Child Protection Policy

CISaustralia has a zero tolerance approach to child exploitation or abuse. It recognises that it is the shared responsibility of all adults to prevent child exploitation and abuse and that it has a role in protecting children as related to CISaustralia programs, and needs policies and procedures to enable it to do so.

As part of that obligation, CISaustralia believes that we must all be aware of and actively address child protection. The CISaustralia Child Protection Policy sets out the organisation’s commitment to ensuring the safety, welfare and wellbeing of children. It outlines our rules and expectations to help ensure that child safety and protection comes first in everything we do. It is vital for the protection of everyone involved with CISaustralia that we have clear policies and procedures for the protection of children.

Purpose

CISaustralia promotes good child protection practice by developing, communicating and implementing policies and procedures to ensure the safety and the wellbeing of children as related to CISaustralia programs. At all times, the implementation of this policy should be based on a spirit of positive commitment to the best interests of the child by all parties involved – CISaustralia, its staff and overseas partners, and all Australian Universities and associated staff.

Key Definitions

Child: Anyone under the age of 18.

Adult: Anyone aged 18+.

Participant: Every person who participates in a national or international CISaustralia program.

Person in a position of trust and responsibility: Any one or more of the following individuals – CISaustralia staff, Site Directors / Coordinators, contractors, overseas partners, students and / or CISaustralia Australian University partners and their staff. 

Child protection: A broad term to describe philosophies, policies, standards, guidelines and procedures to protect children as related to CISaustralia programs, from both intentional and unintentional harm.

Child abuse: According to the World Health Organization, “child abuse” or “maltreatment” constitutes “all forms of physical and/or emotional ill-treatment, sexual abuse, neglect or negligent treatment or commercial or other exploitation, resulting in actual or potential harm to the child’s health, survival, development or dignity in the context of a relationship of responsibility, trust or power.” Abuse can happen to a child regardless of their age, gender, race or ability.

Scope

This policy applies to all people as defined below and meaning all those engaged with CISaustralia’s work.

There are six groups in this policy scope:

  1. CISaustralia staff
  2. CISaustralia Site Directors and / or Coordinators
  3. CISaustralia contractors 
  4. CISaustralia overseas partners and their staff who have an agreement in place with CISaustralia
  5. CISaustralia students
  6. CISaustralia Australian University partners and their staff who may or may not have a formal written agreement in place with CISaustralia

CISaustralia staff and partners are expected to comply with the principles and reporting requirements specified in this policy. 

This policy and its procedures detail CISaustralia’s approach to preventing, reporting and responding to child abuse. 

The CISaustralia Risk Management and Emergency Response Plan is the primary support document for this policy, and should be read in conjunction with this policy and related health and safety support information on the CISaustralia website, including but not limited to the CISaustralia student Code of Conduct and Behaviour Policy.

Supporting Documentation

  • CISaustralia Risk Management and Emergency Response Plan
  • CISaustralia program-specific student pre-departure guides
  • CISaustralia program-specific student pre-departure sessions
  • CISaustralia program-specific student acceptance and enrolment documentation
  • CISaustralia program-specific overseas staff induction and training
  • CISaustralia Student Code of Conduct 
  • CISaustralia Staff Induction Guide and onboard training 
  • CISaustralia Staff HR Guide
  • CISaustralia staff employment contracts
  • CISaustralia On-site Program Coordinator (OPC) contracts 
  • CISaustralia overseas partner agreements

Principles

  1. Zero tolerance of child exploitation and abuse

CISaustralia has a zero tolerance approach to child exploitation and abuse. Child exploitation and abuse could attract criminal, civil and disciplinary sanctions.

CISaustralia will not knowingly engage—directly or indirectly—anyone who poses a risk to children.

CISaustralia works to minimise the risks of child exploitation and abuse associated with its functions and programs, and trains its staff and partners on their obligations under this policy.

  1. Assess and manage child protection risk and impact

While it is not possible to entirely eliminate risks of child exploitation and abuse, careful management can identify, mitigate, manage or reduce the risks to children that may be associated with CISaustralia’s programs.

  1. Sharing responsibility for child protection

To effectively manage risks to children, DFAT requires the commitment, support and cooperation of partner organisations and individuals who help to deliver programs administered by DFAT.

  1. Stronger reporting will enhance accountability and transparency

Child abuse is a failure of responsibility. CISaustralia staff are not only accountable to CISaustralia but also to the students and partners to whom the organisation and its programs are intended. Stronger reporting allows CISaustralia to better monitor child protection, understand risk, improve assurance and work with partners and staff to improve systems, and safeguard accordingly. Reporting will also help to focus on the issue by providing a regular prompt that child protection is a core obligation of our work.

