Central to the mission of Saint Monica’s School Kangaroo Flat is an unequivocal commitment to fostering the dignity, self-esteem and integrity of children and young people and providing them with a safe, supportive and enriching environment to develop spiritually, physically, intellectually, emotionally and socially.
Reuben Johnson ( Principal) is the Child Safe Officer
PROTECT: Identifying and responding to abuse – Reporting obligations
Protection for children and young people is based upon the belief that each person is made in the image and likeness of God and that the inherent dignity of all should be recognised and fostered.
Catholic schools are entrusted with the holistic education of the child, in partnership with parents, guardians and caregivers, who are the primary educators of their children. Catholic school staff therefore have a duty of care to students to take reasonable care to avoid acts or omissions that they can reasonably foresee would be likely to result in harm or injury to the student, and to work for the positive wellbeing of the child.
All teachers, other school staff members, volunteers, contractors, other service providers, parish priests, and canonical and religious order administrators of Catholic schools within Victoria must understand and abide by the professional, moral and legal obligations to implement child protection and child safety policies, protocols and practices.
Ministerial Order No. 870: Child Safe Standards – Managing the Risk of Child Abuse in Schools was made under the Education and Training Reform Act 2006 (Vic.) and sets out the specific actions that all Victorian schools must take to meet the requirements in the Child Safe Standards for registration.
This policy is designed to enable Catholic schools to comply with Standard 5 of the Victorian Child Safe Standards: processes for responding to and reporting suspected child abuse, as well as the school-specific requirements for procedures for responding to allegations of suspected abuse in Ministerial Order No. 870. All procedures for reporting and responding to an incident of child abuse are designed and implemented by taking into account the diverse characteristics of school communities.
Actions required under the relevant legislation and regulatory guidance when there is a reasonable belief that a child is in need of protection or a criminal offence has been committed are set out in this policy. It also provides guidance and procedures on how to make a report.
This policy assists school staff (which includes volunteers, contractors, other service providers and religious leaders including clergy) to:
- identify the indicators of a child or young person who may be in need of protection
- understand how a ‘suspicion’ or ‘reasonable belief’ is formed
- where possible, refer to the principles of the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities as best practice in respecting and protecting the basic rights, freedoms and responsibilities of members of the school community
- make a report about a child or young person who may be in need of protection
- comply with obligations under the Victorian Reportable Conduct Scheme
- comply with mandatory reporting obligations under child protection law
- comply with legal obligations relating to criminal child abuse and grooming under criminal law.
Legislative and Regulatory Requirements
Schools must comply with the legal obligations that relate to managing the risk of child abuse under the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 (Vic.), the Crimes Act 1958 (Vic.), the Child Wellbeing and Safety Act 2005 (Vic.), the Education and Training Reform Act 2006 (Vic.) and the Family Violence Protection Act 2008 (Vic.).
The Child Wellbeing and Safety Act 2005
(Vic.) introduced the seven Victorian Child Safe Standards, which aim to create a culture where protecting children from abuse is part of everyday thinking and practice. The Child Safe Standards were introduced in response to recommendations made by the Betrayal of Trust
Child protection reporting obligations for Catholic schools fall under five separate pieces of legislation with differing reporting requirements:
- the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005(Vic.)
- the Education and Training Reform Act 2006 (Vic.)
- the Crimes Act 1958 (Vic.)
- the Family Violence Protection Act 2008 (Vic.)
- the Wrongs Act 1958 (Vic.).
These legislative obligations exist in addition to moral and duty of care obligations, which require school community members to protect any child under their care and supervision from foreseeable harm.
Definitions and Obligations
1. Types of Child Abuse and Indicators of Harm
Child abuse can take many forms. The perpetrator may be a parent, carer, school staff member, volunteer, another adult or even another child. The nature of child abuse is complex. The abuse may occur over time and potential risk indicators are often difficult to detect. Therefore, the legal obligations for reporting allegations of child abuse can vary depending on the circumstances of the incident.
Child abuse is defined in the Child Wellbeing and Safety Act 2005 (Vic.) to include:
- sexual offenses
- grooming offences under section 49M(1) of the Crimes Act 1958 (Vic.)
- physical violence
- serious emotional or psychological harm
- serious neglect.
Sexual offences A sexual offence occurs when a person involves a child in sexual activity, or deliberately puts the child in the presence of sexual behaviours that are exploitative or inappropriate to the child’s age and development. Sexual offences are governed by the Crimes Act 1958 (Vic.). Sexual abuse can involve a wide range of sexual activity and may include fondling, masturbation, oral sex, penetration, voyeurism and exhibitionism. It can also include exploitation through pornography or prostitution.
Grooming Grooming refers to predatory conduct undertaken by an adult (18 years or over) to prepare a child for sexual activity at a later time. It is a sexual offence under section 49M of the Crimes Act 1958 (Vic.) carrying a maximum 10-year term of imprisonment. Under section 49M, the adult’s words or conduct must be intended to facilitate the child engaging or being involved in the commission of, or attempt to commit, a sexual offence by the adult or another adult.
Physical violence Physical violence occurs when a child suffers or is likely to suffer significant harm from a non-accidental injury or injuries inflicted by another person. Physical violence can be inflicted in many ways including beating, shaking, burning or using weapons (such as belts and paddles). Physical harm may also be caused during student fights.
Serious emotional or psychological harm Serious emotional or psychological abuse may occur when a child is repeatedly rejected, isolated or frightened by threats or the witnessing of family violence. It also includes hostility, derogatory name-calling and put- downs, or persistent coldness from a person, to the extent where the behaviour of the child is disturbed or their emotional development is at serious risk of being impaired. Serious emotional or psychological harm could also result from conduct that exploits a child without necessarily being criminal, such as encouraging a child to engage in inappropriate or risky behaviours.
Serious neglect Neglect includes a failure to provide a child with an adequate standard of
nutrition, medical care, clothing, shelter or supervision. Significant neglect causes harm to a child that is more than trivial or temporary. Serious neglect is when the child is exposed to an extremely dangerous or life-threatening situation and there is a continued failure to provide a child with the basic necessities of life.
Family violence Family violence is defined under the Family Violence Protection Act 2008 (Vic.) to include behaviour that causes a child to hear, witness or be exposed to the effects of family violence such as abusive, threatening, controlling or coercive behaviour. While family violence does not form part of the official definition of ‘child abuse’ in the Child Wellbeing and Safety Act 2005 (Vic.), the impact of family violence on a child can be a form of child abuse, for example, where it causes serious emotional or psychological harm to a child. A child can also be a direct victim of family violence.
Child abuse can have a significant effect on a child’s physical, social, psychological or emotional health, development and wellbeing. The younger the child, the more vulnerable they are to abuse and the more serious the consequences are likely to be.
There can be physical or behavioural indicators of child abuse and neglect, or a combination of both. While the presence of a single indicator, or even several indicators, does not necessarily prove that abuse or neglect has occurred, the repeated occurrence of either a physical or behavioural indicator, or the occurrence of several indicators together, should alert school staff to the possibility of child abuse or neglect.
Child sexual abuse is more commonly perpetrated by someone who is known to and trusted by the child, and is also often someone highly trusted within their families, communities, schools and/or other institutions, such as the Church.