Kamaruka takes a zero-tolerance approach to child abuse and is fully committed to ensuring that its strategies, policies, procedures and practices meet all Child Safety Standards as specified in Ministerial Order No. 1359 (2022)
Kamaruka will take appropriate, prompt action in response to all allegations or disclosures of abuse, neglect, inappropriate behaviour or concerns about child safety by reporting all matters to the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing (Child Protection), the Commission for Children and Young People (CCYP), or the Police, depending on the allegation or disclosure made.
Kamaruka has established simple and accessible procedures for anyone to report, if appropriate, a child safety and protection concern internally to one of the Kamaruka's Child Safety Officers. Please be aware that consulting with a Child Safety Officer does not change any obligation you have under legislation to report to an external authority.
Protection for children and young people is based upon the belief that the inherent dignity of all should be recognised and fostered.
Kamaruka school staff 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.
Under the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2009–2020, protecting children is everyone’s responsibility – parents, communities, governments and businesses all have a role to play.
In Victoria, a joint protocol, PROTECT: Identifying and Responding to All Forms of Abuse in Victorian Schools, involving the Victorian Department of Education and Training (DET), the Catholic Education Commission of Victoria Ltd (CECV) and Independent Schools Victoria (ISV) exists to protect the safety and wellbeing of children and young people.
The DET has also produced Four Critical Actions for Schools: Responding to Incidents, Disclosures and Suspicions of Child Abuse and PROTECT: Responding to Suspected Child Abuse: A Template for all Victorian Schools, both of which are referred to in the joint protocol.
All teachers, other school staff members, volunteers, contractors, other service providers 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 those at Kamaruka 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 our school community.
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 staff at Kamaruka (which includes volunteers, contractors and other service providers) to:
Student Safety and Participation
At Kamaruka, we actively encourage all students to openly express their views respectfully and feel comfortable about giving voice to the things that are important to them. We teach our children about their rights and the school values, to support them to recognise and know what they can do if they feel unsafe and enable them to understand, discuss and report on child safety. We listen to and act on any concerns students, or their parents or carers raise with us.
Our whole school approach to promoting participation and empowerment of children comes through the delivery of a rich and rigorous curriculum that promotes social emotional learning and is supplemented by programs and strategies such as:
We support student wellbeing and safety through support structures that include:
Kamaruka and our governing body 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.), the Education and Training Reform Regulations 2017 (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 report.
Child protection reporting obligations fall under six separate pieces of legislation with differing reporting requirements:
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.
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 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.
For further definitions of all types of child abuse, a comprehensive list of the indicators of harm and advice on identifying perpetrators of child sexual abuse, refer to the protocol PROTECT: Identifying and Responding to All Forms of Abuse in Victorian Schools.
Mandatory reporting is a legal requirement under the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 (Vic.) to protect children from harm relating to physical injury and sexual abuse. A child, for the purpose of the relevant parts of this Act, is any person who is under the age of 17 years. In Victorian schools, registered teachers, school principals, early childhood workers, registered psychologists, school counsellors and all people in religious ministry are mandated to report a reasonable belief of child physical or sexual abuse to child protection authorities. The report must be made as soon as practicable after forming the belief.
If, in the course of carrying out their duties, a mandatory reporter forms a reasonable belief that a child is in need of protection because the child has suffered, or is likely to suffer, significant harm as a result of physical injury or sexual abuse, and that the child’s parents are unwilling or unable to protect the child, they must report that belief to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Child Protection and/or Victoria Police, including the information prescribed in PROTECT: Responding to Suspected Child Abuse: A Template for all Victorian Schools, as soon as possible after forming the belief.
A subsequent report must be made on each occasion on which the mandatory reporter becomes aware of further reasonable grounds for the belief and even if the reporter knows that another report has been made concerning the same child and suspected abuse.
The threshold for reporting child protection incidents, disclosures, concerns or suspicions has been set deliberately low by the joint protocol PROTECT: Identifying and Responding to All Forms of Abuse in Victorian Schools. This protocol focuses on Four Critical Actions that all our school staff must take if they form a suspicion or reasonable belief that child abuse has occurred, or that a child is at risk of suffering abuse.
