Call to raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility

boy leaping in the air

Across Australia a child as young as 10 can be locked up in detention for breaking the law. Time in detention is meant to ‘teach them a lesson’ and to change their criminal behaviours, but all the evidence tells us detention does nothing to deter the child from committing future crimes. In fact, the younger the child is to have contact with youth justice, the higher the chances they have of further offending and starting on the path to a life-long involvement in the criminal justice system.

Last financial year, 51 individual children and young people aged between 10 and 13 were admitted to the Adelaide Youth Training Centre (AYTC). They were admitted a total of 131 times, meaning that on average, each was detained at the centre more than twice. It is important to note most children held in the AYTC have not even been convicted of committing a crime.

This raises a significant concern that these young children are not getting the right support they need to address their offending behaviours, both in detention and out in the community. Studies show that to help rehabilitate these young children they need access to family, culture, education, support for individual disabilities, and opportunities to promote healing from past trauma that many of this cohort have experienced.

There is a growing momentum in Australia to raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility to at least 14. This is supported by the Australian and New Zealand Children’s Commissioners and Guardians and backed up by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child who late last year called for Australia to raise the minimum age. The just released documentary, In My Blood It Runs, is also calling for change.

The Council of Attorneys General has set up a working group looking into the age of criminal responsibility. Last month our office provided feedback into the review, urging the working group to raise the minimum age to 14 as we believe the current practices do not provide the best outcomes for these vulnerable and disadvantaged young children.

Outlined in our submission we stated that the number of children detained disproportionately affects Aboriginal children (for example, in SA during 2017-18, there were 37 Aboriginal 10-13 year olds detained compared to 17 non-Aboriginal 10-13 year olds).

Children with a disability and those in care also made up a disproportionate number of children detained. We know that in 2017-18, almost a quarter of those detained in the AYTC were in care at the time of their admission. What we don’t know is how many of those young people come from a residential or commercial care environment – this is something we will address in our next dual status paper (to be out in the coming months).

In the meantime, we are urging change to protect the rights of these vulnerable young children and to prevent them from entering the youth justice system in the first place.

You can read our full submission to the working group.

Getting to know: our Guardian/Training Centre Visitor

Tell us about your role as the Guardian for Children and Young People and Training Centre Visitor.

These two roles are separate but related.

As the Guardian, I advocate for and promote the rights and best interests of the children and young people who are under the guardianship of the Chief Executive of the Department for Child Protection. In other words, ‘kids in care’. Although it is confusing, it’s important to note that my role does not mean that I am the legal guardian for children in care but I’m essentially here to ‘champion’ their rights.

As the Training Centre Visitor, I have a similar role for children and young people who have been sentenced or remanded to detention in the Adelaide Youth Training Centre. It is my job, with the help of my team, to promote and protect their interests and rights while they are detained.

I have various functions, in both roles, that relate to the safety and wellbeing of children and young people in care and detention. My jobs include monitoring their circumstances and providing advice to the relevant Minister.

As the Guardian and Training Centre Visitor, what are the benefits and challenges of carrying out both roles?

There is a real benefit to holding both roles at once. It means that I can get a broader perspective and unique insight into what life is like for children and young people in care and in detention. And, in fact, some of these kids fall into both categories. On average, about a fifth to a quarter of those who are detained in the training centre come from a care background.

Understanding this cohort of young people who are caught up in both systems, and the circumstances that lead to that ‘dual involvement’, helps me to identify the issues that my office and I really need to focus on if we are going to help them.

The main challenge of holding these two roles at once is that there are not enough hours in the day to do the work involved. My core business is to ensure children and young people, in care and detention, know about their rights and that their rights are upheld by the people and systems who work with them. That is a big ask and a big responsibility.

How do you assess when you should get involved with an advocacy matter, personally?

My office’s advocates do an outstanding job of working with children and young people on a daily basis. They are highly skilled in working with kids, and they do the lion’s share of advocacy, often achieving good results for the young people they assist, and also affirming their voice and their value in the process.

But when there are situations of serious concern that can’t be resolved, I will take on the matter and work with the Chief Executive of DCP or the Minister in question to raise their awareness and offer recommendations to help to resolve the matter.

Can a child and young person call to talk to you?

I love meeting and speaking to kids. But, because of the other work I have to do, the first point of call for a child and young person seeking advocacy from our office is to speak with our Assessment and Referral Officers (ARO). If the ARO identifies that my office has a role to play, they will put the child or young person in touch with the advocates. I work alongside our advocates and have input into complex or systemic issues, including consulting with children or young people and listening to what they have to say.

