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  • Writer's pictureHelen Haydock

Former childcare educator charged with 1623 child abuse offences.

Reading the news about the childcare educator charged with over 1500 child sexual offences over the past 24 hours has been harrowing. Like many I have been left feeling distressed for the 91 children and their families.

Media reports suggest the alleged offending occurred between 2007 and 2020 whilst this man was working in 10 centres in Queensland, one in NSW and further offences were committed overseas.

I have no doubt that in the coming days we are going to hear more and there will be discussion and debate in public, the media and in politics about what should be done to prevent this. The reality is that we have already had a Royal Commission, the findings and recommendations released in 2017 provide somewhat of a blueprint for what needs to be done.

The National Principles for Child Safe Organisations have been ratified by all States and Territories, yet their implementation is not consistent. Here in Victoria, we have legislated Child Safe Standards (as do NSW and TAS commence in 2024) yet for too many organisations this is a tick and flick exercise, where the bare minimum is done. The focus is on compliance rather than creating a culture where children’s safety and wellbeing is the priority.

A key element of The National Principles (and State legislated Standards) is staff and volunteer education. In early education there are national regulations that require all staff to receive child protection training, however the reality is that in many organisations this isn’t a priority. From speaking with hundreds of educators over the years many just know the basics, that if they think a child is experiencing harm, they should report to child protection. Many do not know the signs a child is at risk and even fewer understand the types of behaviour that perpetrators engage in. Many have never considered what knowledge they require to keep children safe within their own organisations.

Another key element of The Principles/Standards is policy. The problem is that whilst organisations may have good policies, staff often do not know how to implement them, or they are not implemented consistently. Media reports state that he used his own phone and camera to record his offending. It is reported that at one organisation he was known as an “unofficial photographer”. Organisations working with children should have policies around taking and storing images of children and technology use with children.

Finally, many of the media reports have highlighted that this man held a Blue Card. Anyone who has been at a Growing Futures Child Safe training will know that this is a topic I am passionate about. Far too many organisations over rely on Working With Children Checks/Blue Cards/Police checks. The reality is that these checks only capture people who have been caught. Most sexual offending against children goes unreported for long periods of time. There is also inconsistency across states and many people are exempt from a check. (Eg here in Victoria “Parents are exempt and do not need a Check to volunteer in the same activity their child is participating, or normally participates in.”)

It is clear that organisations need to implement multiple different strategies to keep children safe. I have written more about this in a recent blog post.

If you are the head of an organisation and you are thinking about how to best train your staff to keep children safe please reach out for information about Growing Futures’ training.

If you have been distressed by what you have read about this case please remember there are support services out there. 1800 RESPECT, Lifeline, BLUEKNOT

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