • The term 'institution' means any public or private body, agency, association, club, institution, organisation or other entity or group of entities of any kind (whether incorporated or unincorporated), however described, and:
    • Includes for example, an entity or group of entities (including an entity or group of entities that no longer exist) that provides, or has at any time provided, activities, facilities, programs or services of any kind that provide the means through which adults have contact with children, including through their families
    • Does not include the family
  • The terms 'child safe institutions/child safe organisations' means entities or a group of entities that create cultures, adopt strategies and take action to prevent harm to children, including sexual abuse. The Australian Children's Commissioners and Guardians (ACCG) defines a child safe institution/organisation as one that consciously and systematically:
    • Creates conditions that reduce the likelihood of harm to children
    • Create conditions that increase the likelihood of identifying and reporting harm
    • Responds appropriately to disclosures, allegations and suspicions of harm

All institutions engaged in child-related work have a duty to keep children safe. The community expects that institutions will take appropriate steps to promote the safety and wellbeing of all children with whom they engage. This can be achieved by ensuring the best interests of the child are the primary consideration in their operations, that their cultures and practices create an environment that prevents abuse from occurring, and that, where abuse does occur, it is identified and responded to appropriately.

Institutions that engage with children who are vulnerable need to have rigorous measures in place to protect these children from abuse.

State Government oversight and regulatory mechanisms can support all institutions through assisting them to build their capacity to be child safe, and by monitoring and enforcing agreed frameworks and standards.

The Royal Commission made 51 recommendations relating to child safety within institutions. These recommendations are found in volume 6 of the Final Report (Making Institutions Child Safe); volume 13 (Schools); volume 14 (Sport, Recreation, Arts, Culture, Community and Hobby Groups); and volume 15 (Contemporary Detention Environments).

Thirty-six of these 51 recommendations apply to the State Government. The State Government accepts or accepts in principle all 36 recommendations.

The Royal Commission made 15 recommendations about making institutions child safe that do not apply to the State Government and are directed to the Commonwealth Government.

The Royal Commission's recommendation regarding child safe institutions, included:

  • (Recommendation 6.4) All institutions should uphold the rights of the child. Consistent with Article 3 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, all institutions should act with the best interests of the child as a primary consideration.

To achieve this, institutions should implement the Child Safe Standards identified by the Royal Commission.

  • (Recommendation 6.5) 10 Child Safe Standards that are essential for a child safe institution are:
    1. Child safety is embedded in institutional leadership, governance and culture
    2. Children participate in decisions affecting them and are taken seriously
    3. Families and communities are informed and involved
    4. Equity is upheld, and diverse needs are taken into account
    5. People working with children are suitable and supported
    6. Processes to respond to complaints of child sexual abuse are child focused
    7. Staff are equipped with the knowledge, skills and awareness to keep children safe through continual education and training
    8. Physical and online environments minimise the opportunity for abuse to occur
    9. Implementation of the Child Safe Standards is continuously reviewed and improved
    10. Policies and procedures document how the institution is child safe
  • (Recommendation 6.8) State and territory governments should require all institutions that engage in child-related work to meet the Child Safe Standards.

The State Government has committed to work with Commonwealth and state and territory governments to develop a National Statement of Principles for Child Safe Organisations (National Principles) based on the recommended Child Safe Standards.

The National Principles are due to be endorsed by the Council of Australian Government (COAG) by the end of 2018 and will be used to improve child safety in all institutions that engage in child-related work in Western Australia.

Recommendations on institutional child safety also include that an independent oversight body be responsible for monitoring and enforcing the Child Safe Standards.

Consideration of how the Standards may be applied and how independent oversight could be implemented in Western Australia will be carried out in the remainder of 2018.

The State Government will take into account Western Australia's existing frameworks that exceed the proposed Child Safe Standards.

Royal Commission: key DLGSC, stakeholder and community recommendations

Sport and recreation

The Royal Commission made three key recommendations directly relating to the sport and recreation industry:

  • (Recommendation 14.1) All sport and recreation institutions, including arts, culture, community and hobby groups, that engage with or provide services to children should implement the Child Safe Standards identified by the Royal Commission.