Where Kamaruka staff members are concerned about the safety and wellbeing of a child or young person, they must assess that concern to determine if a report should be made to the relevant agency. If a staff member has witnessed potentially abusive behaviour, has a suspicion or has received a disclosure of child abuse, they must determine whether these observations or receipt of such information have caused the staff member to form a reasonable belief.
A ‘reasonable belief’ or a ‘belief on reasonable grounds’ is not the same as having proof, but is more than rumour or speculation. A reasonable belief is formed if a reasonable person in the same position would have formed the belief on the same grounds.
A reasonable belief might be formed if:
While any indicators of possible child abuse or neglect are concerning, it is important to understand that the presence of a number of indicators that suggest either physical or sexual abuse of a child may be sufficient to form a reasonable belief in a mandatory reporter’s mind which must be reported.
The Reportable Conduct Scheme was created under the Child Wellbeing and Safety Act 2005 (Vic.) and requires the head of Kamaruka, the Principal, to notify the Commission for Children and Young People (CCYP) if an allegation of reportable conduct (a reportable allegation) is made against one of its employees.
Employees can include a principal, teacher, administrative or corporate staff member, board or school council employee, contractor, volunteer, school doctor/nurse/medical professional, allied health staff member, or minister of religion or religious leader. It may also include former employees.
Reportable conduct is defined under the Child Wellbeing and Safety Act 2005 (Vic.) to mean a sexual offence, sexual misconduct or physical violence committed against, with or in the presence of a child, behaviour causing significant emotional or psychological harm to a child, or significant neglect of a child.
A reportable allegation means any information that leads a person to form a reasonable belief that an employee has committed reportable conduct or misconduct that may involve reportable conduct, whether or not the conduct or misconduct is alleged to have occurred within the course of the person’s employment.
The Reportable Conduct Scheme imposes obligations on the head of entity (governing authority). The head of Kamaruka, the Principal, will:
In the event that the Principal is unable to fulfill their role of managing the process of an allegation or disclosure of child abuse, members of the leadership team or school counsellors will assume responsibility.
Reportable conduct may also include historical reportable allegations. More guidance can be found in Reportable Conduct Scheme – Historical allegations.
All school staff are required to notify the Principal or, if the Principal is involved in the allegation, a member of the Leadership Team, if they have a reportable allegation. The Principal or a member of the Leadership Team must notify the CCYP of the allegation of reportable conduct as soon as possible.
The Reportable Conduct Scheme does not change mandatory reporting or other reporting obligations, including internal reporting and reporting criminal behaviour to Victoria Police. Reportable conduct reporting should be done in addition to these other reporting obligations.
In response to the Betrayal of Trust report, three criminal offences were introduced under the Crimes Act 1958 (Vic.):
Any staff member at Kamaruka who forms a reasonable belief that a sexual offence has been committed in Victoria by an adult against a child under 16 must disclose that information to Victoria Police.
Failure to disclose the information to Victoria Police is a criminal offence under section 327 of the Crimes Act 1958 (Vic.) and applies to all adults (18 years and over) in Victoria, not just professionals who work with children.
The obligation is to disclose that information to Victoria Police as soon as it is practicable to do so, except in limited circumstances such as where the information has already been reported to DHHS Child Protection.
Any staff member at Kamaruka in a position of authority who has the power or responsibility to remove risk, and becomes aware that an adult associated with the school (such as an employee, contractor, volunteer, sport coach or visitor) poses a risk of sexual abuse to a child under 16 who is in the care or supervision of the school, must take all reasonable steps to reduce or remove that risk. At Kamaruka, this will include the Principal, Child Safety Officers and Leadership Team.
Failure to take reasonable steps to protect a child in the school from the risk of sexual abuse from an adult associated with the school is a criminal offence under section 49O(1) of the Crimes Act 1958 (Vic.).
The offence of grooming prohibits predatory conduct designed to prepare or ‘groom’ a child for future sexual activity and is contained in section 49M(1) of the Crimes Act 1958 (Vic.). The offence applies to communication with children under 16 years.
Grooming can be conducted in person or online, for example via interaction through social media, web forums and emails. The offence can be committed by any person aged 18 years or over. It does not apply to communication between people who are both under 18 years of age.