  1. Recognition of the best interests of the child

Australia is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. CISaustralia is committed to upholding the rights of the child and Australia’s obligations under this convention. In all actions concerning children, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.

Risk Based Approach

This policy provides a risk-based approach to the management of child protection in CISaustralia’s business activities. 

If a CISaustralia program or activity is determined to be ‘working with children’, then an assessment of child protection risk is required, including the application of all minimum child protection standards.

Staff and Volunteer Recruitment, Training and Conduct

CISaustralia will ensure that it recruits, trains and manages staff and volunteers in ways that support a safe environment for our participants and the children that they work with.

Recruitment, selection and management of staff

We will ensure that:

  • There are appropriate role descriptions in place for staff.
  • Recruitment is on merit and conducted by people with appropriate skills and accountability.
  • Selection will be based on appropriate criteria, including those attributes which are essential for supporting the wellbeing of children and young people.
  • Appropriate Working with Children Checks are undertaken, according to Australian State and Territory regulatory requirements, if the position involves interaction with children and young people.
  • Every staff member receives an induction suitable for their role, including elements relevant to this policy.
  • Staff are provided with training opportunities and resources appropriate to their roles. This will include relevant training in relation to promoting a safe environment and dealing with issues about child and youth safety, welfare and wellbeing.
  • There are fair and effective processes in place for dealing with unacceptable behaviour and breaches of policy.

Child Protection – Professional Behaviours

CISaustralia staff and all those engaged with CISaustralia’s programs that involve working or contact with children are expected to adhere to the following behaviours while they are performing those duties:

  • Treat all children with respect.
  • Not use language or behaviour towards children that is inappropriate, harassing, abusive, sexually provocative, demeaning or culturally inappropriate.
  • Not engage children under the age of 18 in any form of sexual intercourse or sexual activity, including paying for sexual services.
  • Wherever possible, ensure that another adult is present when working near children.
  • Not invite unaccompanied children into private residences, unless they are at immediate risk of injury or in physical danger.
  • Not sleep close to unsupervised children unless absolutely necessary, in which case the supervisor’s permission must be obtained, and ensure that another adult is present if possible (noting that this does not apply to an individual’s own children).
  • Never use any computers, mobile phones, video cameras, cameras or social media to exploit or harass children, or access child exploitation material through any medium.
  • Not use physical punishment on children.
  • Not hire children for domestic or other labour which is inappropriate given their age or developmental stage, which interferes with their time available for education and recreational activities, or which places them at significant risk of injury.
  • Comply with all relevant Australian and local legislation, including labour laws in relation to child labour.
  • Immediately report concerns or allegations of child exploitation and abuse and policy non-compliance in accordance with appropriate procedures.
  • Immediately disclose all charges, convictions and other outcomes of an offence that relates to child exploitation and abuse.

Working with Children Checks

Across Australia, each State and Territory has in place legislation to require child-related pre-employment screening for individuals who are employed or volunteer in organisations where they will be in contact with, or have responsibility for, young people under the age of 18 years. CISaustralia complies with these regulations.

In response, CISaustralia will:

  • Appoint a ‘contact person’ or ‘contact persons’ who will be responsible for managing Working with Children Checks within CISaustralia.
  • Determine who requires a Working with Children Check and who is exempt.
  • Ensure that all persons over the age required in each State or Territory, who are engaged in child-related activity with CISaustralia, hold a valid Working with Children Check (or equivalent).
  • Ensure that all information in relation to Working with Children Check applications is kept confidential.
  • Maintain a record of all participants on the CISaustralia CRM (Salesforce) who have obtained their Working with Children Card, Blue Card, Federal Policy Check or similar.

Handling Disclosures, Allegations and Suspicions of Harm

CISaustralia will ensure that staff and volunteers respond as quickly as possible, and in the best interests of a participant under 18 years of age, when disclosures, allegations or suspicions of harm are received. CISaustralia recognises that children and young people are vulnerable members of the community and that extra measures must be taken to protect and support them.

