Child Safe - it's the law

Keeping children safe – a responsibility for all of us

On Monday 5th May our students studying Certificate III and Diploma of Early Childhood Education and Care and Certificate IV in Education Support were provided a talk on Protecting Children – Mandatory Reporting and other obligations. This presentation was delivered by Cathy Harrison, General Manager Kordus Pty Ltd.

The presentation was designed to complement the learning that the students had undertaken and to allow them the opportunity to ask questions and discuss pressing issues about this important social issue.

The talk was designed to enable participants to understand their responsibilities and who is required under legislation to report issues of abuse or suspected abuse. The talk addressed the following key points:

  • What is abuse
  • How to report
  • Those mandated to report under legislation
  • Duty of care and other obligations outlined in the legislation and Child Safe Standards.

Our students learnt that children are most commonly abused by people who are known to them. Carers, teachers and other persons of responsibility have a duty of care to take all reasonable steps to protect children in their care. Anyone who suspects abuse is occurring should raise this with authorities.

As a carer you have a duty to the children in your care to protect their safety, health and wellbeing. We all need to demonstrate that where we have a concern that we have spoken with or reported our concern about any issue that impacts on our children’s welfare. Those caring for or educating our children must:

  • Provide adequate supervision
  • Not use corporal punishment or unreasonable discipline
  • Prevent and report any form of abuse or sexual interference
  • Report concerns or circumstance which might indicate signs of abuse
  • Report any abuse that occurs
  • Promote cultural safety to aboriginal children
  • Promote cultural safety of children from culturally and/or linguistically diverse backgrounds
  • Promoting the safety of children with a disability.

The group considered a number of case studies and circumstances where the students might feel challenged. This included situations where there was a conflict between the employer’s policies and procedures and the individual’s current behaviour. In particular the issue where a person may work as a child educator, but also provide care or babysitting services to clients. Where activities outside of work, class, or conflict with ‘paid work’ responsibilities; the individual must cease those activities. This was a discussion that caused many participants to reconsider current activities, in the light of their impact on their employer’s image or responsibilities.

A large number of childcare centres will not allow babysitting because of items outlined within the legislation around grooming. Predatory conduct with the intention of grooming a child for sexual conduct is illegal. This includes any actions that are designed to deliberately lower the inhibitions of children for sexual conduct. These activities include:

  • Contact on social media
  • Story partners
  • Babysitting
  • Social clubs

All of these activities must be disclosed to the centre upon employment or work placement. Students who are about to commence work placement should speak to the placement centre about any babysitting activities that they are currently undertaking. You must understand that workplace Policies and procedures extend beyond your work hours.

The reporting of abuse was also a controversial subject which raised some discussion. Where you may consider that sexual abuse may be occurring, the law requires that you report this suspected abuse. A number of the people present were stirred by this information. Discussions centred on issues of family violence and the repercussions of reporting instances of abuse so close to individuals current circumstances. It was suggested and discussed that in situations of family violence, a third party who is also aware of the risk may be the person to report this suspected abuse to authorities. In all situations, the reporting is done to protect the child and minimise the future impact of the abuse. The main forms of abuse include:

  • Neglect
  • Sexual
  • Emotional
  • Physical
  • Grooming and
  • Family violence.

The students discussed issues of grooming and other strategies used by potential abusers

The clear message from this discussion was that any member of the community is now mandated to report suspected sexual abuse. Failure to report may result in a criminal conviction under Section 327 of the Crimes Act. It is important to consider that sometimes parents are not able to ask for help due to family conflict or breakdown, a family member’s physical/mental illness, substance abuse or disability. Family issues are complex and sometimes reporting is the pathway to support and a solution.

The students were also provided information about signs of abuse and the impact of abuse on brain development.

Evidence of abuse includes:

  • Brain development influences the impact of trauma
  • Children’s development can slow down as a result of trauma
  • Behaviour will indicate issues with development and trauma and abuse
  • Children cannot trust their world to offer them safety, stability or predictability
  • React without awareness
  • Stop seeking out comfort
  • Arousal systems are constantly elevated
  • Struggle to find how to feel calm

Further information is available:

  • Child First Victoria – Phone: 1300 369 146 or click here to find out how to make a referral
  • The child’s education and care provider.

For an emergency or to report:

  • Victoria Police – Phone : 000
  • Department of Human Services- Child Protection : Phone: 1300 360 391 or after hours 131278 or click here to report to child protection.

Situations must be reported to Victoria Police where you feel a sexual offence has been committed by an adult. In this situation you will not be required to prove your concerns. Other situations where you should report are:

  • Knowledge that someone has been or being abused
  • The child has stated that they are being abused.
  • Persistent family violence, indicators of abuse.

Do not fear speaking up, this may stop the cycle of abuse for the child, prevent another child from abused, future suffering and bring in help for all concerned.

If you have significant concern for the wellbeing of vulnerable children, young people (0-17years), an unborn child, and their families, suspect or know of a child who is currently subjected to any form of abuse, report this to Child First or Victoria Police for the health and wellbeing of the child.

As a society, we all have a responsibility to protect and keep each other safe from harm.

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