For more information about managing and responding to the risk of abuse, see the DET’s ‘Student Sexual Offending and Problem Sexual Behaviour’ and ‘Risk Management – Schools’ webpages.
From a child safety perspective, the key functions of the Education and Training Reform Act 2006 (Vic.) are to:
Kamaruka and our governing body must ensure that the care, safety and welfare of all students attending the school are in accordance with all applicable Victorian and Commonwealth laws, and that all staff employed at the school are advised of their obligations to child safety.
Kamaruka celebrates and values the diversity of language, culture and abilities within our community and strives to promote safety, respect and understanding of this diversity within the school environment. Kamaruka takes seriously its commitment to reducing discrimination of students with disabilities.
Kamaruka believes in promoting equity, access and opportunity for all students and protection the safety and rights of students with disabilities within our community. All children and students who experience disability have the right to access and participate in education. Kamaruka follows the below inclusion principles ensuring the safety of all students:
The Wrongs Act 1958 (Vic.) creates an organisational liability for child abuse for organisations that exercise care, supervision or authority over children. This is colloquially referred to as an ‘organisational duty of care’.
We and our governing body owe a duty to take reasonable precautions to prevent the abuse (sexual or physical) of a child (under 18) by an individual associated with the school while the child is under the care, supervision or authority of the school.
Individuals associated with the school can include employees, volunteers, office holders, contractors, ministers of religion and religious leaders.
Reasonable precautions that a school could take are not defined in the Wrongs Act 1958 (Vic.) but, as examples, the following measures are what courts have previously considered to be reasonable precautions in the context of organisational child abuse:
School staff have a duty to take reasonable steps to protect children and young people under their care and supervision from harm that is reasonably foreseeable (this duty applies to all school staff). The question of what constitutes reasonable steps will depend on the individual circumstances of each case.
A staff member may breach their duty of care towards a student if they fail to act in the way a reasonable or diligent professional would have acted in the same situation.
For more information on the scope of staff duty of care obligations and examples of reasonable steps they can take in relation to suspected child abuse, refer to the protocol PROTECT: Identifying and Responding to All Forms of Abuse in Victorian Schools.
School staff are required to respond to suspected child abuse with proper consideration for human rights and, when making decisions and taking actions in response to suspected child abuse, to act compatibly with human rights. This means that school staff should take into account the right to protection without discrimination, the right to protection from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and the right to privacy when responding to suspected child abuse.
We and our governing body have a moral, legal and mission-driven responsibility to create nurturing school environments where children and young people are respected and their voices heard, and where they are safe and feel safe.
Our School Board and every person involved in Kamaruka has a responsibility to understand the important and specific role they have individually and collectively to ensure that the wellbeing and safety of all children and young people are at the forefront of all they do and every decision they make.
It is our governing body’s policy that the school displays the Four Critical Actions for Schools: Responding to Incidents, Disclosures and Suspicions of Child Abuse diagram in staffrooms and other strategic areas of the school to ensure all school staff are aware of the actions to take as soon as they witness a child protection incident, receive a disclosure or form a reasonable suspicion or belief that a child has been, or is at risk of being, abused.
All teachers, mandatory reporters and all other staff at Kamaruka will be made aware of and receive training in relation to their mandatory reporting obligations. The school’s procedures and process for ensuring that staff are aware of their obligations and the consequences for failing to comply with those obligations are set out in the staff handbook.
The approach to responding to and reporting child protection concerns in the joint protocol incorporates Four Critical Actions for Schools: Responding to Incidents, Disclosures and Suspicions of Child Abuse
At Kamaruka, a staff member must act, and follow the Four Critical Actions, as soon as they become aware of a child protection incident – that is, when a child is experiencing, or is at risk of experiencing, abuse.
There are four main ways in which a school staff member may become aware that a child is experiencing, or is at risk of experiencing, abuse:
If you witness an incident where you believe a child has been subjected to, or may be at risk of, abuse, including exposure to family violence, you must first take immediate action to protect the safety of the child or children involved and then refer to Four Critical Actions for Schools: Responding to Incidents, Disclosures and Suspicions of Child Abuse.
All suspicions that a child has been, is being or is at risk of being abused must be taken seriously, including suspicions that the abuse is taking or may take place outside school grounds or areas. If your suspicion develops into a reasonable belief, you must act and refer to Four Critical Actions for Schools: Responding to Incidents, Disclosures and Suspicions of Child Abuse.
