Obligations to protect children

Protecting the safety and wellbeing of children and young people

Approved/licensed early childhood services play an important role in the prevention of child abuse and neglect through their access to information about family functioning and the needs of children. There are requirements to protect children under the Education and Care Services National Law Act 2010 (National Law) Education and Care Services National Regulations 2011 (National Regulations).

​National Law

A key requirement of the National Law is to ensure the safety, health and wellbeing of children attending education and care services (section 51). Every reasonable precaution must be taken to protect children being educated and cared for by the service from harm and from any hazard likely to cause injury (section 167).

​National Regulations

The approved provider of an education and care service must ensure that the nominated supervisors and staff members at the service who work with children are advised of:

  • ​​the existence and application of the current child protection law
  • any obligations that they may have under that law (regulation 84).

​National Quality Standard

Management, educators and staff are aware of their roles and responsibilities to identify and respond to every child at risk of abuse or neglect (element 2.2.3). At all times, reasonable precautions and adequate supervision ensure children are protected from harm and hazard (element 2.2.1).

​For services operating under the Children’s Services Act 1996

The children’s service is operated in a way that ensures the safety of the children being cared for or educated and supports the health and wellbeing of those children (section25E). The proprietor of a children’s service must ensure that every reasonable precaution is taken to protect children being cared for or educated by the service from harm and from any hazard likely to cause injury (section 26).

​Early Childhood Guidance: PROTECT

The PROTECT guidance has been developed to support staff and educators in Victorian early childhood services to take action if they suspect or are witness to any form of child abuse. This includes all persons working within approved and licensed services including in Outside School Hours Care (OSHC). 

As a person working within an early childhood service, you play a vital role in protecting children from abuse by responding to and reporting any incidents, disclosures or suspicions. You are often best placed to identify signs and behaviours that may indicate that a child* has been subject to abuse, or that a community member, staff member, contractor or volunteer may be a perpetrator of abuse.

It is the responsibility of all services and persons working in those services to understand their obligations and responsibilities regarding children at risk of abuse or neglect. Victorian early childhood education and care services have a statutory duty of care to take reasonable steps to minimise the risk of child abuse perpetuated by organisational representatives.

The principles and content of the Step-by-step guide to making a report to Child Protection or Child FIRST (docx - 305.8kb) apply. 

For further information contact Child FIRST referrals and contacts - Department of Health and Human Services

Online training package

The Protecting Children - Mandatory Reporting and other Obligations for the Early Childhood Sector module provides staff members of early childhood services with information about their obligations and the processes for reporting. The module provides information regarding the roles and responsibilities for protecting children and provides specific advice on how to identify, respond to and report concerns regarding the safety, health and wellbeing of children. It also provides advice regarding the new criminal offences that have been introduced to protect children.

​Reporting suspected sexual offences to Victoria Police

Three new criminal offences have been introduced to improve responses within organisations and the community to child sexual abuse.

Failure to disclose

Additional to DHHS Child Protection mandatory reporting obligations, any adult who forms a reasonable belief that a sexual offence has been committed against a child under 16 by an adult must report that information to police - failure to do so is a criminal offence. In limited circumstances failure to report is not an offence, for example if the information has been reported to DHS Child Protection.

For more information see: Department of Justice and Regulation - Failure to disclose fact sheet

Failure to protect

This requires people in a position of authority within organisations to take action to protect children as soon as they become aware that a person associated with their organisation poses a substantial risk of sexually abusing children.

Failure to do so is a criminal offence.

For more information see: Department of Justice and Regulation – Failure to protect fact sheet

Grooming offence

Many perpetrators of sexual offences against children purposely create relationships with victims, their families or carers in order to create a situation where abuse could occur. This offence targets communication, including online communication, with a child or their parents with the intent of committing child sexual abuse.

For more information see: Department of Justice and Regulation – Grooming offence fact sheet

Resources

'Wise Up' to child sexual abuse is a booklet that helps you learn about child sexual abuse; how to identify signs and indicators of abuse, how to talk to children if they disclose, how to recognise the strategies of offenders and importantly how to report your concerns.

The booklet has been developed by Child Wise, a child protection charity working in Australia, Asia and the Pacific to prevent child abuse.

To access the booklet, see: Child Wise - Online Publications

Child protection contacts - Department of Health and Human Services

Supporting organisations

The Centre Against Sexual Assault

There are 15 Centres Against Sexual Assault, who work to ensure that women, children and men who are victim/survivors of sexual offending have access to comprehensive and timely support and intervention to address their needs.

Gatehouse Centre, Royal Children's Hospital

Provides support and assistance to children and young people affected by sexual offending or problem sexual behaviours

Children's Protection Society

Provide advice and support to children and families to help them break out of the cycle of abuse, neglect, poverty and disadvantage through a creative portfolio of programs, resources and services.

Australian Childhood Foundation

Provide recognised programs that counsel and support children to recovery; help professionals who work with children to better support at risk children; raise awareness of the causes and consequences of abuse.

Victorian Aboriginal Education Association Inc.

Victorian Aboriginal Education Association Inc (VAEAI) provides an advocate role for the Victorian Koorie community