From the Children’s Commissioner: The board’s role in creating a child safe culture

Wednesday, 06 December 2017

Megan Mitchell photo
Megan Mitchell
National Children’s Commissioner

    National Children’s Commissioner Megan Mitchell discusses the development of the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations and shares her reflections on what boards and directors can do to ensure their organisations are safe places for children.

    Board members and directors have an important role to play in fostering a culture of child safety and wellbeing in organisations. An actual and perceived culture that proactively promotes child safety serves to both protect children from harm, and enhance the standing of an organisation among clients and the community.

    The governance and leadership of an organisation is critical to embedding attitudes and behaviours at all levels that reflect a genuine commitment to child safety and wellbeing. For example, modelling behaviours such as routinely engaging children and young people in the development and review of child safety plans sends out an important message to people working in the organisation.

    Likewise, board members and directors should regularly prioritise discussion of child safety issues at meetings, and ensure they are considered in the development of risk registers and in audit activity. They should also be confident that child safety and wellbeing policies are accessible, widely available, understood and implemented by all members of the organisation.

    All people in organisations working with children should be aware of children’s basic rights, their developmental needs, and how to recognise and respond to child harm, including at the Board level.

    National Principles for Child Safe Organisations

    As National Children’s Commissioner, I am leading the development of National Principles for Child Safe Organisations (the National Principles) to provide guidance on and build understanding of how to create and maintain organisations that ensure children’s safety and wellbeing.

    Since its establishment in 2013, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (the Royal Commission) has drawn Australia’s attention to systematically address child safety within organisations. In undertaking its reference, the Royal Commission has produced a significant body of information about how to keep children safe from abuse in institutions. Although its terms of reference focussed on institutional child sexual abuse, its work on child safe organisations is likely to improve prevention and responses to all forms of child abuse and harm.

    The National Principles are being developed through a project commissioned by the Commonwealth Government in order to guide organisations in their journey to ensure child safety and wellbeing. I am currently consulting with organisations from key sectors to gain advice on the draft National Principles, implementation strategies and needs.

    The draft document contains 10 principles which collectively show that a child safe organisation consciously and systematically:

    • Creates an environment where children’s safety and wellbeing is the centre of thought, values and actions;
    • Places emphasis on genuine engagement and valuing of children;
    • Creates conditions that reduce the likelihood of harm to children and young people;
    • Creates conditions that increase the likelihood of identifying any harm; and
    • Responds to any concerns, disclosures, allegations or suspicions of harm.

    The principles are accompanied by examples of actions and indicators. These will differ according to the nature, size and complexity of an organisation.

    You can contribute to the development of the National Principles by providing feedback on the following questions:

    1. How could you use these Principles to support your organisation/group to be child safe?
    2. Are there aspects that you think would be difficult to implement?
    3. What tools and resources are currently available to you to create a child safe culture in your organisation/group?
    4. Are there any tools or resources that you think could help implement the Principles?
    5. Do you have any other feedback?

    You can read the draft National Principles and more about the project at

    To provide your input please contact Lucas Ryan GAICD, Senior Policy Adviser, at the AICD on 02 8248 6671 or

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