Webinar: How can child welfare and youth-serving organisations keep children safe?

Webinar: How can child welfare and youth-serving organisations keep children safe?


Good afternoon everyone, and welcome to today’s webinar, “How can child welfare and youth-serving organisations keep children safe?” My name is Elly Robinson and I’m the Executive Manager of Practice, Evidence and Engagement here at the Australian Institute of Family
Studies. I would like to acknowledge the traditional
custodians of the land on which we meet today, and pay my respects to their elders past and present, and to the elders from the other communities who may be present today. We will hear about evidence-based solutions to creating child-safe cultures in child and family welfare organisations in today’s webinar. Before I introduce our presenter, I would also like to alert you to some brief housekeeping details. You are able to submit questions via the chat box at any time during the webinar. We have some time at the end of the presentation to respond to as many questions as possible, and we’ve also setup a forum on the CFCA information exchange website where you can discuss the ideas and issues raised and submit additional questions for our presenter. We will send you a link to the forum at the
conclusion of today’s presentation. Please remember, that this webinar is being recorded and the audio, transcript and presentation slides will be made available on our website and YouTube channel in due course. Accessible versions will also be available. It’s now my pleasure to introduce today’s
presenter. Associate Professor Daryl Higgins is the Deputy
Director of Research at the Australian Institute of Family Studies where he has responsibility
for the institute’s research program and its knowledge, translation and exchange functions. Daryl also holds an adjunct academic appointment
at the University of Melbourne. Daryl is a registered psychologist and has
been researching child abuse, family violence, sexuality and family functioning since 1993. He has extensive experience in managing and supervising research, and has led projects looking at child abuse and neglect, children
in out-of-home care and child-safe organisations, to name a few. As well as collaborating with international
colleagues on a project for the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual
Abuse examining risk factors for particular types of organisations, Daryl has recently
published a paper in the Journal of Developing Practice that explains the national and international
context and an overview of what we have learned from research about creating safety for children. Welcome Daryl. Thank you Elly and it’s a great pleasure to
be here within my own organisation presenting this webinar and I’d like to also acknowledge
my respect for elders past and present. In terms of acknowledgements, I’d also like
to mention two colleagues, Keith Kaufman and Marcus Erooga, who have worked with me on some of the analysis of research relating to particular risk factors in different types
of organisations and to a number of colleagues, past and present, at the institute, including
those who have worked as part of the CFCA information exchange. Today I want this to be evidence-based, I
want to reflect on research, but it’s also about reflecting on the implications of theoretical
constructs relating to risk and how that actually applies to the everyday realities that I know
you, as attendees at today’s webinar, are likely to be encountering. So I want this to be practical and in order
to achieve that I’d like you to just spend a few seconds thinking about the organisation
that you work in or, if you’re actually not personally involved in a child-focused organisation,
think about an organisation that your son or daughter or another family member or a
friend might be involved with and think about what that organisation does. What do you think might be the most risky
aspect of that organisation’s activity that could possibly allow the sexual abuse of a
child? So just take a moment to write down what you
think that particular activity or the element of that activity that might bring about the
greatest risk and I want you to come back to that after I’ve talked a little bit about
some of the frameworks that we think about, in terms of assessing risk and addressing
risk and let’s see whether by the end of today’s webinar I’ve given you some suggestions for
how you might be able to think through and address to mitigate or reduce that particular
risk so that’s a bit of a tall order I’ve set for myself but I’d love to hear your feedback
at the end as to whether you think that today’s been helpful in trying to address that. So on the screen now you can probably see
a very large number of risk factors that has been identified in research over the years
around characteristics of children that might increase their vulnerability to sexual abuse
or characteristics of offenders or adults, would-be offenders, that might increase the
chance of them being an offender or engaging in offending behaviour. Now, I’m not going to focus too much on this
today because that research is relatively well known, it probably is not going to come
as a surprise to you. What I think is a bit of a surprise is the
third aspect that we have much less visibility of and much less focus on, in terms of our
prevention strategies and the responsibilities of organisations right throughout the community
