By CELA on 30 May, 2024

As part of the Child Safe Organisations project, the Australian Government commissioned the Australian Human Rights Commission to develop practical tools and resources to help organisations implement the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations. 

The National Principles aim to provide a nationally consistent approach to creating organisational cultures that foster child safety and well-being across all sectors in Australia. This will help to keep children and young people safe and reduce future harm in organisational settings. 

These are supported in Quality Area 2 in the National Quality Standards (NQS) where children’s safety is promoted by minimising risks and protecting children from physical or psychological harm.  

Each child has a right to be protected in early learning and middle childhood services,” says CELA RTO Manager Aline Majado. “It is the role of approved providers, managers, educators, and staff to identify their roles and professional responsibilities to achieve this outcome. 

As Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) professionals, it is paramount to embed child safety into your organisational leadership, governance, and culture. ECEC leaders and educators play distinct roles in implementing a child-safe culture in their organisations. However, these roles must work in tandem for safety to actually be embedded into the culture. 

Here are some key steps to build a child-safe environment within your service: 

Steps for early childhood education and care leaders

1. Incorporate child safety in your mission and philosophy: 

Ensuring a child-safe culture reflects your organisation's mission statement, values, and the service’s Statement of Philosophy.  

The service philosophy is the overarching document which guides the pedagogical practices of educators and staff. This is visible to the families and community you serve, giving a commitment to child safety throughout the organisation.  

Note: The Australian Human Rights Commission has created a child safety self-assessment tool. This tool can help organisations reflect on their child safe practices and identify priority areas for improvement, in line with the National Principles. The tool gives examples of what some aspects of each principle might look like when implemented in practice and prompts organisations to commit to taking concrete actions to improve their child safe practices.  

Source: https://childsafe.humanrights.gov.au/learning-hub/organisational-self-assessment

2. Develop comprehensive policies and procedures: 

Develop and consistently update and review policies and procedures that emphasise the service’s  commitment to child safety.  

Policies and procedures should be readily available and accessible to families, educators and the community. It is important they are clearly written in an easy to understand format.  When policies are reviewed, it is essential the changes are communicated to all educators, families and children. Policies must be implemented and embedded into the service’s daily practices.   

  • Does your organisation have a Child Safety and Well-being Policy?
  • Do you ensure staff, students and volunteers sign a Child Safe Code of Conduct?

Templates for these items, which you can adapt to your own service, are available here 

Note: serious breaches of child protection legislation often occur when policies and procedures are up-to-date, but team members are unaware of or have not been implementing those changes. 


Tip: Consider how your service embeds the voices of children in its operations, and how your organisation encourages a culture which teaches children that they have a right to feel safe. 

3. Stay informed about legislative requirements and educate on mandatory reporting: 

Ensure staff across all levels know mandatory reporting requirements and understand their role in keeping children safe. Regular training, including refresher courses like our NSW Child Protection Refresher can help maintain this knowledge. 

Remain up-to-date with all legislative and reporting requirements related to child safety. This ensures compliance and demonstrates your organisation’s dedication to protecting children.  

CELA has comprehensive courses that inform the sector of their obligations regarding child protection requirements.  

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The government is currently reviewing the future use of personal digital devices, such as phones, in education and care settings. Be proactive and take steps now to ensure educators can document children’s learning using service-owned devices. 

4. Promote collective responsibility and integrate child safety in meetings: 

Regularly communicate the collective responsibility for child safety within your service and organisation. Make it a regular discussion topic to keep it at the forefront of everyone's mind. 

Include child safety as an agenda item in templates for monthly meetings with committee, staff and educators. This will ensure it is consistently discussed, reviewed, and prioritised. Risks to child safety and wellbeing should be documented, and strategies to manage these risks should be implemented and monitored. 

Remember that all serious incidents must be reported to your regulatory body and your approved provider. 

Child safety principles need to be embedded in your organisation", says CELA Early Education Specialist Jannelle Gallagher. "Through consistent and frequent discussions with educators, a culture of accountability will be established within the service ensuring a child safe environment is developed, nurtured and maintained. 

5. Implement rigorous recruitment and induction and strengthen HR processes: 

Your recruitment strategies, induction and HR processes should communicate what is expected of staff in providing a child-safe environment. This establishes the tone from the beginning of their employment and gives educators clear expectations of their roles and conduct. It also gives leaders important documentation that can be reassessed if any issues of conduct arise.   

Steps for early childhood education and care educators

  1. Understand your role, champion a child-safe culture and stay informed about mandatory reporting.

  2. Lead by example through your attitudes, behaviours, and actions.  

  3. Promote and live the code of conduct, setting the standard of behaviour for your organisation.  

  4. Keep yourself up-to-date with mandatory reporting requirements - understanding these requirements ensures you can act appropriately if concerns arise.  

  5. Recognise your essential role in keeping children safe from abuse in your service. Child safety is everyone’s responsibility, and your active participation is necessary.  

Remember, as an ECEC educator, you are more than a mandatory reporter: you are a child advocate,” says Aline Majado, CELA RTO Manager. “You are in a unique position to strengthen protective factors for children in your community. You may be the one responsible adult that will be vital for preventing a child falling into the threshold of risk of significant harm.

Further reading/resources 

CELA training relating to this topic

Twilight special: NSW Child Safe Standards and Child Protection Overview - For Leaders

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About CELA

Community Early Learning Australia is a not for profit organisation with a focus on amplifying the value of early learning for every child across Australia - representing our members and uniting our sector as a force for quality education and care.

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