What is an average day like for you?

Like most office jobs, my day features many meetings and (too) much ‘screen’ time!  Luckily I have a standing desk so it’s not too unhealthy.

I usually catch the train to work and always start my day with a skinny flat white coffee to charge my batteries. First up, I attend to my emails then meet with my staff, read documents that inform me about the issues affecting the children and young people we work with, manage timesheets and leave approvals, consider the law and policy and check and write documents, letters and articles.

Most days I meet with other people who work in DCP, Youth Justice, the Ministers responsible for the roles I hold or people in other organisations. A highlight for me is when I can get out my office and visit the young people in the Adelaide Youth Training Centre or a residential care unit or meet with children and young people to hear their ideas. This helps keep my work ‘real’; I always learn a lot when I do and remember what we are working for in my office.

Sometimes I spend some time speaking to journalists as I think the community has a right to know about the work I do. Often my office is asked for views on a range of inquiries, investigations, forums and projects that affect children and young people.

On a good day my team and I will be able to celebrate a really positive outcome for a child or young person we’ve been helping, or a policy change or an improvement that will help more than one. On a bad day, we will feel frustrated or disappointed that we have not achieved as much as we want. But that just makes us more determined to keep going. An average day for me is pretty long – but never boring!

Natural advocacy – how you can empower a young person

Children and young people in care have not always had the time and support they need to develop the knowledge, skills or confidence to express their views and advocate for themselves. Navigating the child protection system can be a difficult task even for the most seasoned professionals – and much more so for the children and young people who are caught up in it.

The right to an advocate

One of the rights outlined in the Charter of Rights for Children and Young People in Care is that children and young people have the right to speak to someone who can act on their behalf when they cannot do this.

The number of children and young people in care who may need advocacy support far outweighs the resources of the Guardian for Children and Young People. For this reason, children and young people in care need the adults in their existing network (both personal and professional) to advocate for them. Such adults can, and should, act to ensure that the voice and interests of each child and young person in care are represented.

We call this ‘natural advocacy’.

Natural advocacy supports the voice and rights of the child. As well as having their voice heard and their rights addressed, being involved with the advocacy process can allow young people to learn valuable lessons; that they have rights, including the right to be heard, that rights can be negotiated to achieve better outcomes, and the value of persistence.

As a ‘natural advocate’, you can work with a child or young person to help ensure:

  • they have a place to live where they are safe, cared for and respected
  • their views and wishes are asked for, and considered, in planning such as at care team meetings, case conferences or annual reviews
  • they are given the opportunity to participate in decisions that are made about matters such as school changes, placement moves, or family contact
  • they have access to services such as health, housing, mentors, cultural support, recreation and education
  • their interests, aspirations, achievements and strengths are recognised and supported by the adults around them
  • they know about the Charter of Rights for Children and Young People in Care
  • they know how to access a complaints or review process if things aren’t going well for them, or if they disagree with a decision that has been made about their care.

Your advocacy might involve contacting services and decision-makers directly, or supporting the child or young person to do this themselves.

Challenges in advocacy

One of the most significant challenges a natural advocate may face is that advocacy can sometimes be misread by other care team members, colleagues and/or management as disruptive or obstructive to the work of the care team. Natural advocates may also fear that they will not be as powerful as an external, professional, or more senior voice, and so they may not feel empowered to pursue an issue on the child or young person’s behalf.

This is where the Charter can be helpful. The Charter, which has been widely adopted and endorsed by 88 organisations to date, frames the work of an advocate positively, as a legitimate action that focuses attention on the child or young person’s voice and rights. Grounding your advocacy in the Charter can prompt discussion and reflection, which can in turn promote child-focussed decision-making.

There are a few things to remember if you are going to act as a natural advocate for a child or young person:

  • Wherever possible, it is important to seek the child or young person’s consent to act on their behalf (if they have not asked you to do so).
  • Wherever possible, it is important to seek the child or young person’s voice on matters related to their care, so that this can form the basis of your advocacy.
  • Consider, at the outset, whether it is safe for you to advocate for what the child or young person wants (their safety is paramount).
  • Involve the child or young person in the process as much as possible (depending on their age and developmental capacity), or in accordance with their wishes.
  • Role-model positive communication and team work throughout the process.
  • Be careful not to make promises about the outcome or what you can achieve, but reassure the child or young person that you will do your best to help them have a voice in the process.
  • Be mindful of keeping your own views, complaints or frustrations separate from the child or young person’s voice and needs.