Definitions

Harm may be categorised in the following types:

  • Physical harm or ill treatment, for example: beating, shaking, burning, biting, causing bruises or fractures by inappropriate discipline; inappropriate restraint/excess force; giving children alcohol, drugs or inappropriate medication.
  • Emotional or psychological harm, for example: constant yelling, insults, swearing, criticism, bullying and harassment. This may include electronic or cyber abuse – for example: abusive insulting, sexual or harassing text messages, emails, photographs or videos, posts on websites and social networking sites, or fake social profiles.
  • Neglect, for example: not giving children sufficient food, clothing, enough sleep, hygiene, medical care, leaving children alone or children missing school.
  • Sexual harm, exploitation or ill treatment, for example: sexual jokes, inappropriate touching, overt sexual behaviour, exposing children to sexual acts or pornography or having sexual intercourse with a child or young person under 16 years of age (even if the child appears to have consented).

Staff and volunteers may suspect harm if there are significant changes in the behaviour of a young person or their host family or the presence of new, unexplained and suspicious injuries. This can also include poor concentration at school, sleeping problems, marked changes in behaviour or mood such as tantrums, aggressiveness or withdrawal, and complaints of stomach aches or headaches without physical findings.

A disclosure of harm occurs when someone, including a child, tells a CISaustralia staff member or volunteer about harm that has happened or is likely to happen or there may be an allegation of harm against a specific person.

Procedures to minimise harm to children and young people

CISaustralia will work to minimise harm to children and young people and support their interests and wellbeing by:

  • Contact support – providing 24/7 emergency support when participants are on a program.
  • Orientation and information – delivering comprehensive orientation programs, including safety tips and cultural information, ensuring participants know that it is their right to feel safe at all times and that they understand what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour.
  • Handling issues effectively – encouraging participants to speak up about concerns, taking what a child or young person says seriously, and following up their issues. 

Reporting disclosures or suspicions of harm

CISaustralia will take action immediately following a disclosure or suspicion of harm. CISaustralia will not conduct its own enquiries in relation to the disclosure or suspicion of harm or try to come to an agreement between the parties involved.

  • Staff and volunteers who have concerns about the safety of a child will refer the issue to appropriate staff immediately; they will record their concerns and observations in a non-judgemental manner.
  • Where a child is at risk of unsafe or harmful actions, staff and volunteers may intervene immediately, provided it is safe to do so or, if it is unsafe, call the Police for assistance.
  • At least one CISaustralia staff member will be on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week via the CISaustralia emergency phone number while participants are on a program.
  • Staff will contact the relevant Police or regulatory authority immediately and ensure information provided is comprehensive and accurate.

Processes for those involved in the report

Children and young people involved will be offered appropriate counselling and support. This may include increased levels of support and contact from their local CISaustralia support contact person and access to professional counselling.

Under relevant legislation, a person who reports suspected child abuse could be protected from civil or criminal legal actions and is not considered to have broken any code of conduct or ethics.

If the person responding to the allegation of harmis a member of CISaustralia, CISaustralia staff may review their duties. If the person continues to interact/work with children, CISaustralia will ensure that they are appropriately supervised at all times. If necessary, CISaustralia will seek legal advice as to the extent to which that person can carry out duties in the organisation.

Risk Management

CISaustralia recognises that there is a need to ensure risks are appropriately identified, evaluated and managed.

The risks relating to CISaustralia participants can be physical, emotional, sexual and cultural (and unidentified) in nature, including risks associated with:

  •  Other children or young people
  •  Someone outside the organisation
  •  An employee or volunteer
  •  Themselves

Risks can reside in a number of settings such as the family home, school, community and CISaustralia programs. CISaustralia staff will:

  • Identify risks of potential harm – for example activities where young people are unsupervised and in areas open to the public, situations where staff or participants are alone with a young person, situations where cultural differences require attention.
  • Evaluate the risk in terms of how likely it is to occur and the seriousness of its consequences.
  • Consider options and plan to reduce, manage or eliminate the risk.

Managing Breaches

This policy, and associated CISaustralia policies and procedures relating to the safety and wellbeing of children and the protection of children from harm, apply to staff and all CISaustrailia participants on all programs (virtual or physical). CISaustralia will address any breaches in a fair, unbiased and supportive manner.

The process will ensure:

  • All people concerned will be advised of the process
  • All people concerned will be able to provide their version of events
  • The details of the breach, including all parties’ versions and the outcome will be recorded
  • Matters discussed in relation to the breach will be kept confidential
  • An appropriate outcome will be decided by CISaustralia senior staff and/or Board of Directors

Depending on the role of the person and the nature of the breach, outcomes may include:

  • Providing closer supervision
  • Further education and training
  • Mediating between those involved in the incident (where appropriate)
  • Disciplinary procedures if necessary
  • Reviewing current policies and procedures and developing new policies and procedures as appropriate

Related External Links

Implementation and Date of Effect

The Policy will be implemented from 2nd August 2021.

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