and I’m talking here about volunteer organisations, not just funded services like out of home
care or residential care providers. So what are the characteristics of the environment
within organisations and more broadly across the community that might increase risk? That’s really what I want to focus on today. Why is that important? Well, if we think back about how, within Australia,
we’re trying to address the issue of prevention of child abuse, we have a National Framework
for Protecting Australia’s Children, which explicitly is based on what we call a public
health approach to prevention and what that identifies, first of all, is that we try and
address harm before it occurs by looking at what the drivers are of a particular event,
in this instance, child abuse and neglect, and therefore we have to look at the risk
factors. So where those characteristics might be occurring
and how those can be changed in order to reduce the likelihood of an event such as child maltreatment
occurring rather than focusing on detection of events after they’ve occurred and ameliorating
their impacts and, of course, that’s what statutory child protection systems are focused
on so explicitly the National Framework is about trying to move things upstream to a
public health approach, so therefore we need to look at what are those risk factors at
the individual level, at the parent or the family level, at the level of those who are
offenders or would-be perpetrators, particularly within the context of them having already
been identified as an offender. How do we reduce the likelihood of them re-offending,
but importantly what are some of the social or environmental factors such as at the community
level, our knowledge, our attitudes and our skills around prevention of abuse and child
safety and then specifically, within the context of organisations, how do we identify and reduce
situational risk and actually create child safe cultures right across our suite of child-related
and youth-serving organisations, and that’s going to be my focus today. I know this is a long preamble but it’s really
important to kind of set up the rationale for why we are not focusing on individuals
but rather talking about systemic strategies that can be implemented across organisations
and across communities and the reality is that if we focus too much on the issue of
trying to identify bad people that we are likely to miss a whole lot of instances of
sexual abuse. Why is that? Well, first time abusers have no offence history
so we’re not going to detect them in any kind of screening system because they haven’t yet
offended. Also, much abuse goes undetected or unreported
so even if someone has abused before, if it hasn’t been reported or in fact if we have
poor systems to share information, that’s not likely to be picked up and identified. We also know that it’s not just adults who
engage in inappropriate, illegal or harmful behaviours. We have good research to show that young people
also engage in sexually abusive or harmful behaviours towards other young people, either
younger than themselves or even same age peers and so if we try and have too much of a focus
on preventing bad adults we will miss a lot of the potentially risky situations that young
people are likely to be exposed to. The other thing that we can focus on is that
the lessons that we have learned from other elements of organisational safety. There’s things that we can learn from the
laws and the strategies that have been put in place to address occupational health and
safety within organisations. We can also think about how we’ve tried to
prevent issues of financial mismanagement within organisations. So just focusing on the latter, we don’t expect
that the processes for ensuring financial prudence rely primarily on employment screening
i.e. that you would be able to know that someone is a bad person and therefore shouldn’t get
into an organisation because they’re likely to financially mismanage it, engage in fraud
or some other unfortunate activity. Nor do we rely primarily on customer vigilance,
that’s it up to, let’s say, someone who deposits money in a bank to make sure that nothing
goes on in that bank, that they’re the ones who are responsible for their own safety. We don’t have either of those things. Instead, what we have is systems right across
organisations from financial institutions right through to small not-for-profit community
organisations where we define what acceptable and unacceptable behaviour is, where we implement
strategies to minimise some of those risks so it could be as simple as having someone
observe while somebody else counts cash when you’ve been collecting money through a volunteer
organisation. Thirdly, we make sure that we try and change
the culture of organisations and, for those of you who are fans of movies and have seen,
“The Wolf of Wall Street”, we see there a very clear example of how within a broad sector
there was a culture of getting away with fraud and unscrupulous behaviour that actually led
to widespread financial mismanagement. Similarly, and some of you will be thinking,
“Oh, I’ve spent a lot of time going to the movies”, there’s a couple of other examples
that we’ve seen in the box office lately that remind us not to focus just on the individuals
but rather the power of the situation that sits behind those individual actions. For example, the movie, “Spotlight”, really