All disclosures must be treated seriously. You should immediately refer to Four Critical Actions for Schools: Responding to Incidents, Disclosures and Suspicions of Child Abuse.
If you receive a disclosure from a former student about historical abuse, you must act. If the former student is currently of school age and attending a Victorian school, you must immediately refer to Four Critical Actions for Schools: Responding to Incidents, Disclosures and Suspicions of Child Abuse.
Kamaruka staff members are to keep clear and comprehensive notes relating to incidents, disclosures and allegations of child abuse using PROTECT: Responding to Suspected Child Abuse: A Template for all Victorian Schools.
Even if a Kamaruka staff member decides not to make a report, they must still accurately document their notes relating to the incident, disclosure or allegation of child abuse using PROTECT: Responding to Suspected Child Abuse: A Template for all Victorian Schools.
Notes and records must be kept securely on school grounds and must not be destroyed as they may be needed at a later time.
It is the role of Kamaruka staff members to reassure and support a child or young person who makes a disclosure of abuse. However, school staff members should never promise to keep any disclosures confidential, as all disclosures of abuse must be reported.
The role of Kamaruka staff remains the same if disclosures are made by a parent/carer or a sibling, or if disclosures involve family violence.
For strategies on how to manage a disclosure, refer to PROTECT: Identifying and Responding to All Forms of Abuse in Victorian Schools.
There are Four Critical Actions which must be taken when responding to and reporting a child protection incident, disclosure or suspicion:
This first step is only applicable if a child has just been abused or is at risk of immediate harm. If this is not the case, go straight to Critical Action 2: Reporting to Authorities.
If the child has just been abused or is at risk of immediate harm, you must take reasonable steps to protect the child, including:
If the child protection incident has occurred at Kamaruka, staff should also ensure that reasonable steps are taken to preserve the environment, the clothing and other items, and to prevent any potential witnesses (including school staff members, volunteers and contractors) from discussing the incident until Victoria Police or relevant authorities arrive on the premises.
All forms and instances of suspected or alleged child abuse must be reported to the appropriate authority.
Once immediate health and safety concerns have been addressed, the Kamaruka staff member must take steps to report the incident, suspicion or disclosure of child abuse as soon as practicable. Failure to report physical and sexual child abuse may amount to a criminal offence (refer to Failure to disclose).
There are different reporting procedures depending on:
In all cases, Kamaruka staff members must report internally to the Principal or, if the Principal is involved in the allegation, the Leadership Team.
The DHHS and DET have deliberately set a low threshold for the formation of a ‘reasonable belief’. For more information, refer to the Reasonable belief section of this Policy.
Four Critical Actions for Schools: Responding to Incidents, Disclosures and Suspicions of Child Abuse requires all school staff to report all incidents, suspicions and disclosures of abuse as soon as possible to the relevant authorities.
The table below describes the information to include when making a mandatory report about child abuse or child protection concerns. If a child is at immediate risk of harm, contact Victoria Police immediately.
|Making a Mandatory Report|
|1. Keep notes||Keep comprehensive notes that are dated and include the following information:
· a description of the concerns (e.g. physical injuries, student behaviour)
· the source of those concerns (e.g. observation, report from child or another person)
· the actions taken as a result of the concerns (e.g. consultation with the principal, report to DHHS Child Protection, etc.).
Kamaruka staff can use the template provided in PROTECT: Responding to Suspected Child Abuse: A Template for all Victorian Schools to record their notes.
|2. Discuss concerns||Due to the complexity of child abuse incidents, disclosures and suspicions, it is recommended that concerns and observations regarding suspected physical or sexual abuse of a child are discussed with the Principal, Child Safety Officers or a member of the Leadership Team.
This is not a legal requirement; however, it will help to ensure support is provided to all involved in matters of this nature. The confidentiality of these discussions must be maintained.
You should then make your own assessment about whether you are required to make a report about the child or young person and to whom the report should be made.
