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COAG takes action to increase the safety of children in organisations

In an announcement by the Australian Human Rights Commission, it has been reported that the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) have endorsed the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations. These Principles provide a baseline for organisations that work with children to implement child-safe and child-friendly practices to introduce a child-safe culture.

The 10 National Principles are an evolution of the Child Safe Standards which were recommended by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse which tabled its Final Report in December 2017. The National Children’s Commissioner, Megan Mitchell led the development of the National Principles at the request of the Australian Government. That National Principles take a child rights approach to protecting children from institutional abuse and neglect through creating child safe environments.

In November 2018, Poynting Consulting & Advisory released a piece encouraging organisations to prepare for the implementation of the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations. This article provides an overview of the National Principles, information for organisations and parents, and guidance on where to access more information.

To coincide with COAG’s endorsement of the National Principles, the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has released tools and resources to support organisations. The tools and resources can be accessed on AHRC’s new website http://childsafe.humanrights.gov.au

The resources available include:

·         A self-assessment tool for organisations

·         A child safety and wellbeing policy template

·         An example code of conduct

·         A charter of commitment to children and young people template

·         An online safety checklist

·         A guide for parents and carers.

These National Principles have been developed in consultation with national sector peak bodies, national advocacy and research organisations, Commonwealth, state and territory governments, and with children and young people themselves”
— Megan Mitchell, National Children’s Commissioner

Now that COAG has endorsed the National Principles and provided the tools and resources for organisations to embed a child-safe culture there is no excuse for in-action by organisations that exist for the benefit and enjoyment of children and young people. Parents and caregivers should expect that organisations are implementing the National Principles, are involving children in making decisions which affect them, and are upholding the rights of children and young people.

Adopting the National Principles will not be an easy task for organisations. The National Principles require a change in organisational culture. To succeed in this endeavour, organisations will require courage, effort and effective leadership. COAG has taken a commendable step toward increasing the safety of children and young people in organisations and institutions, but it is the responsibility of those organisations and institutions to accept this challenge. When that happens it will transform this announcement in to the marker of a historical day for the safety and wellbeing of children and young people in Australia.

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Bradley Poynting