If your advocacy is not successful, be honest with the child or young person about the process and outcome. Support the child or young person to reflect on what they might have learned or achieved through the process, and congratulate them for their bravery, confidence and persistence. In some situations, it might be appropriate to explore whether a compromise can be negotiated, and in other situations, it might be appropriate to pursue a formal complaints or review process.

What next?

If you, or the child or young person, continue to hold significant concerns after you have attempted natural advocacy, you can contact us for advice about other options and/or an assessment of whether advocacy is required from our office.

You can phone us on 8226 8570 (adults) or 1800 275 664 (free call for children and young people only).

Remembering the promise to our children

picture of Penny Wright

By Guardian Penny Wright

30 years ago, world leaders made a promise to all children. It was a promise that stated that children around the world will not be discriminated against, the decisions that affect them will be in their best interests and they will be provided with opportunities to develop and reach their full potential.

This promise is known as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).

For the first time, the UNCRC set out 54 rights for all children, and described how adults and governments should work together to ensure these rights are made available to them. This commitment from world leaders changed the way children were viewed and treated. It gave young people a voice and established that they have basic fundamental rights to survival, development, safety, education, to know or have a relationship with their parents and to express their opinion and be listened to.

This is the most widely ratified international human rights treaty in history. Since it was adopted in 1989, 195 countries have signed up. Only two are yet to ratify: South Sudan and the United States.

Since then, the South Australian parliament has established additional rights for children and young people who are in care, away from their parents, and in detention, locked up in the Adelaide Youth Training Centre. These are the children and young people who fall under my mandate as Guardian and Training Centre Visitor.

Unable to be with their parents, these South Australian citizens have special rights above and beyond the rights outlined in the UNCRC. But thirty years on, what does this all mean for them?

Today, in South Australia we are seriously failing many of the children and young people who need our help the most. The world made a promise but 30 years later children continue to be separated from their family and culture, their identity fractured, moved from placement to placement with little say over the conditions of their lives and excluded from school or locked up from as young as ten for behaviour that is a symptom of their own trauma, neglect, abuse and loss.  Many of these young people have undiagnosed disabilities or trauma-related conditions which go untreated. More than a quarter become entrapped in both the child protection and the youth justice system.

Last month, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child called for Australia to raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility.

The Committee critiqued Australia’s child protection systems and its excessive reliance on police and the youth justice system when dealing with children’s behavioural problems, rather than providing the appropriate therapeutic services or intervention. It also highlighted that Aboriginal children and young people continue to be over-represented in both the child protection and youth justice systems.

In September of this year, a 12-year-old Arrernte/Garrwa boy, Dujuan, travelled to Geneva and became one of the youngest people ever to give a speech to the Human Rights Council of the United Nations. The young star of an acclaimed documentary, In My Blood It Runs, he shared his experiences about the youth justice system and his alienation from school to build support for Aboriginal-led education models that would help prevent youth offending and support their crucial connection to culture and language.

Dujuan’s speech gave voice to the young Aboriginal people who are at risk or have already entered the youth justice system. It highlighted that somewhere along the way we have forgotten the promise we made to our children that we would protect them and put their best interests at the forefront of everything we do.

As we mark the 30th anniversary of the UNCRC, I call on the government to remember the promise we made 30 years ago and raise the minimum age of criminal responsibility to 14 years of age so we stop ‘punishing’ young children when their troubled behaviour clearly tells us what they need most is support, nurture and care.

Getting to know: our Assessment and Referral Officers


Assessment and Referral Officers Courtney Mostert and Sonia Regan

Have you ever wanted to know what happens when a child or young person in care (or an adult from their lives) calls the Guardian for Children and Young People’s office with concerns about the child or young person’s rights and best interests? We sat down with our Assessment and Referral Officers Courtney Mostert and Sonia Regan to find out.

What is an Assessment and Referral Officer?

An Assessment and Referral Officer (ARO) is responsible for assessing all initial enquiries, including gathering information and determining if there is a role for the Guardian for Children and Young People’s (GCYP) Advocates.

What happens when a child or young person calls the GCYP?

When a child or young person first calls the GCYP they will be directed to us. We will gather information including their name and place of residence, their contact information, and the key issues they are concerned about.

