This corporate policy is issued under the authority of the Commissioner and should be read together with the ACNC Policy Framework, which sets out the scope, context and definitions common to our policies.

Context statement

This policy sets out how the ACNC will meet its obligations regarding the safety and wellbeing of children and young people, the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations, and the Commonwealth Child Safe Framework.

This policy applies to all staff and contractors within the ACNC and the Commissioner when they are performing their ACNC functions and duties.

ACNC staff are not generally expected to have contact with children in the course of their duties. From time to time, allegations of child abuse may form part of a complaint we receive about a charity, and ACNC staff may come into contact with children when visiting charities, dealing with the public, or performing other official duties.

Many of the charities we regulate have extensive involvement with children. They must abide by relevant laws and should take steps to protect the safety and interests of children.

The National Child Safe Principles

The National Child Safe Principles are an outcome of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and provides a consistent approach to creating a child-safe organisational culture. The National Child Safe Principles may be relevant to any charity that interacts with children. The following Principles are relevant to the work of the ACNC:

National Child Safe Principle Our commitment
Principle 2 - Children and young people are informed about their rights, participate in decisions affecting them and are taken seriously. We will take all complaints or questions we receive from children seriously and will respond in a way that is appropriate to the child’s age.
Principle 4 - Equity is upheld, and diverse needs respected in policy and practice. When we interact with charities that deal with children, and when we make decisions about charities that deal with children, we will respect the diversity that exists in the community. We will be mindful that different children have different cultural and physical needs.
Principle 6 - Processes to respond to complaints and concerns are child-focused. When we investigate complaints that include allegations of an unsafe environment for children, the interests of the children will influence our approach and our response.

Principles

  • Principle 1: We recognise that all adults have a shared responsibility to prevent child abuse, and we will encourage charities that work with children to have robust policies and safeguards to protect the interests of children.
  • Principle 2: ACNC staff must report any reasonable suspicions of child abuse immediately.
  • Principle 3: We will take a risk-based approach to managing child protection in our activities and will mitigate risks to children that might arise in the course of our activities.
  • Principle 4: We will create and retain full and accurate records relevant to child safety and wellbeing.

Principle 1

We recognise that all adults have a shared responsibility to prevent child abuse, and we will encourage charities that work with children to have robust policies and safeguards to protect the interests of children.

  1. Australia is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. We are committed to upholding the rights of the child and Australia’s obligations under this convention. The best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration across our functions and activities. Each state and territory has laws that safeguard the interests of children and set expectations and obligations for organisations with respect to child safety. These laws are listed at Appendix A.
  2. Many charities work directly with children, including abused, vulnerable, and at-risk children. While the safety of these children is paramount, we note that any abuse that occurs within a registered charity may unfairly damage the reputation of the wider sector.
  3. When appropriate, we will use our education and compliance functions to encourage or require registered charities to develop policies and procedures that align with the National Child Safe Principles and relevant state and territory laws.

Principle 2

ACNC staff must report any reasonable suspicions of child abuse immediately.

  1. Different laws apply in each state and territory. In most jurisdictions, it is unlikely that an ACNC staff member must, by law, report suspicions of child abuse. The threshold at which a concern must be reported also varies across jurisdictions. The different thresholds typically involve a similar form of words, such as ‘reasonable suspicion’ or ‘belief on reasonable grounds’.
  2. However, any person can report a suspicion voluntarily, and a person who makes a report is generally not liable in any civil, criminal, or administrative proceedings if the report is made in good faith.
  3. If, in the course of their duties, an ACNC staff member reasonably suspects that child abuse may have occurred, be occurring, or is likely to occur, we will report that suspicion to state or territory police or the relevant state child protection authority. Child abuse includes sexual abuse, physical abuse, psychological or emotional abuse, and neglect.
  4. Staff members do not need to be certain that there is a risk of abuse, or think that abuse is more likely than not. They should inform the Director of Legal by email and ensure their manager or director is copied to any correspondence whenever they reasonably and genuinely think there may be a risk of abuse. The Legal Directorate will assess whether the suspicion meets the threshold of ‘reasonable’ and determine the correct agency in each state or territory to which a referral should be made.
  5. A formal referral will not be made except with the agreement of the Assistant Commissioner General Counsel or the Commissioner.

Principle 3

We will take a risk-based approach to managing child protection in our activities and will mitigate risks to children that might arise in the course of our activities.

  1. Because we do not deliver services that involve children directly, our risk level is low. We will monitor our risk level and will revise our approach if the risks change.
  2. We regulate charities that provide services to children and may receive complaints about child wellbeing or safety within those charities. ACNC staff might have incidental contact with children if, for example, they visit a charity that provides services to children.
  3. When we make decisions and perform our statutory functions, we will be mindful of any consequences our actions may have for children. We will take reasonable and lawful steps to mitigate those risks. For example, when deciding whether to revoke a charity’s registration, we will consider the welfare of the children as beneficiaries of the charity in our decision. When corresponding with charities, or publishing information on the ACNC Charity Register, we will mitigate risks of unintentionally identifying children as victims of abuse.
  4. In undertaking functions and activities as part of their duties, ACNC staff must ask the following questions:
    • Does this activity involve contact with children by the ACNC?
    • Are there any other identifiable child safety risks?

If the answer to either of the questions is yes, the ACNC staff member should undertake a child safety risk assessment for the activity.

  1. ACNC staff undertaking functions or activities that involve children will, as far as practicable, ensure that:
    • contact with children occurs in a visible environment (for example, an open plan office), and
    • children are accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Principle 4

We will create and retain full and accurate records relevant to child safety and wellbeing.

  1. ACNC staff will create accurate records of any incidents, responses and decisions concerning child safety and wellbeing, including when the ACNC is not directly involved (for example, if we receive complaints about abuse occurring within a charity).
  2. All records created by ACNC staff will be clear, objective, thorough and created at, or as close as possible to, the time an incident occurs. They will clearly show the author of the record and the date the record was created.
  3. All records that are relevant to child safety and wellbeing will only be destroyed in accordance with the legal retention requirements contained in records authorities and associated ACNC and National Archives of Australia legislation and policies. Currently:
    • allegations of child abuse made to the ACNC, including the agency’s response and any referrals, must be retained permanently, and
    • documents pertaining to the development of policies and procedures about the management of allegations of child sexual abuse must be retained for 100 years.
  4. Therefore, any document that refers to child abuse should not be destroyed without obtaining advice from Legal and Policy.
  5. These requirements are outlined in:
    • ACNC Records Authority for records related to charities
    • AFDA Express Version 2 - Personnel Management
    • AFDA Express Version 2 - Compensation
    • AFDA Express Version 2 - Legal Services
    • AFDA Express Version 2 - Work Health and Safety
    • General Records Authority 41 Child Sexual Abuse Incidents and Allegations.

Version Control

Version Date of effect Brief summary of change
Version 1 – Initial Policy 19 January 2022 New policy

Appendix A: Relevant State and Territory Legislation

Information about the respective state and territory regimes in this policy has been sourced from the Australian Institute of Family Studies (accessed 29 October 2021).