It is important to remember that the duty to report abuse or suspicions of abuse exists even if the Principal, Child Safety Officers or member of the Leadership Team advises you not to proceed with reporting suspected abuse.
|3. Gather and document information||Gather the relevant information necessary to make the report. This should include the following:
· full name, date of birth and residential address of the child or young person
· details of the concerns and the reasons for those concerns
· your involvement with the child or young person
· details of any other agencies which may be involved with the child or young person.
This information should be collected and documented using PROTECT: Responding to Suspected Child Abuse: A Template for all Victorian Schools. The template is to be used to record as much information as possible to provide when you make your report to either Victoria Police or DHHS Child Protection.
It is critical that completing the template does not impact on reporting times – if a child is in immediate danger, Kamaruka staff need to report the matter to Victoria Police immediately.
|4. Make the report||To report concerns which are life-threatening, phone 000 or the local police station.
Where the source of the abuse comes from within Kamaruka, that is, the suspected or alleged abuse involves a Kamaruka staff member, volunteer, allied health practitioner, officer/office holder, contractor or visitor at the school:
· contact Victoria Police, which will contact DHHS Child Protection when appropriate
· report internally to:
- the Principal, Child Safety Officers, or the Leadership Team if the Principal is involved in the allegation
Where the source of the suspected or alleged abuse comes from within the child’s family or community, you must:
· report sexual abuse and grooming to Victoria Police
· report the matter to DHHS Child Protection if you consider the child to be in need of protection due to child abuse, or that they have been, are being or are at risk of being harmed due to any form of abuse, including family violence. If after hours, call the Child Protection Emergency Service on 13 12 78
· report internally to:
- the Principal, Child Safety Officers or a member of the Leadership Team if the Principal is unavailable
|5. Document written records of report||Make a written record of the report, including the following information:
· the date and time of the report, and a summary of what was reported
· the name and position of the person who made the report, and the person who received the report.
The information initially recorded in PROTECT: Responding to Suspected Child Abuse: A Template for all Victorian Schools and any additional information provided to either Victoria Police or DHHS Child Protection are to be stored securely and maintained indefinitely by Kamaruka to ensure that records are accessible upon request by external authorities investigating the matter.
|6. Additional steps for overseas students||Where a child protection incident, disclosure or suspicion involves an international student at the school and the school has issued a Confirmation of Appropriate Accommodation and Welfare (CAAW) letter for that student (thereby assuming responsibility for the child’s accommodation, support and general welfare), the school will also need to contact the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority (VRQA).|
Kamaruka staff members, volunteers, contractors and other service providers who are not mandatory reporters nevertheless have professional and moral (and sometimes legal) obligations to report a child protection incident, disclosure or suspicion. Please refer to Kamaruka protocols in relation to reporting a child protection incident, disclosure or suspicion that is not the subject of a mandatory reporting obligation.
The table below describes the information to include when making an allegation of reportable conduct about an employee (persons engaged by the entity such as volunteers, contractors, office holders, board members, board committee members) at the school. The Reportable Conduct Scheme is in addition to Kamaruka staff member’s mandatory reporting or criminal reporting obligations. Reference should also be made to the Reportable Conduct Policy if an allegation of reportable conduct is made.
Any allegations of criminal conduct, including physical violence, significant emotional or psychological abuse, sexual offences and significant neglect must be reported to Victoria Police as the priority. However, school staff members may find they also need to make an allegation of reportable conduct for the same incident.
For further support and advice regarding reporting conduct in Kamaruka under the Reportable Conduct Scheme, contact the Independent Schools Victoria 03 9825 7200 or https://is.vic.edu.au/
What should the principal of St Joseph’s Primary School do about eportable allegation?
Below are the steps that the principal of Kamaruka must take if there is a potential reportable allegation. These steps are in general order of priority, but the guidance may change depending on the circumstances.
Reference should also be made to the Reportable Conduct Policy to ensure that all obligations are complied with in relation to reporting an allegation of reportable conduct.
|What if a student or another child informs you
of a reportable allegation?
|What if a staff member or another adult informs you of a reportable allegation?|
|1. The first step should always be to ensure the student/child is safe. If you believe a child faces immediate danger or risk of harm, contact Victoria Police on 000.|
|2. When speaking with a child or young person, it is important to remember that if they have decided to speak to you, then there is a good chance they trust you.
· Give the child or young person your full attention.