highlights the issue of how the Boston Diocese was exposed for their cover up within the
church of abuse and how there were failures to disclose but really what the movie emphasises
was not the individual behaviour of one or two people but rather the systems that failed
to support when those concerns were raised so it moves it on from the level of a bad
person to a bad system. That same theme emerges in the, “Stanford
prison experiment”, and that has, you know, it’s a famous psychology experiment. Those of you who’ve done psychology or even
social work where you’re exposed to some of these key research studies from the 1970s
will know the amazing ways in which the situation determines and strongly influences individual’s
behaviour. There was a small group of undergraduate college
students who were selected for an experiment randomly assigned to two groups. They were either chosen to be prison guards
or prisoners. There were no differences between those two
groups. It was randomly assigned and yet what happened
within a very short space of time, a matter of hours, that they started to comply with
the expected behaviours. I think I’ve said enough about that but the
important issue is it’s not about bad people, it’s about saying how can we at a systems
level change the situation so that anybody is likely to be prevented from engaging in
untoward behaviour. So it demonstrates the power of the situation
and the implication, I think, for child safety in organisations, is that we’ve failed and
we will continue to fail if we try and focus solely on identifying, weeding out or preventing
bad people from joining organisations. So what are some of the key risks in child-related
organisations that we need to think about that simply focusing on screening and detection
is not going to pick up? Well, for those of you who’ve worked in the
area of child abuse and neglect, and particularly child sexual abuse, you will have heard of
the concept of grooming, and this is the process prior to the act of abuse that’s a precursor
that those who are going to engage in offending behaviour will rely on to build up a relationship
and to build up trust between them and the victim but also the institutional community
and that’s what I would really like to focus on now is that grooming doesn’t just occur
with victims, grooming actually occurs with others within the organisation, because we
know from research about offenders is that they are often seen as being high profile,
trustworthy, important people within organisations and within communities and the claim will
often be, “Oh it couldn’t possibly be him” or “It couldn’t possibly be her”. So the modus operandi of perpetrators might
differ between institutional context and different settings allow different opportunities for
and different facilitators of abuse so we actually need to take a different lens depending
on the type of organisation that we’re working in and what are the particular opportunities
that our organisation provides, and I hope you’re starting to think back to those notes
that you wrote back at the beginning about what is the risky elements of your particular
organisation. Just as an example, we know that this is not
static but changes over time so when we have new technologies available, mobile phones
that have, you know, smartphone capability and new social media apps and so forth open
up new avenues for communication and therefore for engagement in those grooming behaviours
that are one of those necessary precursors, in most instances, for sexual abuse to occur. So therefore we can see how elements of the
climate of an organisation, the particular culture and the norms that go on within organisations
can actually act to facilitate or, hopefully, to interrupt abuse and its precursors. I’ve got a quote here from a researcher saying,
“Just as children are groomed by adults to allow them to perpetrate sexual acts, other
adults are groomed or desensitised to perceive potentially risky behaviour as harmless”. So now I’m getting to the bulk of the task
of today’s webinar and that’s to talk about what do child safety environments look like
and what are the important steps? As you’ve probably guessed, I’ve already talked
about the limitations of screening for known perpetrators but that’s not to in any way
diminish the importance of it as a first step. So I’ll talk a little bit about that. I’ll talk about managing situational risks
and what we’ve learned from research about risk factors and strategies for prevention
but most importantly I want to end on talking about creating positive cultures and how we
need to focus on clarifying unacceptable behaviours, encouraging disclosures and involving authorities. So let’s talk firstly about screening so that
is that first but very minimal step of preventing those who we already know carry risks and
so the three steps there are: undertaking police checks, Working with Children Checks
and following mandatory reporting and disclosure laws. So pre-employment screening I’m going to go
through fairly quickly but for those of you who are not familiar with it, there’s some
great resources on the CFCA website around what police checks are, what a Working with
Children Check is, which is more extensive but also more targeted, so it doesn’t just
include offences but it includes a wider range of concerning behaviours. But it’s also not as extensive as police checks
in that police checks will go to other elements of criminal behaviour that are not relevant
