Dear Parents and Guardians,
The wellbeing and safety of all students in our care is our first priority.
Following on from the establishment of Child Safe Standards in 2016 and a further review in 2020, some changes will take effect from 1 July 2022.
Paula Kolivas, one of our student counsellors, outlines these changes below.
With best wishes,
In 2016, the Victorian Government introduced Ministerial Order 870 – Child Safe Standards – Managing the Risk of Child Abuse in Schools. The Child Safe Standards (Standards) were part of the state government’s response to the 2013 Betrayal of Trust Inquiry which investigated the handling of child abuse in religious and other non-government institutions. The Order required all Victorian schools to embed a culture of no tolerance for child abuse and prescribed seven standards related to reducing the risk of abuse and ensuring the appropriate response and reporting of child abuse to authorities. Although it recognised that all children are vulnerable, the Order mandated a particular focus on students who are more vulnerable to risk due to their abilities, indigenous, cultural or linguistic background.
In 2020, the Department of Health and Human Services, now known as the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing (DFFH) completed a review of these Standards. It recommeneded a number of changes to align and support greater consistency with the National Princples for Child Safe Organisations, which were developed following the 2017 recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Assault. The DFFH recommendations were accepted by the Victorian government and eleven new Standards were developed. In January 2022, the Victorian Education Minister mandated Ministerial Order 1359 – Child Safe Standards – Managing the Risk of Child Abuse in Schools and School Boarding Premises. These new Standards will commence on 1 July 2022, and will replace the Ministerial Order 870 Standards.
The eleven new Standards require:
1. Organisations establish a culturally safe environment in which the diverse and unique identities and experiences of Aboriginal children and young people are respected and valued.
2. Child safety and wellbeing is embedded in organisational leadership, governance and culture.
3. Children and young people are empowered about their rights, participate in decisions affecting them and are taken seriously.
4. Families and communities are informed, and involved in promoting child safety and wellbeing.
5. Equity is upheld and diverse needs respected in policy and practice.
6. People working with children and young people are suitable and supported to reflect child safety and wellbeing values in practice.
7. Processes for complaints and concerns are child focused.
8. Staff and volunteers are equipped with the knowledge, skills and awareness to keep children and young people safe through ongoing education and training.
9. Physical and online environments promote safety and wellbeing while minimising the opportunity for children and young people to be harmed.
10. Implementation of the Child Safe Standards is regularly reviewed and improved.
11. Policies and procedures document how the organisation is safe for children and young people.
These Standards, and their associated compliance documents, provide greater clarity regarding the requirements on the governance, systems and processes of a school to reduce the risk of abuse and enhance student wellbeing. Key changes include a focus on managing the risk of child abuse in the online environment, empowering students and respecting their diverse needs, involving families and the community in keeping students safe and a greater focus on the safety of Aboriginal students.
Implementing the new Standards and complying with Minsterial Order 1359 is a complex process, requiring the review of all school policies and procedures. However, CGGS is well prepared to complete this process, as we already have established clear procedures for responding to allegations or suspected abuse, regularly update our school policies and HR procedures, review and adjust curriculum material and audit the school’s physical and social environment to ensure that our organisational culture reflects the CGGS commitment to zero tolerance of abuse. And where required, staff report concerns to the relevant authorities – DFFH Child Protection Services, the Police and/or the Commission for Children and Young People.
Relevant policies that parents/guardians may access via our school website include the:
> Child Safety Policy
> Child Safety Reporting Policy
> Code of Conduct Policies – staff and students
> Working With Children Check Policy
One of the most effective strategies in reducing the risk of child abuse, is educating all members of the community. At CGGS biannual training is mandatory for all teaching staff, professional service staff and maintenance staff to ensure that they develop their understanding and confidence to identify and appropriately respond to any suspicions or allegations of abuse, grooming or other misconduct. Also, all Senior School and Junior School students receive age-appropriate presentations by the School Counsellors regarding how to identify inappropriate behaviour and most importantly where to seek help and support.
All our students have a right to feel safe on and off campus. We want our students, families and community to feel confident that CGGS is an organisation committed to the physical, emotional and sexual safety of all students. If you have any concerns regarding your child’s safety or the safety of any other student in our community, we strongly encourage you to contact the Principal, Heads of School, or the Counsellors to discuss the matter. We will respond to any concerns in a sensitive, confidential and respectful manner.