We will attempt to determine if the young person is safe and if the Department for Child Protection (DCP) knows where they are. If the child or young person has a current Missing Person Report (MPR), the ARO has a duty of care to let DCP know of their contact with the child or young person. The ARO is also required to report any reasonable suspicion that a child is being abused or neglected to the Child Abuse Report Line (CARL).

Once the information has been gathered from the young person, the ARO, in consultation with the Principal Advocate and the Advocacy Team, will determine whether there is a role for GCYP.

Can an adult call on behalf of a child or young person?

An adult (e.g. carers, teachers, birth parents) who may be concerned about the rights and best interests of children and young people in care can call us. We will explain the role of the GCYP and highlight the office’s focus on the voice and rights of children and young people in care.  We may encourage the adult to support the child or young person to contact GCYP directly, if they are able to.

We will seek information about the child or young person and the adult’s relationship to the young person to determine if the query is ‘in mandate’ and how best to help the individual young person.

What happens if the query/request falls outside the mandate?

GCYP’s role is restricted to advocating for and promoting the rights and best interests of the children and young people who are under the custody or guardianship of the Chief Executive of DCP.

An enquiry is ‘out of mandate’ if it relates to a child or young person who is not under custody or guardianship of the Chief Executive or who is not detained at the Adelaide Youth Training Centre (as mandated under the role of our office’s Training Centre Visitor).

The ARO will redirect these enquiries to an alternative service or process that can better respond to the issue.

How do you assess what role the GCYP will take on behalf of the child or young person?

GCYP’s role will look different depending on the presenting issues and the child or young person’s circumstances.

GCYP has a ‘threshold’ for intervention, which helps determine our response to requests for advocacy. The ARO will assess the request against the following threshold:

  • The issue has – or would have – a significant impact on the young person if it is not addressed. This includes where the matter poses an immediate safety risk or the nature of the issue will result in cumulative harm over time.
  • The young person is – or would be – seriously disadvantaged by a decision or a lack of service.
  • The issue has not been – or is unlikely to be – resolvable through other means in a timely way.

Additional consideration is also given to young people from priority groups, including children and young people who:

  • are Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander
  • are culturally and linguistically diverse
  • have a disability, or
  • have suffered, or are alleged to have suffered, sexual abuse.

What are some examples of how you can help?

  • Talking with the young person about how they can use their own voice to raise the issue with their allocated DCP worker, their worker’s supervisor, or an existing complaints process
  • Helping the young person to identify someone in their own network who can support them to advocate for themselves
  • Talking with the adult enquirer about how they can advocate for the child or young person as a natural advocate and/or member of the care team, or other steps they need to take before GCYP will intervene
  • Making enquiries with DCP, on the young person’s behalf (and with their consent) to try to resolve the issue, before formal advocacy is necessary
  • Obtaining information from DCP to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the presenting issue/s and submitting a formal, written advocacy position to DCP on the young person’s behalf.

Upon initial contact, the ARO may refer the matter to an Advocate immediately, if it looks like the presenting issues will require ongoing advocacy support.

If the young person identifies as Aboriginal, the ARO will offer for them to speak directly with one of GCYP’s Advocates for Aboriginal children.

Do you address systemic issues that affect a larger cohort of children and young people in care?

We welcome contact from children and young people, and adults in the child protection space, in relation to the broader, recurring issues that affect the rights and best interests of children and young people in care.

One of the GCYP’s functions is to inquire and provide advice to the Minister in relation to systemic reform necessary to improve the quality of care provided for children and young people under guardianship.

Systems issues often take time, and persistence, to improve and resolve. GCYP may not be able to directly or immediately pursue a systems issue you raise with us; however, hearing about your concerns will provide us with unique insight into the circumstances and processes that affect children in care, generally, and will help us to prioritise issues for systemic advocacy in the future.

Training Centre Visitor’s Annual Report 2018-19

The number of children and young people detained in the Adelaide Youth Training Centre (AYTC) in 2018-19 has decreased, although residents who are Aboriginal or in care continue to be overrepresented, according to the latest Training Centre Visitor’s Annual Report.

Here is a snapshot of the report.

The year by numbers

In 2018-19, there were 608 admissions to the AYTC concerning 299 children and young people. Of these 299 individuals:

  • each resident was detained on average, two times
  • 50.5% were Aboriginal
  • 31.1% were children and young people under guardianship, primarily from residential care
  • 19.3% were females
  • 64 admissions were for children aged 10-12 years (an increase from last year).