· Listen calmly and empathically.
· Reassure the child or young person that it is right to tell.
· Accept the child or young person will disclose only what they are comfortable disclosing and recognise the bravery/strength of the child for talking about something that is difficult.
· Let the child or young person take their time.
· Let the child or young person use their own words.
· Don’t make promises you can’t keep.
|2. Thank the individual for bringing the allegation to your attention. Offer them support and assistance as necessary. If they are a staff member, refer them to the Employee Assistance Program (EAP), where available.|
|3. Tell the child or young person what you plan to do next.||3. Explain to the person making the report that the school will manage the concern confidentially and, to protect all parties, they should not discuss the matter.|
|4. Take a moment to make a record of the allegations. If appropriate, use PROTECT: Responding to Suspected Child Abuse: A Template for all Victorian Schools. You may also make a note in your diary. If a staff member, parent or other adult was present, ask them to make a record as well.|
|5. Consider whether you need to refer the matter to Victoria Police or DHHS Child Protection. If necessary, report the matter in accordance with the actions documented in PROTECT: Identifying and Responding to All Forms of Abuse in Victorian Schools and Four Critical Actions for Schools: Responding to Incidents, Disclosures and Suspicions of Child Abuse, using PROTECT: Responding to Suspected Child Abuse: A Template for all Victorian Schools.|
|6. If relevant, notify the child’s parents following advice in PROTECT: Identifying and Responding to All Forms of Abuse in Victorian Schools and Four Critical Actions for Schools: Responding to Incidents, Disclosures and Suspicions of Child Abuse.|
|7. As soon as practicable, inform the Principal for advice (including guidance as to whether the alleged conduct is reportable), support and assistance to discuss the circumstances, and notify the appropriate authorities.|
|8. If the matter does involve a reportable allegation, the Principal, with the assistance of the Leadership team, will notify the CCYP (Commissioner for Children and Young People).|
|9. Conduct a risk assessment (with the assistance of ISV Employee Relations Unit resources) to determine any measures that should be put in place to manage the person against whom allegations have been made, and to protect the student(s)/child(ren) against whom reportable conduct may have occurred.|
If you think you have a reportable allegation, it is important that you:
If you believe that a child is not subject to abuse, including family violence, but you still hold significant concerns for their wellbeing (e.g. risk-taking behaviour, parenting difficulties, isolation from family or lack of support), you must still act. This may include making a referral to or seeking advice from Child FIRST/The Orange Door.
Child FIRST/The Orange Door is a family information, referral and support team run by a registered community service in a local area that can receive confidential referrals about a child of concern. It does not have any statutory powers to protect a child, but can refer matters to relevant services.
You should make a report to Child FIRST/The Orange Door if:
Where you believe that the child’s parents/carers will not be supportive of the referral, or the child is partaking in any risk-taking activity that is illegal and extreme in nature or poses a high risk to the child or others, you may refer the matter to DHHS Child Protection.
If you are unsure of what action to take in response to your concerns about a child, speak to the Principal, School Counsellors or a member of the school’s Leadership Team, or contact DHHS Child Protection or Child FIRST/The Orange Door for further advice.
For more information, refer to PROTECT: Identifying and Responding to All Forms of Abuse in Victorian Schools.
After you have made a report, you may continue to suspect that a child is at risk and in need of protection. Any further observations should continue to be recorded and a report made on each separate occasion where a belief has been formed – on reasonable grounds – that a child is likely to be at risk and in need of protection. Additional reports should use the same format outlined above in this Policy at Critical Action 2: Reporting to Authorities.
If there is any suspicion that this relates to a sexual offence involving a person over 18 and a child under 16, then it must be reported to Victoria Police. For more information, refer to the Failure to disclose section of this Policy.
Where a Kamaruka staff member is aware that another school staff member has formed a reasonable belief about the same child on the same occasion, or based on the same indicators of abuse, and has made a report to the appropriate authority, the Kamaruka staff member need not make a further report.
However, if the Kamaruka staff member has formed a reasonable belief of abuse or significant risk of abuse to the child based on different observations, further indicators or additional information, a further report must be made to the appropriate authority detailing this additional information.
Where it is suspected that a child at Kamaruka has been or is at risk of being abused, it is critical that parents/carers of the child are notified as soon as practicable after a report is made to the authorities.
