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  • Writer's pictureHelen Haydock

Is mandatory reporting the same as child safe practices(The National Principles/Child Safe Standards)?

Orange question mark with a light shining from the end, on a black backgrouns

This is a question that I've discussed before in the blog but it continues to come up in discussions regularly. A common misconception seems to be that staff only need to know about mandatory reporting and that broader child safe practices are management's responsibility. This is a problematic approach and in today's blog i'm going to explain why.

Firstly lets recap the difference between the two.

Mandatory Reporting

Mandatory reporting refers to the legal requirement for people in certain occupations to report reasonable concerns about child abuse to authorities. Each State and Territory has its own mandatory reporting legislation. Occupations of mandatory reporters can differ as can the type of suspected abuse that must be reported. The aim of mandatory reporting is to ensure that authorities are aware of children at risk and can intervene. For an overview of legislation across Australia please see this Australian Institute of Family Studies resource.

Put simply: staff who are mandatory reporters must report any reasonable suspicions about child abuse to the authorities (typically child protection or police)

Child Safe Practices

Child safe practices refers to the implementation of strategies, policies, training etc to ensure that children are safe in organisations. The below graphic is based on the definition of a child safe organisation by The Australian and New Zealand Children’s Commissioners and Guardians.

Diagram outlining a definition of child safe organisations.

All states and territories across Australia have agreed to The National Principles for Child Safe Organisations. At the time of writing, Victoria, NSW, Tasmania, South Australia and the Northern Territory have legislation relating to The National Principles (Typically referred to as some variation of "Child Safe Standards"). ACT will have legislation from next month and both WA and QLD have recently announced they are working on legislation.

Put simply: These Standards or Principles set out what organisations need to do to ensure they are child safe. This includes things like engagement with families, creating culturally safe environments, having good policies, staff training and having a culture where child safety is prioritised.

The Role of Mandatory Reporting in Child Safe Practices

Mandatory reporting is part of child safe practices but it only one element. If we think about the diagram above, mandatory reporting is part of the appropriate response to disclosures, allegations or suspicions of harm. Staff training in mandatory reporting is essential but further training is required in order to ensure staff understand their role in creating a child safe environment for children.

Put simply mandatory reporting is a reactive tool, used to respond when harm has occurred or is suspected. Child safe practices aim to reduce the likelihood of harm occurring in the first place, create a culture within an organisation where child safety and wellbeing is the priority, empowers staff to recognise harm from both outside of and within an organisation and empowers children to have a voice within organisations.

What does child safe practices training look like?

Growing Futures has a range of child safe practices workshops available, including training on relevant local legislation and The National Principles. Depending on the particular workshop you attend topics include:

  • The intention and implementation of The National Principles or related local Child Safe Standards legislation.

  • Identifying risk within organisations.

  • Recognising barriers to engagement with families and children.

  • Understanding perpetrator behaviours.

  • Strategies to implement policies.

  • Recognising types of harm children can experience.

  • Managing mandatory reporting

  • Responding to disclosures

  • Self care for staff

If you would like more information about our workshops please contact us today.

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