Issues of concern

Issues of concern summarised in the 2018-19 annual report had already been identified throughout the year during our visiting and advocacy programs and review of records. The Training Centre Visitor Unit accordingly had made recommendations (based on the voices of the residents) prior to this report, about these concerns, including in relation to:

  • semi-naked searches
  • complaint processes
  • isolation and use of safe rooms
  • inadequacy of Aboriginal programs and cultural support
  • resident right to privacy
  • female hygiene products
  • incidents and use of force
  • room standards
  • unavailability of critical data (e.g. no data is currently available for residents with a physical, psychological or intellectual disability).

Positive changes to enhance wellbeing and safety of residents

The following positive changes have been made by the AYTC staff and management to enhance the wellbeing and safety of residents:

  • a reduction in the frequency, and improvement in recording of semi-naked searches
  • introduction of a ‘Yarning Circle’ (cultural program) for Aboriginal female residents
  • the development of a Medical Locum Attendance Log that tracks each medical incident from point of identification to the attendance of a locum
  • recognition of the need to develop better understanding of the needs of African and Muslim residents through building relationships with their communities.

Advocacy

The TCV Unit received 48 requests for advocacy, with 40 suitable for TCV advocacy on behalf of 31 residents.

The main themes for individual advocacy matters were:

  • use of safe rooms, isolation and lockdowns
  • interactions and access to staff
  • unit transitions and routines
  • placement within the centre and lengthy remand.

The TCV Unit worked with the Guardian’s Advocates (who have a mandate for children in care) to address the needs of nine individuals who required advocacy about their care and treatment within the AYTC and in care.

Looking forward

In the 2019-20 financial year, along with our ongoing visiting program and review of records, we will be:

  • conducting a pilot inspection later this month
  • continuing to address the absence of advocacy protection of the right of children and young people in the justice system while they are outside the walls of the AYTC (currently we are only mandated to advocate and oversee the best interests of this cohort when they are physically within the walls of the centre). We have recommended that the TCV mandate should expand to include these children and young people, ensuring the role meets the requirements of OPCAT (which Australian must put into place in late 2020).

Read the report in full.

TCV Unit prepares for pilot inspection to be held next month

The Training Centre Visitor (TCV) will conduct a pilot inspection of the Adelaide Youth Training Centre (AYTC) in late November. Such inspections, which are independent of government, aim to monitor standards and prevent abuse in places of detention. They are common around the world and elsewhere in Australia.

This pilot inspection is the first since the establishment of the TCV role and has been designed to provide oversight of the management of the training centre and the conditions of residents in the context of the Youth Justice Administration Act 2016, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Youth Justice Principle and the Charter of Rights for Youths Detained in Training Centres. Ultimately it is about ensuring the rights of the children and young people detained within the centre are being met and that the environment is conducive to meeting the objective of the Youth Justice Administration Act, including rehabilitation.

 What is the Training Centre Visitor Program?

The TCV Program was established in November 2017 to provide oversight of the rights of children and young people sentenced or remanded in custody in the AYTC. The role of Training Centre Visitor is held by Penny Wright (who is also the Guardian for Children and Young People) and she is supported by her staff in the TCV Unit to carry out functions outlined in the Youth Justice Administration Act 2016:

  • conduct visits to training centres
  • conduct inspections of training centres
  • promote the best interests of the residents of a training centre
  • act as an advocate for the residents of a training centre – to promote the resolution of issues to do with their care, treatment and control
  • inquire into and provide advice to the Minister in relation to any systemic reform needed to improve the care, treatment and control of residents or the management of a training centre, and
  • inquire into and investigate any matter referred by the Minister.

When is the pilot inspection?

The pilot inspection will be held over a week at the end of November.

How will the inspection be conducted?

Activities during the inspection week will include scheduled visits, individual interviews with residents, staff and management, focus groups and analysis of TCV and Departmental records from the past 12 months. These activities will be conducted at different times of the day and night, including the weekend, to give core stakeholders (e.g. residents and AYTC staff) the opportunity to be involved and have their say.

Information acquired, and observations made in the inspection process will then be complemented by information obtained through the TCV’s ongoing advocacy, visiting programs and reviews of records over the past 12 months. This will enable us to build a picture of life for children and young people detained at the AYTC during that time, not just those who are detained during the inspection week.

What will the inspection look at?

The inspection will address 10 Standards, and associated indicators, that have been drawn from the Youth Justice Administration Act 2016, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Youth Justice Principle and the Charter of Rights for Youths Detained in Training Centres.