for a Working with Children Check so you have to think about fit for purpose and what the
obligations are within your particular organisation or sector. So you need to understand those obligations
very clearly but most importantly to recognise the limitations of pre-employment screening
that, as I said earlier, most child sex offenders do not have criminal records, so therefore
having staff vetted through a pre-employment screening of some sort is just the first chapter
in the book, not the final chapter. Therefore we need to go to some of the next
steps about creating child safe organisations through policies, through monitoring and through
ongoing actions. Mandatory reporting is also an important step,
because, as I said, while most abusers won’t necessarily have been reported, one of the
ways of turning that around is to follow the guidelines around mandatory reporting. That way there’s an increased chance that
those who have engaged in offending behaviour are then known to authorities and therefore
can be detected in the future. So it’s not about preventing harm now because
the harm is likely to have already occurred, it’s about preventing harm for the future
and building up a database, if you like, of those who have a known history, even though,
of course, that has serious limitations, and, as you can see here on the slide, there’s
also quite a bit of variability between the laws right across Australia regarding who
is mandated to report and what it is that they’re mandated to report about, so the types
of situations and the types of harm. Finally, I’d point out that Victoria now has
some new legislation that’s about failure to disclose, which is covering all adults
with a reasonable belief that a sexual offence has been committed against a child and that’s
quite separate from the mandatory reporting obligations that apply to specified professional
groups so it’s important that people are keeping up to date with that information and please
keep checking with CFCA for updates regarding those kinds of laws. Secondly is the issue of managing situational
risks. So making organisations safer involves identifying
those risk factors, changing risky environments where possible and where it’s not possible
because of the activity inherently has some risks, it’s about closer monitoring in order
to be able to try and minimise those. So different organisations will have a different
risk profile and I’m sure for all of you who are listening in today and have written down
what’s the most risky element of the organisation that you’re involved in or are aware of, I’m
sure that we will have different things written down for many of you. There will be some overlaps but there’ll be
some really different things. Why is that? Well, because organisations operate in different
ways and we know, for example, that organisations that are more like a family style environment
and some of the ones that ironically carry the higher risk. Why is that? You would think that families are a place
of safety and security for children and, of course, for many children they are, but families
themselves are one of the opportunities of risk and that is because families have those
characteristics of high levels of trust, high levels of interaction unsupervised by others. So where those same characteristics are occurring
in organisations, they tend to carry higher risk. So that’s where staff might be required to
act in the place of parents and to be exercising parental responsibility. Where there’s a need for physical contact
with children or young people, for example, through showering, through toileting, through
changing clothes, such as sports organisations. Where there are sleepovers or camps and where
there’s a need for transport at odd hours or where there’s unexpected decisions that
need to be made that involve interaction with and supervision of children. So some of the questions that you might want
to ask yourself if you struggled to write down at the beginning an example of what is
a risky element of your particular organisation is to think about do you have low levels of
supervision from others of adult/child interactions. So who gets to see when an adult is spending
time one on one with a child or a young person? Are adults used as role models or as mentors? Are they meant to be friendly and building
trust with young people? Are there opportunities for private communication
channels where there’s low levels of supervision, such as social media? And are there other elements to the organisation’s
culture that actually might allow abuse to be tolerated or excused? So is there a stronger gender stereotype? Are there only males or only females involved,
either as children and young people or as the adults or the supervisors within the organisation? Are there unfortunate attitudes regarding
same-sex attracted young people that might lead to actual, or perceptions of, homophobia
and therefore young people feel as though they are silenced and somehow excluded or
marginalised and increase their vulnerability? Is there alcohol misused within the organisation
that could be used as an excuse or as a facilitator for perpetrators or something that is used
to overcome the inhibitions, if you like, of a child or a young person? So these are all questions that we know that
research has pointed out are examples of things that carry greater risk, but the operationalisation