The ten Child Safe Standards developed by the Royal Commission (recommendation 6.5) set the benchmark against which institutions can assess their child safe capacity.

The standards are intended to provide a structured framework for institutions to assess and minimise or mitigate the range of risks that contribute to institutional child sexual abuse.

There is scope for the standards to be principle-based to allow flexibility and be incorporated into existing structures and practice.

The Child Safe Standards are the foundation of the nationally consistent approach proposed by the Royal Commission.

  • (Recommendation 14.2) The National Office for Child Safety should establish a child safety advisory committee for the sport and recreation sector with membership from government and non-government peak bodies to advise the national office on sector-specific child safety issues.

The advisory committee is proposed to be an information conduit between the different institutional types and the National Office for Child Safety. It is proposed to provide opportunities for representatives to share knowledge, insights and experience to influence better child safe policy and practice.

  • (Recommendation 14.3) The education and information website known as Play by the Rules should be expanded and funded to develop resources — in partnership with the National Office for Child Safety — that are relevant to the broader sport and recreation sector.

It is recommended that Play by the Rules is expanded and funded, so that resources are relevant to a more diverse range of sport and recreation institutions, including those delivered by the private sector.

Local government

The Royal Commission made one recommendation specifically for local government as follows:

  • (Recommendation 6.12) With support from governments at the national, state and territory levels, local governments should designate child safety officer positions from existing staff profiles to carry out the following functions:
    • developing child safe messages in local government venues, grounds and facilities
    • assisting local institutions to access online child safe resources
    • providing child safety information and support to local institutions on a needs basis
    • supporting local institutions to work collaboratively with key services to ensure child safe approaches are culturally safe, disability aware and appropriate for children from diverse backgrounds

This recommendation acknowledges local government as the closest tier of government to the community; one that frequently provides an expansive range of direct services, as well as information, support and guidance to community-based organisations and individuals.

Legislation*

*For clarity in this paper, the term 'legislation' means and includes acts and regulations.

Working with Children Check (WWCC)

The Working with Children Check is a screening strategy that aims to safeguard children by identifying people with the kinds of criminal histories that indicate they may pose a risk of harm to children, prohibiting them from engaging in certain types of work that involves children.

In Australia, all states and territories have a WWCC scheme.

Western Australia's WWCC scheme is compulsory in the State and the Indian Ocean Territories and includes an Expanded National Police History Check and consideration of any information relevant to whether a child may be exposed to risk of harm, should a person engage in child-related work. Applicants' criminal records in Western Australia are also monitored for the life of their card.

The Royal Commission makes recommendations for a nationally-consistent approach to WWCC legislation including that state and territory governments should amend their WWCC laws to:

  • incorporate a consistent and simplified definition of child-related work
  • provide that work must involve contact between an adult and one or more children to qualify as child-related work
  • provide that the phrase 'contact with children' refers to physical contact, face-to-face contact, oral communication, written communication or electronic communication;
  • agree on standard definitions for each kind of contact and amend their WWCC laws to incorporate those definitions
  • exempt the following:
    • all children under 18 years of age, regardless of their employment status
    • employees and supervisors in a workplace, unless the work is child-related
    • people who engage in child-related work for seven days or fewer, except for overnight excursions or stays
    • parents who engage in child-related work in the same capacity as the child
    • parents or guardians who volunteer for services or activities that are usually provided to their children, in respect to that activity, except in respect of overnight excursions or stays
  • remove all other exemptions and exclusions
  • prohibit people who have been denied a WWCC, and subsequently not granted one, from relying on any exemptions

The Royal Commission made 36 recommendations relating to WWCC's which appeared in the Royal Commission's Working with Children Checks report (released in August 2015).

Thirty-four of the 36 recommendations apply to the State Government. The State Government has accepted or accepted in principle 30 of these.

The State Government needs to give further consideration to four of the 34 applicable recommendations. The State Government supports the intent of the two recommendations that serious adult criminal history should, as a rule, result in the refusal of a Working with Children Card.