These standards cover topics such as resident safety, health and access to proper health care, cultural rights (particularly for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children and young people, who are seriously over-represented in detention), respect and dignity, education and training, case planning and access to grievance processes.

The standards and associated inspection methodologies have been developed specifically for this pilot inspection process.

Is the inspection complaint with OPCAT?

The inspection has been developed  to meet the requirements of the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT). Australia finally ratified this international agreement to prevent mistreatment in places of detention in late 2017 and must put measures in place to implement its requirements by the end of 2020.

These measures include setting up a National Prevention Mechanism (NPM) that must be independent from government and responsive to the needs of those held in various ‘places of detention’, including youth justice facilities. The role and functions of the TCV in the Youth Justice Administration Act 2016 were drafted to complement OPCAT requirement. The pilot inspection has been similarly designed, to the extent that current resources allow.

What will happen after the inspection?

Findings from the pilot inspection will be analysed and documented in a formal report that will be provided to the Minister for Human Services for presentation to Parliament in early 2020.

The inspection is a milestone in the establishment and implementation of the Training Centre Visitor Program. As such, the formal report will detail learning from the inspection and related processes and also make proposals about how best the TCV program and an inspection regime can develop in future years.

More information

If you have any questions about the upcoming inspection please contact the Training Centre Visitor Unit at [email protected] or by phone on 8226 8570.

Charter of Rights resources

Has your agency endorsed the Charter of Rights for Children and Young People in Care? If so, we have a number of free resources promoting these rights that you can order and share with children and young people in care.

Resources include:

  • booklets and comics
  • posters
  • toys
  • apparel and accessories
  • contact information for children
  • flash cards for children in care with disabilities.

You can also download free posters, colouring-in sheets, brochures, and checklists for workers when a child enters care or changes placement.

To order the resource materials visit our resources webpage.

To date, 88 agencies have endorsed the Charter of Rights, making a commitment to support the Charter and apply it into their daily practices of working with children and young people in care. In return we provide ongoing updates and information about children’s rights and access to free resources to distribute to all young people in care educating them about their rights.

Not an endorsing agency? Find out more about endorsing the Charter.

The Guardian’s Newsletter – August 2019

In our August 2019 newsletter we explore the importance of education for children and young people in care by reflecting on:

• the importance of individual support in their education
• their rights to education
• the quantity of education provided by state schools.

Plus we celebrate the launch of our office’s artwork murals and share the work that our staff have been involved in over the last few months.

National principles for child safe organisations

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse found many organisations had failed to protect children and to respond appropriately when information about abuse was disclosed.

In response to findings and recommendations from the Royal Commission, the Australian Government commissioned the development of the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations. The National Children’s Commissioner, Megan Mitchell led the development of the National Principles, in consultation with relevant peak organisations, children and young people, and Commonwealth and state governments.

Reflecting the ten child safe standards recommended by the Royal Commission, the National Principles go beyond sexual abuse to include other forms of harm to children and young people.

The National Principles apply to government, non-government and commercial organisations, including early childhood services, schools, out-of-home care, sports clubs, churches, youth groups, health services and youth detention services.

The ten National Principles put the best interests of children and young people front and centre. They cover all aspects of what organisations need to do to keep young people safe—from the culture of the organisation and the role of families and communities, to the recruitment and ongoing training of staff and respecting equity and diversity.

Many organisations across the country already work hard to ensure children and young people are protected from harm. The National Principles are not intended to override existing measures, but create a national minimum benchmark.

How will they be implemented?

In February 2019, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) endorsed the National Principles.

Alongside the National Principles, the National Office for Child Safety (NOCS) was established in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet as part of the Australian Government’s response to the Royal Commission. The NOCS will work with state and territory governments and organisations to lead the implementation of the National Principles.

In South Australia, the Department for Education will lead the implementation of the National Principles with state-specific resources and supporting tools to be developed. Organisations providing care to children and young people will need to continue to meet the Child safe Environments: Principles of Good Practice while the implementation of the National Principles is progressing.

How can an organisation adopt the National Principles?

Each National Principle is accompanied by key action areas and indicators that act as a guide for organisations to ensure they are implemented in practice.

The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has developed a range of tools and resources to assist in the implementation of the National Principles. An introductory video provides further explanation on the development and future implementation of the National Principles and a Learning Hub and Practical Tools provide organisations further guidance.

For children and young people

The National Principles are about putting children and young people at the centre of practice. The AHRC has developed resources for children and young people and a version of the National Principles in child-friendly language. It also covers information for parents and carers how to identify an organisation is child safe.