of them in your particular organisation is something that you have to work through and
find out where those elements of risk might be operating, why they’re operating, how inherent
they are and what might be the opportunities for changing or ameliorating some of those
risks. In talking about risk, I don’t want to sound
alarmist because, of course, many of those things that I just talked about that, not
only are they things that carry risk, but they are also things that carry opportunities. We know that building trust and having close
mentoring relationships between adults and children can be really positive and can be
an essential component of some programs, for example, if you’re running a mentoring program,
it’s not sufficient just to say, well, it involves mentoring, therefore it carries risk,
therefore we won’t do it. It’s about how do you put in place strategies
to try and mitigate that risk and do a better job of supporting both adults and young people
within that organisation so that those activities that do inherently carry a higher level of
risk can still occur because they are important and we have evidence to show that they’re
important for building resilience and supporting young people. So some possible protective factors we know
is that adults can be positive role models and can actually model safe relationships,
model demonstrating the way in which they put in place boundaries around their personal
life, around their personal physical space et cetera. Encouraging and responding appropriately to
abuse that’s occurring elsewhere is one way that adults within an organisation can demonstrate
that they are supporting and using those opportunities of having close and trusting relationships
with children and young people for their good and, of course, fostering inclusion and peer
support right across the organisation. So I don’t want you to be left thinking that
organisations are all about risk and you should go looking for risks everywhere without also
looking at what are the opportunities and that you don’t inadvertently lead to a reduction
in the effectiveness of your organisation’s activities and its supports for children and
young people. I want to spend a little bit of time talking
about the research that we have on what’s call situational crime prevention and this
has come from the fields of criminology and juvenile justice and other fields like that
where we understand that, given the right circumstances, anyone could offend, so, for
example, safety from car theft. We don’t focus on trying to identify who are
the high risk car thieves. We’ve actually put most of our effort into
changing the situation such as having better car locks, having visible systems of alarms
or, I remember from the 80s and 90s before the, sort of, electronic locks, there were
the big manual locks that you would put over your steering wheel so it was very visible
that the car was locked and therefore trying to break in and steal it wouldn’t be effective. Removing money and hand bags and wallets and
cash from visible places within the car or any other things of course is another of those
strategies. So how can we think about what we’ve learned
from some of these other aspects and try and apply them to the issue of crime against children
and particularly sexual crime? So the basic tenets of a situational crime
prevention approach is that it’s meant to focus on trying to address the limits of pre-employment
screening and ongoing suitability assessments because it focuses on creating safe environments
rather than safe individuals. So what are the ways we do that? First of all, it’s primarily about reducing
opportunity, and by that, what we mean is making crime more risky. And let’s not forget when we’re talking about
child sexual abuse we’re not just talking about untoward behaviours. We’re at a point in our society where we absolutely
know that this is criminal behaviour. So let’s think about what we can learn from
other elements of criminal behaviour. So it’s about making crime more risky, making
crime more effortful, reducing the rewards for engaging in that crime, removing the excuses
and preventing, and, for people around that young person or that potential offender, to
not tolerate what we call grooming behaviour. How do we do that? And this is really the final and most important
part of my presentation today, is to talk about some of the critical steps in creating
child safe organisations and by that we really mean the positive organisational culture that
gets rid of excuses and makes overt the importance of protecting children and addressing at all
levels within the organisation risks that might occur. So the three, kind of, key aspects are: clarifying
unacceptable behaviour, encouraging and responding appropriately to disclosures, and, thirdly,
involving police and child protection authorities. It’s really the first one that I think is
the most important one of those. So what are some examples of what we mean
by that? One is values-based interviewing. What we mean by that is not simply screening,
in terms of have you ever had an offence that relates to a child but rather talking about
the conditions that might facilitate or inhibit those untoward behaviours starting to occur,
let alone a criminal behaviour actually occurring and so being able to, at an interview or a
selection process for a volunteer or for commencement of a program that you talk about those things
that are important to a child safe organisation so the value of children, talking about how