Not all serious criminal history, however, is indicative of a risk to children, and there are circumstances where discretion is appropriate and should be retained. This requires further consideration regarding national consistency and how the appeals process applies.

The recommendation to process Working with Children Card applications within five working days and no longer than 21 working days for more complex cases also needs further consideration to ensure the comprehensive behaviour assessment undertaken in Western Australia is not compromised.

Lastly, the State Government needs to further consider the recommendations regarding the full portability of Working with Children Checks to ensure the protections currently in place for children in Western Australia are not reduced

Other legislation

The Royal Commission's key recommendation in relation to other key legislation is:

  • (Recommendation 7.9) State and territory governments should establish nationally consistent legislative schemes (reportable conduct schemes), based on the approach adopted in New South Wales, which oblige heads of institutions to notify an oversight body of any reportable allegation, conduct or conviction involving any of the institution's employees.

The Royal Commission revealed that institutional child sexual abuse had been widely under reported where abuse was known or suspected.

A reportable conduct scheme is identified as the only model for independent oversight of institutional responses to complaints of old child sexual abuse and neglect across multiple sectors. The scheme also obliges the oversight body to monitor institutions' investigations and handling of allegations.


Redress

The Royal Commission made 100 recommendations related to redress and civil litigation, 99 of which appeared in the Redress and Civil Litigation report (released in September 2015) and one civil litigation recommendation which appeared in the Criminal Justice report.

The Royal Commission recommended:

  • the establishment of a nation-wide redress scheme for survivors
  • changes to civil litigation laws around Australia, allowing survivors of historical child sexual abuse to make legal claims for damages for the wrongs done to them in the past

Under a nation-wide redress scheme, survivors could seek an ex-gratia payment in recognition of sexual abuse suffered within an institution, a personal apology and access to therapeutic counselling.

The Commonwealth Government announced in November 2016 that it would establish a redress scheme for survivors who were abused in Commonwealth institutions.

At this time, the Commonwealth also announced that other governments and non-government institutions (such as religious institutions) could join the scheme by opting in.

Through the establishment of the National Redress Scheme, the Commonwealth Government decided how it would progress the recommendations of the Royal Commission regarding redress.

The State Government has agreed to join the National Redress Scheme and has accepted or accepted in principle all 69 recommendations relating to how governments implement the Royal Commission recommendations about redress for survivors of child sexual abuse.

However, the State Government acknowledges that several National Redress Scheme elements, as established by the Commonwealth, differ from the recommendations made by the Royal Commission recommendations about the maximum payment under the scheme, and the delivery of counselling and psychological care under the scheme.

Applications under the National Redress Scheme are open and can be made any time before 30 June 2027.

Individuals can apply to the National Redress Scheme if:

  • they experienced sexual abuse as a child (under 18 years of age)
  • the abuse happened before 1 July 2018
  • an institution was responsible for bringing the individual into contact with the person who abused them
  • the individual was born before 30 June 2010
  • the individual is an Australian citizen or permanent resident

The National Redress Scheme information is available online.

Responding and reporting, record keeping and information sharing

Distress and trauma suffered by survivors can be exacerbated by delays in or failures to identify and respond to risks and incidents of child sexual abuse. The Royal Commission made recommendations aimed at improving the handling of complaints by institutions and establishing independent oversight of complaint handling by certain institutions.

When risks or incidents of child sexual abuse are identified, it is important that these are reported promptly and that these reports lead to swift, consistent and appropriate responses that minimise the trauma to the survivor. Procedures for reporting need to be simple, reliable and supportive. Reporting and responding roles need to be clearly defined and well understood. To assist reporting and responding, accurate recordkeeping, responsive procedures for accessing records and effective information sharing are crucial.

