Role of Australian Government agencies
Since 2013, when the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse started, the Australian Government has focused on protecting children from institutional sexual abuse and addressed issues for survivors and victims.
The government is determined to address the wrongs of the past and take meaningful action to ensure children in institutional care are safe.
The government is committed to a range of changes and new initiatives around the governance of institutional care and the ways in which we engage with survivors and victims of abuse. These are categorised into the following areas:
- Improving national leadership and coordination
- Establishing child safe organisations and frameworks
- Ensuring online safety and security for children
- Providing support for victims and survivors
Improving national leadership and coordination
On 15 December 2017, the Australian Government announced that a Child Abuse Royal Commission Implementation Taskforce would be established in the Attorney-General's Department.
The taskforce coordinates action across Australian Government agencies on all 409 recommendations of the Royal Commission, and tracks the progress made. The taskforce works with state and territory governments to promote national coordination and consistency in responding to the Royal Commission recommendations, and will operate until June 2020.
National Office for Child Safety
As recommended by the Royal Commission, the Australian Government established the National Office for Child Safety (NOCS) within the Department of Social Services, commencing on 1 July 2018. On 24 January 2019, the NOCS moved to the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. This reflects the importance of the work being led by the NOCS and the high priority the Australian Government places on the safety and protection of children.
The NOCS takes a national leadership role and works across governments and institutions to develop and implement policies and strategies to keep children safe. The NOCS also plays an important role in supporting and implementing many of the recommendations of the Royal Commission. For more information on the NOCS, refer to its website.
Appointment of the Assistant Minister for Children and Families
In December 2017, the Australian Government created a ministerial portfolio with responsibility for children's policy issues and appointed the Hon Dr David Gillespie MP as Assistant Minister for Children and Families.
The Assistant Minister leads work on the National Framework for Protecting Australia's Children 2009-2020 and drives policies to support children and families. This includes working closely with the Minister for Social Services, the Hon Dan Tehan MP and other Ministers to improve children's safety and wellbeing.
Establishing child safe organisations and frameworks
National Principles for Child Safe Organisations and Child Safe Standards
In 2017, the Australian Government asked the National Children's Commissioner, Ms Megan Mitchell, to lead the development of the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations.
The principles have been developed under the third action plan of the National Framework for Protecting Australia's Children 2009-2020, in collaboration with state and territory governments.
The national principles have been refined through national consultations with sector representatives, advocacy bodies and academics led by the National Children's Commissioner, and they incorporate the child safe standards referred to in the Royal Commission's final report.
As announced by the Prime Minister, in a joint media release with Minister for Social Services on 19 February 2019 (www.pm.gov.au/media/national-principles-keep-our-children-safe), the National Principles have been endorsed by the members of the Council of Australian Governments, as recommended by the Royal Commission.
The Australian Government acknowledges the leadership of states and territories who have already undertaken to improve child safety through the development and implementation of standards and frameworks. The National Principles are not intended to override these efforts but to create a national minimum benchmark that all jurisdictions will at least meet. In some cases, jurisdictions are already exceeding this benchmark.
The implementation of the National Principles across jurisdictions should start with jurisdictional efforts to recognise the National Principles as an overarching national approach.
The Australian Government, through the National Office for Child Safety, looks forward to opportunities to work with state and territories and the non-government sector, to make organisations across Australia safe for children and to learn from each other.
Commonwealth Child Safe Framework
On 22 August 2017, the Australian Government agreed to a Commonwealth Child Safe Framework to promote and ensure the safety and wellbeing of children in Commonwealth care.
The framework sets out child safety requirements for Commonwealth entities including the requirement for the adoption and implementation of the National Principles, which incorporate the Child Safe Standards recommended by the Royal Commission.
Under the framework, Australian Government entities are to ensure that staff working with children and young people comply with relevant child safety laws. This includes contractors working in Australian Government entities under employment contracts (such as non-ongoing and temporary staff).
The Australian Government is currently considering how the framework can be applied to Commonwealth funded organisations.
Defence Youth Safety Reform
In December 2015, the Department of Defence launched the Defence Youth Safety Framework, which was developed in response to the work of the Royal Commission and other Defence inquiries.
The framework ensures that Defence is a youth safe organisation with appropriate and consistent approaches to youth safety and youth safety governance. The framework comprises policy, training, governance and assurance elements that apply across the Australian Defence Force, Army, Navy and Airforce.
For more information, visit the Defence youthHQ website.
Safe Sport Australia
In the 2018 Budget, the Australian Government announced a social change initiative across Australia called 'Safe Sport Australia'. It will create awareness of positive child safe sport practices and the exchange of child safe information and resources.
Safe Sport Australia will digitally connect millions of Australians in the grass roots sport community, targeting parents, other adults involved in sport and children. It will also incorporate the Child Safe Standards identified by the Royal Commission.
The Australian Sports Commission (ASC) is working with National Sporting Organisations (NSOs) to ensure child safety is embedded not only within the organisation itself, but the sport as a whole. In 2014, the ASC engaged the services of the Australian Childhood Foundation who completed a blueprint report on the capacity of sport to protect children and young people from abuse, harm and exploitation.
This work led to the development of the ASC's Child Safe Sport toolkit and resources for sporting organisations. The implementation for these resources has been supported by training (online and face-to-face) and awareness raising sessions with sporting organisations. The ASC is committed to continuing this work in response to identified needs and gaps in the sport sector.
Ensuring online safety and security for children
Office of the eSafety Commissioner
In 2015, the Australian Government implemented measures to create a safer online environment for Australian children.
The Office of the eSafety Commissioner (eSafety Office) was established to help protect people from cyberbullying harm and take a national leadership role in online safety. The eSafety Office works with children, parents, teachers, schools and universities, as well as with government and non-government organisations.
The Royal Commission's recommendations relating to online safety involve existing work undertaken by the eSafety Office and other Australian Government agencies.
For more information visit the Office of the eSafety Commissioner website.
Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation
In March 2018, the Australian Government announced the establishment of the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation (ACCCE). The ACCCE will drive a national effort to combat a global epidemic of child abuse and create a hub of expertise and specialist skills needed to disrupt, prevent and investigate the exploitation of children.
The ACCCE brings together the expertise of the Australian Federal Police, Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, AUSTRAC, the Office of the Cyber Coordinator, Australian Border Force, Australian Institute of Criminology, and the Department of Home Affairs. As a result, law enforcement officials anticipate the ACCCE will identify and remove more than 200 child victims from harm each year. The work will complement existing federal-state joint anti child exploitation teams in each state.
Providing support for victims and survivors
National Redress Scheme
The Australian Government committed to establishing a National Redress Scheme to support people who were sexually abused as children while in the care of an institution.
The Redress Scheme commenced on 1 July 2018 and will run for 10 years.
For more information visit the National Redress Scheme website.
National Apology to Victims and Survivors of Institutional Child Sexual Abuse
The Prime Minister of Australia, the Hon Scott Morrison MP, delivered the National Apology to Victims and Survivors of Institutional Child Sexual Abuse on 22 October 2018.
The Australian Government's decision to deliver the National Apology followed the release of the Royal Commission's final report in December 2017.
The government appointed an independent, survivor-focused Reference Group to advise on the form and content of the National Apology. A national consultation process was undertaken by the Reference Group to reach out to survivors, their families and support people, to inform the content of the National Apology and the ceremony where it was delivered. More information can be found here.