people would apply their thinking to a particular context. Creating induction programs, once you’ve gone
through that screening and the values-based interviewing and made sure that you’re happy
with the way in which a person coming into an organisation as a worker or as a volunteer
is going to be approaching children and valuing children, it’s about reinforcing that through
induction programs where you define what acceptable behaviour is. Recently I came across a statement by an organisation,
“Life Without Barriers”, and there are a number of organisations like this, where they make
very clear what acceptable behaviour is and they have one example for people working in
residential care settings where they say explicitly workers who are staying overnight need to
make sure that they are wearing pyjamas. Now, that seems like a bit of an odd thing
to say in some ways and yet it’s a very practical thing. You have to think about what are the steps
that you need to go through if you’re a worker. You need to be able to be prepared to be interrupted
during the middle of the night and therefore having appropriate attire in order to not
place yourself at risk, let alone place a young person or other person at risk, is really
important so it’s about thinking through what are the particular requirements of my organisational
setting for both adults and for children and young people. Those induction programs, they need to be
reinforced with ongoing professional development. So I hope you’re starting to get a very strong
message here that this is not about a single action that can be taken but it’s rather a
suite of interconnected activities that need to be continually revised and reinforced right
throughout the life of a project, a program or an organisation. Professional development, implanting supervision,
mentoring, and accountability for staff, now, I would ask you, those of you who are supervisors
or team leaders, how often do you ask your team members who are working with children
or young people, specific questions about have they ever observed something that was
a concerning behaviour either by another staff member or were they ever asked to do something
that was inappropriate? Unless we ask these direct questions we’re
not likely to get answers. Certainly in other areas we have the same
things. I’m on a risk committee for a Commonwealth
organisation where the auditors literally ask other members of the committee to say
are you aware of any other information that would be of concern. Unless you ask those kind of questions you’re
not likely to get the answers because people often feel as though, well, you know, I don’t
really know, I’m not quite sure, I might be, you know, dobbing in somebody. So we have to turn that around and talk about
things more often so that we have an open environment and can discuss concerns freely. We also have to have good supports and training
around understanding and compliance with mandatory reporting obligations. As I said before, there needs to be a process,
a structured process to support the analysis and then the addressing of risks right across
each organisation. It’s not possible to develop one template
and say this can be applied right across every organisation because of the different types
of activities that agencies and organisations and different community sectors engage in
so there does need to be tailoring of those kind of analysis of risks and therefore the
kind of policies, procedures and standards that need to be developed in order to address
those risks, and, of course, for them to be not just done once and placed upon that shelf
for dust to collect on them but rather to be regularly used and reviewed and updated
as part of the business as usual of an organisation. Secondly, and this is equally important, in
terms of sending a strong message around the culture of an organisation, is the importance
of facilitating disclosure of actual abuse or disclosure of concerning behaviours, so
where a young person has been asked to do something or feels icky or feels unsure. It’s the process of about telling somebody
about an incident of sexual assault or one of it’s precursors so we need to be able to
reinforce that in context such as abuse between peers in schools or youth serving organisations,
between peers outside of those organisations, at home, or elsewhere, as well as those that
actually occur within the organisation by adults so it’s important that all of those
issues are part of disclosure policies. It can relate not just to sexual abuse, but
as I indicated before, if we have a culture where other forms of bullying, harassment,
discrimination and other forms of child abuse, such as physical abuse or emotional abuse
are going on, we know from past research that those things often go hand in hand with a
higher risk of sexual abuse and it goes to a culture of saying I won’t be believed, I
won’t be trusted, I won’t be valued as a child or a young person so we need to take an integrated
approach to addressing those risks to young people in order for them to feel as though
they can speak up when they have a concern. From the research that we’ve done, we know
that disclosure isn’t always a conscious or a planned decision, that young people and
adults who have experienced sexual assault as well will often talk about the need for
safety, protection and support, for not wanting to be alone and for seeking information to