The Royal Commission made 40 recommendations about institutional responding and reporting, recordkeeping and information sharing. All 40 of these recommendations apply to the State Government. The State Government accepts or accepts in principle 36 of these recommendations. The Royal Commission recommended:

  • (Recommendation 8.4) All institutions that engage in child-related work should implement the five principles for record keeping to a level that responds to the risk with the institution;
  • (Recommendation 8.6) The Commonwealth Government and state and territory governments should make nationally consistent legislative and administrative arrangements to share information relevant to child sexual abuse;
  • (Recommendation 12.1) The Commonwealth Government and state and territory governments should develop nationally agreed terms and definitions in relation to child sexual abuse for data collection and reporting.
Responding and reporting institutional child sexual abuse

Of the 40 recommendations, 17 relate to responding and reporting institutional child sexual abuse. The State Government has accepted or accepted in principle 13 of the 17 recommendations as set out in the Final Report.

The State Government needs to give further consideration to four recommendations related to reporting and responding. Two of these recommendations relate to blind reporting and two relate to expansion of mandatory reporting.

Blind reporting is the reporting of an allegation of sexual abuse without revealing the identity of the victim. These recommendations require further consideration to explore the range of issues and consult with the wide range of stakeholders involved.

The Criminal Justice Report also explores whether and how reporting offences should apply to institutions, or officers of institutions, and if they should be subject to reporting obligations backed by the Crimes Act or Criminal Code.

Recommendations around failure to report refer to offences where the person fails to report to police when they know, suspect or should have suspected that an adult associated with the institution was sexually abusing or had sexually abused a child.

A failure to protect offence focuses on preventing child sexual abuse rather than reporting abuse that has occurred to police. It can apply to action taken or not taken before it is suspected that a child sexual abuse offence is being or has been committed.

Reporting requirements under failure to protect and failure to report cannot be considered in isolation. Thought will be required as to how they interact with other reporting mechanisms including mandatory reporting and reportable conduct.

Recordkeeping and information sharing

Of the 40 recommendations, 23 relate to recordkeeping and information sharing. The State Government accepts or accepts in principle all 23 recommendations.

The Royal Commission directed recommendations about records retention periods and adherence to a set of record keeping principles to 'all institutions that engage in child related work'.

The State Government commits to examining how legislation can be amended that will mandate non-government organisations to comply with the same record keeping standards that State Government agencies are bound to comply with under the State Records Act 2000 (WA).

3. Royal Commission: key discussion points

Section 2 of this paper focuses on Royal Commission recommendations that directly impact on DLGSC's stakeholder organisations, as well as the broader community that our stakeholders operate in, support and deliver services to with the aim of providing child safe environments.

Further consideration of the (potential) impacts of these recommendations is commenced in this section, with understanding needed to inform the implementation of reforms in a Western Australian context.

Sport and recreation

The Royal Commission made three key recommendations for the sport and recreation industry (this includes sport, recreation, arts, culture, community and hobby groups).

  • Implement the child safe standards
  • Developing a national sport and recreation child safety advisory committee
  • Expanding and funding Play by the Rules

It is the recommendation of DLGSC that further consultation with the industry occurs to inform the State Government's implementation framework planning. Consultation is required to understand and to determine the feasibility of the different (potential) approaches to implementing Child Safe Standards, how different approaches could work in a localised Western Australian context and what support and resources would be required with each approach.

Child Safe Standards: discussion points

  1. What do the child safe standards mean to organisations and the community?
  2. How could child safe standards be met or delivered in varying WA community settings (metropolitan, regional or remote)?
  3. Should child safe standards be regulated or principles-based?*
  4. In addition to overnight stays (e.g. camps), what other high-risk areas could be regulated to comply with the standards?
  5. What training, resources and support would be required by an organisation and the community with either approach (regulated or principles-based) to the standards?
  6. What special considerations would be required to support institutions/organisations/groups with a high percentage of volunteers, seasonal factors (summer/winter, wet/dry) and regular turn-over?
  7. What should organisations be required to do to demonstrate they are meeting the child safe standards?

*For clarity in this paper, the term:

  • 'Regulated' means having a set of structured, prescriptive and detailed rules that establish specific practices to achieve an outcome or outcomes, in this case to reduce or mitigate risk regarding child safety. Meeting the requirements of rules would be applicable to all institutions, regardless of size or circumstance.
  • 'Principles-based' means having a framework, with a focus on outcomes that allows flexibility of implementation which can be tailored to different organisational size, context and level of risk.