Kamaruka must always seek advice from Victoria Police or DHHS Child Protection to ensure that it is appropriate to contact the parents/carers.
In circumstances of family violence, staff of Kamaruka should:
Advice from Victoria Police or DHHS Child Protection will depend on a number of factors, including whether:
Where the suspicion of abuse or risk of abuse has not yet warranted a reasonable belief, parents/carers should also be notified promptly after the school has carefully considered the factors listed above.
In some circumstances, a child may have returned to the care of their parent/carer before advice has been received from Victoria Police or DHHS Child Protection. In these circumstances, staff members of Kamaruka should not share any information with the parent/carer that may place the child or any other person at risk, or where the child is a mature minor.
For detailed guidance on how to have this conversation with a parent or carer, refer to PROTECT: Identifying and Responding to All Forms of Abuse in Victorian Schools.
Kamaruka staff members who witness a child protection incident, receive a disclosure or develop a suspicion of child abuse (including exposure to family violence) have a critical role to play in supporting students impacted by the child protection matter to ensure that they feel supported and safe at the school. Schools also play a critical role in building students’ resilience and protective factors, which can reduce the long-term impacts of child abuse by providing them with the opportunity to be supported and heard by a school staff member they trust. Support provided to students at Kamaruka includes:
You should contact the school counsellors for a description of the range of school-based support services that may be available, including SAFEMinds and referrals to family violence services, Centres Against Sexual Assault (CASA) or headspace.
Where external authorities are investigating a report of abuse or risk of abuse, it is the role of the Principal of Kamaruka to ensure that students are supported throughout interviews at the school.
Kamaruka and our governing body have a duty to provide support to school staff members who have witnessed an incident or disclosure, or who have made a report to external authorities about a reasonable belief of child abuse. It is important that we remember that staff members may have also experienced child abuse (including family violence) or be experiencing family violence and abuse in their own lives. Kamaruka staff members requiring wellbeing support can contact the school’s onsite counsellors.
Kamaruka should conduct a review of the reporting process four–six weeks after a report has been made to identify if any follow-up support actions are needed. Refer to PROTECT: Responding to Suspected Child Abuse: A Template for all Victorian Schools for more information.
This table describes the potential consequences of making a report.
|Confidentiality||The identity of a reporter must remain confidential unless:
· the reporter chooses to inform the child, young person or parent of the report
· the reporter consents in writing to their identity being disclosed
· a court or tribunal decides that it is necessary for the identity of the reporter to be disclosed, to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the child
· a court or tribunal decides that, in the interests of justice, the reporter is required to provide evidence.
|Professional protection||If a report is made in good faith:
· it does not constitute unprofessional conduct or a breach of professional ethics on the part of the reporter
· the reporter cannot be held legally liable in respect of the report.
|Interviews||DHHS Child Protection and/or Victoria Police may conduct interviews of children and young people at the school without their parent’s knowledge or consent.
· Interviewing children and young people at Kamaruka should only occur in exceptional circumstances and if it is in the best interests of the child to proceed in this manner.
· DHHS Child Protection and/or Victoria Police will notify the Principal or a member of the Leadership Team of their intention to interview the child or young person on the school premises.
· When DHHS Child Protection workers/police officers come to Kamaruka premises, the Principal or a member of the Leadership Team should request to see identification before permitting them to have access to the child or young person.
· When a child or young person is being interviewed by DHHS Child Protection and/or Victoria Police, Kamaruka staff must arrange to have a supportive adult present with the child or young person.
|Support for the child or young person||The roles and responsibilities of the Principal or other school staff in supporting children who are involved with DHHS Child Protection may include the following:
· acting as a support person for the child or young person
· attending DHHS Child Protection case-planning meetings
· observing and monitoring the child’s behaviour
· liaising with professionals.
|Requests for information||DHHS Child Protection and/or Child FIRST/The Orange Door and/or Victoria Police may request information about the child or family for the purpose of investigating a report and assessing the risk to the child or young person.