help them clarify their understandings about the nature of assault and so therefore it
could happen at different times and in different places and we also know that it can multiple
attempts, that many, many people will say that they have taken three or four or five
times to actually disclose, and that’s certainly backed up by the evidence that the Royal Commission
into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has been disseminating, that we know
that this is a process and therefore one of the strategies that we can do to make our
organisation safer for children is to take seriously those first disclosures and treat
them as important revelations from a child or a young person. Overcoming some of those barriers, and I think
I’ve talked about most of these, so I won’t go into those in detail, but make sure that
we think about what those barriers might be in our particular organisation, or, more importantly,
how can we put in place policies or procedures that try and address this? And that could be in terms of professional
development, to try and overcome some of those cultural things, such as the expectations
about what’s normal for young men and women in heterosexual relationships or clash of
expectations regarding masculinity or sexuality. I’d also like to talk for a moment a little
bit about the importance of a whole of organisation approach and why that’s important is it’s
not enough for one particular segment of an organisation, such as one class within a school
or one group within an organisation to be trying to be a leading light and just assuming
that that will be enough because that can easily – the good work within one area can
very easily be undone by another area and that could actually be even riskier for a
young person to think that they will be supported and then to find that they are not once they
encounter someone from elsewhere within the organisation who isn’t on board. For them to work and there’s a lot of research
around different forms of harmed children, not just about sexual abuse but about homophobia,
about bullying and about other elements of respectful relationships that all lead to
this same message about the importance of whole of organisation approaches and so we
need to be able to link together strategies around promoting respectful relationships,
around physically safe environments and around emotionally safe environments. Some of the concrete activities that you can
do there is about having agreed definitions across the whole of the organisation about
what is meant by child sexual abuse, statements about what are the consequences for offending. I mean, that’s one of the clearest things
that can get written into a policy. What will happen if an adult or another young
person, for that matter, is found to have been involved in engaging in sexually coercive
or abusive behaviour? Clear and published policies and procedures
that are victim centred and that are supported with regular training, review, monitoring
and evaluation. We also need to think about prevention education
programs for students and young people, for teachers and also their family members, again,
getting to that point that we actually need to have all people who are involved in those
young people’s lives being educated and made more aware of what the risk factors and how
they can be addressed right throughout all elements of a community. Some examples of that can be seen in the documentation
around the National Safe Schools Framework, which obviously is focused primarily around
things like emotional well-being and prevention of bullying but it applies equally well to
the issue of child sexual abuse prevention, in terms of the broad strategies and the way
in which they needed to be embedded in a whole of organisation approach so I won’t go into
detail on that because I know we’re getting towards the end of our time for this webinar. But you can see on the slide there the URL
to the National Safe Schools Framework and some of the anti-bullying strategies that
you can see have a large amount of overlap with what’s needed in order to be able to
raise awareness around child sexual abuse, the precursors to it, what allows grooming
to go on, and how we can try and interrupt that. We also need to, when thinking about a particular
type of organisation, think about how some of the context around that might add additional
complexity to understanding or, in fact, overcoming what some of those risks are and I was involved
in some research a number of years ago that was looking at a case study of a particular
religious organisation where there was an allegation of abuse that was raised about
a young person, an adult, a young adult, against a young female within the congregation and
the analysis of that case study and linking it with the available literature identified
a number of problematic organisational features that in many ways can be inherently linked
to the business of the organisation so within this particular religious community there
was an unquestioned power and high levels of authority placed in leaders. There was minimisation and denial of allegations
by leaders in positions of authority. There was failure to encourage victims to
report to police. There was inappropriate responses to legal
proceedings that had been commenced and then there was the doctrinal or theological beliefs
and practices that supported patriarchal views and repressed sexuality and, of course, in