National sport and recreation child safety advisory committee: discussion points

  1. What level of state representation should sit on the child safety advisory committee?

Play by the Rules: discussion points

  1. Are organisations currently aware of and use the Play by the Rules resource?
  2. Have you found information provided by Play by the Rules relevant to WA? If so how (or how not)?
  3. What information and resources would organisations and the community find most valuable?

Local government

The Royal Commission made a key recommendation that with support from governments at the national, state and territory levels; local governments should designate child safety officer positions from existing staff profiles to carry out the following functions:

  • developing child safe messages in local government venues, grounds and facilities
  • assisting local institutions to access online child safe resources
  • providing child safety information and support to local institutions on a needs basis
  • supporting local institutions to work collaboratively with key services to ensure child safe approaches are culturally safe, disability aware and appropriate for children from diverse backgrounds

It is the recommendation of DLGSC that further consultation occurs with WALGA, LG Professional WA and all Western Australian local government authorities to inform the State Government's implementation framework planning.

Consultation is required to understand the types and areas of local government operations that may be impacted by the designation of child safety officers and how these positions may be called on to support the community with child safeguarding, as well as the training, resources and support required to be successful in a localised and varied Western Australian context.

Local government: discussion points

  1. What impact would the designation of child safety officers have within a local government's workforce?
  2. What areas of the local government do you believe this designation would occur and how might it benefit and/or be effective in supporting the community to create child safe environments?
  3. What training, resources and support would be required by the local government to successfully implement designated child safety officers?
  4. What would be the most effective method(s) of supporting local government with the implementation of child safety officers?

Legislation

The Royal Commission recommended that state and territory governments should:

  • establish nationally consistent legislative schemes, including the amendment of WWCC laws
  • introduce legislation that implements a national legal response in relation to disclosing or revealing the identity of a mandatory reporter to a law enforcement agency

The Royal Commission had in essence, recommended the streamlining of the scope of which individuals require a WWCC.

Ultimately improvements to and clarity within legislation (and the policy parameters) is essential to interpret, apply and comply with the WWCC for the sport and recreation industry.

Additionally, it is essential in this recommendation to acknowledge the volunteer nature of sport and recreation; containing people with varying knowledge and capability.

Legislation: discussion points

  1. What additional training and resources would be required to support the implementation of any legislative change to working with children checks?

Recordkeeping and information sharing

The Royal Commission recommended that:

  • Institutions that engage in child-related work should implement the five principles for record keeping to a level that responds to the risk with the institution.
  • Australian governments implement a nationally consistent information sharing exchange related to children's safety and wellbeing. It is recommended that sport and recreation institutions that provide overnight services be considered for inclusion in the scheme.
  • Facilitated by a national model for WWCCs, establish a centralised database, that is readily accessible to all jurisdictions to record WWCC decisions.
  • Australian governments to develop nationally agreed terms and definitions in relation to child sexual abuse for data collection and reporting.

Record keeping and information sharing: discussion points

  1. What support will be needed to implement principles of record keeping and information sharing across different organisations and institutions?
  2. Are organisations aware of and compliant with existing record keeping and information sharing legislation (including the Associations Incorporation Act 2015 and Privacy Act 2014)?
  3. What information would better assist community-level organisations to improve child safeguarding?
  4. Has your organisation had trouble accessing information regarding an individual coming from overseas, and their appropriateness to undertake child-related work or activities (i.e. coaching or volunteering)?

Acknowledgements

The contents of this information and discussion paper includes extracts from the following identified sources. Information has been extracted and summarised to focus on key aspects applicable to the Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries' key stakeholders and funded bodies:

For more information, please contact:

Gordon MacMile
Director Strategic Coordination and Delivery
Email: gordon.macmile@dlgsc.wa.gov.au
Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries
246 Vincent Street, Leederville WA 6007
PO Box 329, Leederville WA 6903
Telephone: 61 8 9492 9700​