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Child Safe Code of Conduct

Purpose

The Victorian Government introduced the Child Safe Standards (the standards), which are compulsory minimum standards for organisations that provide services for children (or are used by children) to help protect them from harm. The Standards require organisations that provide services for children to have a Code of Conduct that establishes clear expectations for appropriate behaviour with children. 

The Department of Justice and Regulation’s (the department) Child Safe Code of Conduct outlines the child safe principles and minimum expectations for appropriate behaviour that all employees, consultants, contractors or volunteers (staff) engaged by the department must observe when in the company of children.

Scope

The department’s Child Safe Code of Conduct applies to all staff of the department. It applies to a broad range of situations where interaction with children may occur. For example, the Child Safe Code of Conduct will apply when staff come into contact with children as part of their duties:

  • in the youth justice system
  • in the adult corrections systems through their parents or guardians
  • who appear in court as a child witness
  • through incidental contact (e.g. via home visits, children visiting Justice Service Centres)
  • through services provided by funded agencies.

It is important that all staff are aware of the department’s obligations under the department’s Reportable Conduct Scheme Policy, whereby allegations of employee misconduct involving children can be made against an employee even if the conduct occurred outside of their work.

Statement of commitment

The department:

  • is committed to child safety and children’s best interests
  • has zero tolerance for child abuse and will take all allegations of reportable conduct and safety concerns very seriously, ensuring such conduct is dealt with in accordance with departmental policies and procedures
  • will uphold the right of all children who come into contact with the department to feel safe and protected
  • is committed to preventing child abuse and identifying risk early, and removing and reducing these risks
  • will actively work to listen to and empower children who come into contact with the department
  • has legal and moral obligations to contact authorities when there are concerns about a child’s safety, which will be followed rigorously
  • has robust human resources and recruitment practices for all staff and volunteers
  • is committed to providing training and educating staff and volunteers on child abuse risks
  • is committed to promoting cultural safety for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, cultural safety for children from culturally and/or linguistically diverse backgrounds, and to providing a safe environment for children with a disability
  • considers the needs of same sex attracted and intersex children and young people, and recognises gender diversity in providing a safe environment.

This department requires all staff to uphold these commitments. The department has specific policies, procedures and training in place to achieve these commitments.

Statement of code of conduct

The Child Safe Standards require organisations that provide services for children to have a Code of Conduct that establishes clear expectations for appropriate behaviour with children.

All staff of the department are required to observe the below child safe principles and expectations for appropriate behaviour towards and in the company of children.

The following Code of Conduct outlines appropriate standards of behaviour by staff towards children. It aims to protect children and reduce opportunities for abuse or harm to occur. It also helps staff (including volunteers and contractors) by providing them with guidance on how to best support children and how to avoid or better manage difficult situations.

Everyone in the department has a role to play – the Secretary, executive, leadership group, staff, volunteers, students and contractors – they need to understand their roles and be supported to take action.

Child Safe Code of Conduct standards and obligations

All staff (including employees, consultants, contractors or volunteers) of the department are responsible for supporting the safety, participation, wellbeing and empowerment of children they come into contact with and must:

  • adhere to the department’s Child Safe Policy at all times and abide by the department’s commitment and obligation to creating a child safe organisation
  • treat children with respect, including valuing ideas and opinions
  • take all reasonable steps to protect children from abuse by being vigilant to signs of abuse
  • provide a welcoming, inclusive and safe environment for all children and young people
  • promote the cultural safety, participation and empowerment of all children
  • work with children in an open and transparent way. For example, by ensuring that where appropriate, interactions with children can be observed by other adults
  • disclose any information of charges, convictions of abuse and all other offence history in accordance with the department’s Criminal Record Check policy
  • challenge unacceptable behaviour and report all allegations or suspicions of abuse to the Child Safety Officer
  • respect the privacy of children and their families and only disclose information to people on a need to know basis and in accordance with privacy legislation
  • encourage children to ‘have a say’ and participate in all relevant organisational activities where possible, especially on issues that are important to them.

Staff (including employees, consultants, contractors or volunteers) of the department must not:

  • develop inappropriate relationships with children or young people
  • display violence behaviour towards a child
  • ignore or disregard any concerns, suspicions or disclosures of child abuse
  • initiate unnecessary physical contact with children or exhibit behaviours with children which may be construed as inappropriate
  • put children at risk of abuse (for example, by allowing unnecessary one-adult/one-child encounters to occur)
  • conduct a sexual relationship with a child or young person or indulge in any form of sexual contact with a child or young person
  • engage in open discussions of a mature nature in the presence of children
  • use inappropriate, offensive, harassing, abusive, sexually provocative, demeaning, culturally inappropriate or discriminatory language when speaking with, or in the presence of, a child or young person
  • discriminate against any child, including because of age, gender, race, culture, vulnerability, sexuality, ethnicity or disability
  • use any computer, mobile phone, or video and digital camera to exploit or harass children or expose children to offensive or sexualised content
  • exchange personal contact details with a child such as phone number, social networking sites or email address, unless necessary
  • have contact with a child client or their family outside of the department, unless necessary (such as providing details to client’s family regarding treatment).

All staff are obliged to report any breaches of this Code of Conduct to the Child Safety Officer or appropriate person. In instances where a reportable allegation has been made, the matter will be managed in accordance with the department’s Reportable Conduct Policy and may be subject to referral to Victoria Police.

All staff of the department who breach this Code of Conduct may be subject to disciplinary procedures in accordance with the relevant industrial instrument and/or relevant terms of engagement.

Definitions

Child Safe Standards as made under section 17(1) of the Child Wellbeing and Safety Act 2005.

Child Abuse means any act committed against a child involving a sexual offence or an offence under section 49B(2) of the Crimes Act 1958 or the infliction on a child of physical violence, serious emotional or psychological harm, or the serious neglect of a child.

Child means a child or young person under the age of 18 years.

Related policy and other documents

  • Code of Conduct for Victorian Public Sector Employees 2015
  • Public Administration Act 2004
  • Victorian Public Service Enterprise Agreement 2016
  • Privacy and Data Protection Act 2014
  • Working with Children Act 2005
  • Recruitment and Selection Guideline and Related Policy
  • Department of Justice and Regulations Child Safe Policy
  • Department of Justice and Regulation Reportable Conduct Scheme Policy
  • Department of Justice and Regulation Misconduct Policy
  • Criminal Record Check Guideline and Related Policy Criminal Record Check Policy
  • Child Wellbeing and Safety Act 2005
  • Children Legislation Amendment (Reportable Conduct) Act 2016

Approval

This Child Safe Code of Conduct is issued under the authority of the Secretary pursuant to the Child Wellbeing and Safety Act 2005.

 The contents of this document represent the current Child Safe Code of Conduct of the department and reflect its current practices and experience.

This Code of Conduct is subject to biennial review and will be altered (and the alterations communicated to users) as, and when, appropriate in order to ensure that it remains current.

Changes to this Code of Conduct can be requested by a business unit by presenting a suitable case to the Executive Director, People and Culture.

Contacts

The following people may be contacted in relation to the matters arising under this policy:

Department of Justice and Regulation

Child Safety Officer, email: childsafe@justice.vic.gov.au

Commissioner for Children and Young People

Commissioner for Children and Young People's website (external link)

Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander flags

The department acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the Traditional Custodians of the land and acknowledges and pays respect to their Elders, past and present.