many different types of religious institutions, we have questions around the role that celibacy
might play, in particular, and I know that those things have come up in relation to evidence
given before the Royal Commission. We saw, in this particular case study, failure
to appropriately support both victims and alleged offenders and making sure that that’s
done separately but carefully. We saw poor leadership and polarisation of
members of the church or religious community and, of course, underlying that, some particular
beliefs around sex roles and so here you can see a quote from that research saying religious
sex role beliefs that posit men’s sexuality as unable to be contained and women as the
source of men’s incitement and church doctrines and practices that support patriarchy are
some of those things that contribute to an organisational culture in which disclosure
of sexual abuse is discouraged are victims are unsupported. That’s just one example of how you might be
able to think through a particular context of an organisation and how the activities,
such as preaching sermons with particular belief sets might be contributing or have
the opportunity to support young people who are at risk. To sum up what I’ve been talking about today,
the focus of prevention of child abuse and neglect spans the continuum from awareness
training to a range of organisations through to more systemic institution-wide efforts
to identify and ameliorate environmental or situational risks that create conditions that
allow child sexual abuse to occur and so what we need to do is ensure that existing protective
systems and processes are implemented more rigorously, more thoroughly and more consistently. You can see on the screen there and I won’t
leave this up for too long because you’ll be able to access these slides later. There are a number of resources that you can
draw on for thinking through and accessing templates and ideas for how to create child
safe organisational policies and procedures and climates within your organisation, but
it also goes beyond organisation and goes to community. I’m aware of some resources and some campaigns
that have happened around understanding how the sexualised imagery that many young people
are exposed to is one of those contributing factors and so we need good relationship education
and sexuality education in order to be one part of that picture and so you can see the
URL addresses here for these resources. To summarise the risk management strategies,
it’s about pre-employment screening, including values-based interviewing and ongoing suitability
assessment. Secondly, it’s about minimising situational
risks by limiting those opportunities and recognising that any person can perpetrate
child abuse even though some people might be at higher risk, particularly those who
have already engaged in that behaviour. Most importantly, that there’s a need for
appropriate articulated and supported policies and procedures about identifying signs of
abuse, about responding to disclosures, about training and providing ongoing support for
staff and other adults and all of that is about leading to more positive culture that
is child-friendly, transparent and respectful. I also think that there’s an important role
for implementing specific prevention programs and strategies. Often people will talk about these as protective
behaviours programs but I think that they have serious limitations unless we embed them
in a whole of organisation child safety strategy because otherwise we risk sending the message
that it’s the role of young people to protect themselves whereas it’s actually the role
of adults and organisations to be child safe, to be child friendly, and of course empowering
children and young people with information is one component but it’s by no means the
first and foremost of those. Finally, I’d like to remind people that what
I’ve been talking about today is entirely consistent with research synthesis that’s
come out from the Royal Commission on what they see as the key elements of a child safe
institution and I won’t read out all of those but I’ve just listed the ten different elements
that has been coming out from the research that they have commissioned at the Royal Commission
and you can see at the bottom of the slide the URL so you can access that information. Of course, all of the resources that we’ve
been talking about today can be accessed from the Child Family Community Australia information
exchange so please continue to engage with that resource in order to access information. I’ve talked for a little bit about the specific
example of religious organisations and I know that a lot of great work has been happening
through organisations such as the National Council of Churches in Australia, which has
a framework and standards and a safe church training agreement and many of the denominations
have developed for themselves particular policies around responding to and protecting children
so we know that there’s a lot of good work going on in a range of different organisations
and I would commend those resources to you. Finally, you can see a list of references
from some of the research that I’ve been drawing on for this presentation. So that’s the end of my presentation and I’d
like to turn over to questions now from you all and I know Elly’s going to try and mediate
some of that for me. Thanks Elly.

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