In certain circumstances, DHHS Child Protection can also direct Kamaruka staff to provide information or documents about the protection or development of the child. Such directions should be in writing and only be made by authorised persons within DHHS Child Protection. Refer to PROTECT: Identifying and Responding to All Forms of Abuse in Victorian Schools.
|Witness summons||If DHHS Child Protection makes a protection application in the Children’s Court of Victoria, any party to the application may issue a witness summons to produce documents and/or to give evidence in the proceedings.|
Additional School Support
In addition to creating a safe classroom environment, staff can support an abused child in the following ways:
Expectations: Recognise the strength and courage of the child by continuing to have high expectations. Set reasonable goals and provide the encouragement needed for the child to feel confident in his or her abilities. School can be a place where children rebuild their self-esteem, assert themselves, and see themselves as successful.
Structure: The child may feel powerless to control much in their environment. In order to cope, they may refuse to involve themselves in, or seem to care about, what is happening around them. They may strive to manipulate by dominating peers or controlling games. They may express disproportionate feelings whenever they feel threatened. Allowing expression of feelings when appropriate through art, music, drama, and/or creative writing may help the child to deal with pentup emotion.
Identity: Being abused in ways that completely deny their own rights may result in children having little sense of personal identity or self-worth. Staff can help by pointing out the child's strengths and giving gentle encouragement and are in a position to help children learn that they are valued, accepted and capable by fostering an environment that recognises each child's uniqueness. Valuing differences will enable children to begin to see themselves as having something to contribute that others appreciate. With each successful completion of a classroom task or activity, the child's sense of competency can be fostered.
Sense of belonging: Children who have been abused may think that they did something wrong and that they are bad. Because they have kept a secret from everyone, they may assume there is a reason for them to be isolated from others. To facilitate a sense of belonging, staff may provide designated places for possessions, display work in the classroom, and check to ensure that they are included as much as possible in classroom and playground activities. Support through teaching social skills individually, in small group settings, and through cooperative learning may also help abused children gain practice in interacting positively with others in a safe environment.
Social skills: One of the impacts of abuse may be a focus on pleasing and meeting the wishes of others while neglecting their own needs. Having been introduced to the adult world through an abusive relationship, children may have learned very inappropriate behaviours and language. They may feel unworthy to interact on an equal basis with others and fear rejection. A classroom climate that fosters caring, appreciation for differences, consistent rules and boundaries, and recognition for small successes will help to nurture a child whose needs have not been recognised or met at home. Tolerance of difference: Each child will respond in a unique way to abuse and therefore classroom behaviour will be variable. Some of the feelings an abused child may experience are anxiety, guilt, embarrassment, depression and anger. Understanding this will help to identify the emotions and behaviours that might result from the abuse. Consultation with a psychologist or therapist may assist staff in dealing with a child’s problematic behaviours and emotional outbursts in the classroom.
Predictability: Staff can significantly support a child's need for structure by maintaining a consistent daily schedule, by having clear behavioural and learning expectations, and by allowing the child to learn and follow classroom rules and routines at his/her own pace.
Responding to complaints or concerns
Kamaruka may receive complaints or concerns about Kamaruka staff management of a child protection incident. These complaints or concerns may be voiced by parents/carers or others within the school community.
Kamaruka should follow its internal complaints-handling procedure and process to ensure that all complaints, concerns or feedback on school policies, procedures or processes are effectively captured and appropriately managed.
It is important that, as a first step, Kamaruka ensures that the complaint does not raise concerns that child abuse or a risk of child abuse has gone unreported.
If this is the case, Kamaruka staff should follow Four Critical Actions for Schools: Responding to Incidents, Disclosures and Suspicions of Child Abuse to ensure that any new information received through a complaint or concern from a member of the school community is reported to authorities where required.
Our Child Safety Officers
Kamaruka has appointed Emma Tyler and Krystle Westhorpe as the Kamaruka Child Safety Officers. The Child Safety Officers have an important role in the promotion and maintenance of our Child Safety culture at Kamaruka. The Child Safety Offers are identified in our publically available policy as a contact for the wider community when they have child safety concerns relating to Kamaruka. The Child Safety Officers are contactable by phone 03 9826 0330 or by emailing email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
This policy will be reviewed as per our three-year review cycle or more often if necessary due to changes in regulations or circumstances.
|Approval date:||Approved by:||Next review:|
|Feb 2023||School Board||Feb 2026|