NSW and ACT safeguarding changes
In response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (Royal Commission), both the NSW and ACT Governments have made legislative changes to improve the reporting of child abuse. Links to the changes are provided below.
The NSW Office of the Children’s Guardian (OCG)has produced a guide to assist in the implementation of the child safe standards (as recommended by the Royal Commission) in NSW, available from this link.
The NSW child safe standards encompass existing child safety requirements for individuals and organisations such as the Working with Children Check, the Reportable Conduct Scheme and requirements to report information to police and to the Department of Communities and Justice. Training and resources to support the implementation of these standards is also available from this link.
In addition, the Children’s Guardian Amendment (Child Safe Scheme) Bill 2021 introduced into the NSW Parliament in May 2021 seeks to embed the Child Safe Standards as the primary framework that guides child safe practice in organisations in New South Wales; and for related purposes. The Bill 2021 amends the Children’s Guardian Act 2019 to insert three new offences, relating to non-compliance with enforceable undertakings made to, or directions and compliance notices issued by, the Children’s Guardian. These are strict liability offences, meaning there is no mental element required to be proven – it is enough that the organisation, or the head of the organisation, ‘failed to comply’ with the relevant requirements.
The ACT Government agrees with the Royal Commission that organisations providing services to children must do more to prevent and respond to child abuse that may occur within their organisations. In October 2019, ACT Government decided to regulate Child Safe Standards in the Territory, and a scheme is currently being developed.
The scheme will focus on education and long-term capacity building, rather than prescriptive rules and penalties. Organisations will receive training, tools and support from the oversight body which will be located within the ACT Human Rights Commission. Public Consultation on the scheme has now closed.