Safe Environments for Children and other Vulnerable People
The University is committed to providing a safe environment for all members of our community. This community includes children and other vulnerable people who are frequent and welcome users of University spaces and resources.
The Safe Environments for Children and Vulnerable People Policy outlines the obligations that the University and partner organisations must observe to support this aim.
Which groups of people are we talking about?
Under South Australian law a ‘child’ means a person under 18 years of age. A cohort of this group aged 12 to 17 are referred as ‘young ‘people’ in SA government legislation.
Whilst the University does not primarily provide services to children, there are a cohort of younger people under the age of 18 at the commencement of their undergraduate studies. In addition, some University research, teaching and community engagement activities may include interactions with children, young people or other vulnerable people.
Vulnerable people are individuals over 18 who may not be able to protect themselves from harm or exploitation by reason of age, illness, trauma or disability. This includes people of diverse background and cultural experiences such as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students who are engaged in university programs or activities as part of the Commonwealth’s Indigenous Student Success Program (ISSP).
How do I establish an environment that will be safe?
Children and vulnerable people may be on Campus engaging in University approved activities, visiting with University personnel, or attending venues or services available on Campus.
The measures you implement to create a safe environment should be proportionate to the frequency and likelihood of interactions with children or vulnerable people.
A safe environment is one which reduced the potential for accidental, unintended or deliberate harm. The risk of harm will depend on the nature and frequency of the interactions.
The following resources have been developed to help you assess and establish a safe environments for the children and vulnerable people:
- Risk Assessment Tool for safe environments for children and vulnerable people
- Children in the Workplace FAQs (HSW Handbook)
Interactions with children and vulnerable people may also occur in virtual environments and measures to ensure that virtual interactions are also safe should be put in place.
The use of the University’s technology, digital platforms and social media must accord with the IT Acceptable Use and Security Policy and Procedures. Any inappropriate interactions should be reported to an area manager. Where there are any suspicions of online child exploitation activity this should be reported to the Australian Federal Police directly or via the ThinkUKnow website.
University activities conducted off-site, including overseas, should also be assessed to ensure that any interactions with children or vulnerable people are safe.
What is a working with children check and who needs one?
A working with children check is an clearance provided to an individual by the Central Assessment Unit in the SA Department of Human Services. A clearance is provided following an assessment of the person’s criminal and other history. The Central Assessment Unit issues a unique identifier number to someone with a valid clearance. The University has a legal obligation to ensure that only people with valid checks are working in prescribe positions.
Refers to a position in which a person is required to work with children as part of their University job description. This included volunteers and contractors or anyone working on special projects where contact with children is required. Anyone who may work directly with children for a period of more than 7 days in total in a 12 month period must have valid check before they commence employment or commence engaging in activities involving children. Refer to the University’s Employment Screening Procedure for further details.
A working with children check is the most comprehensive assessment of a person’s relevant history and some areas in the University may require this check for personnel who work with vulnerable people.
Prior to commencement all personnel in prescribed positions, or those likely to be in contact with children or other vulnerable people, must have a current clearance confirmed by the Central Screening Unit, South Australian Department of Human Services (a DHS working with children check).
Information on how to facilitate online access to the SA Government’s Central Screening Unit for individuals (personnel or students) who require a DHS working with children check as a part of their employment, professional placement or other University related activity is available here .
Local area heads (Branches / Schools / Institutes), program co-ordinators, contract managers, hiring managers, student placement co-ordinators and research chief investigators are responsible for ensuring personnel and students in their area have access to appropriate training, guidance or support regarding children and vulnerable people.
Personnel in prescribed positions or in other professional roles, such as social workers or psychologists, are mandated notifiers under legislation. Mandated notifiers are obliged to report suspicions that a child or young person may be at risk to the Child Abuse Report Line (CARL) on 13 14 78 or via the Online child protection reporting system.
Local Area Heads (Branches / Schools / Institutes), program co-ordinators, contract managers, hiring managers and research chief investigators supervising personnel must ensure that relevant child safety and reporting training is included in a Training Needs Analysis and Training Plan for any personnel with statutory reporting obligations (as set out in Chapter 5 of the Children and Young People (Safety) Act 2017 (SA) ) or as appropriate for the assessed risk. This includes training for mandated notifiers.
Are there any implications for research projects involving children or vulnerable people?
Any research project involving children or vulnerable people must meet specific research ethics and compliance requirements, including being given formal approval by the University’s Human Ethics Research Committee.
Some government research funding agreements require that a research project confirms to specific guidelines or policy, such as the Children and Young People National Statement from the NHMRC or the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Child Protection Policy 2017 .
Contact the Office of Research Ethics, Compliance and Integrity for further information.
What sort of risks should I consider to ensure safe environments for children and vulnerable people?
All those responsible for managing University operations and projects should anticipate the potential involvement of children, young people and other vulnerable individuals on campuses and in approved activities. The obligation to create safe environments extends across a broad range of University managed or arranged activities, such as
- Accommodation services, including the homestay program
- Approved pathway programs provided to international students by third parties
- Contractor activity on campuses
- Venue hire arrangement.
Each activity and environment will differ and an assessment of risk should take into account the unique context and the nature of the interactions. Where interaction are anticipated or possible, a risk management assessment should be conducted by the local area prior to the engagement to ensure the environment and the activities are appropriate and safe. It is the responsibility of each areas to manage the risk in accordance with the University’s Risk Management Policy.
A Risk Assessment Tool has been developed to support local areas and project teams to identify the types and nature of their interactions with children and vulnerable people so they can meet their obligations under the Policy.
What should I do if I am concerned that a child or young person is at risk of harm?
If you have reason to suspect that a child or young person is at risk of harm or neglect you should make a report so that action can be taken.
Where a threat is immediate, you should contact SA Police on 000, and/or University Security Services on 831 35444.
University personnel, including volunteers and contractors, and students can make a report to the University through the Safer Campus Community website:
Phone the Child Abuse Report Line (CARL) on 12 14 78 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week)
Mandated notifiers are obliged to report suspicions that a child or young person may be at risk either by phoning the Child Abuse Report Line (CARL) on 13 14 78 or via the Online child protection reporting system.
What do Governments and funding bodies expect?
The Safe Environments for Children and other Vulnerable People Policy exists within a broader regulatory framework and the University must comply with the requirements set by the following:
- Children and Young People (Safety) Act 2017 (SA) (“the Act”) which requires appropriate policies and procedures be in place to ensure that child-safe environments are established and maintained.
- Children and Young People (Oversight and Advocacy Bodies) Act 2016 (SA) which gives authority to the Children and Young People Commissioner to conduct inquiries.
- Child Safety (Prohibited Persons) Act 2016 (SA) which aims to minimise the risk to children posed by persons who work or volunteer with them.
- Educational Services for Overseas Students (ESOS) Act 2000 (Cth) – National Code of Practice for Providers of Education and Training to Overseas Students 2018 which obligates the University and approved agents to protect the interest and ensure the welfare of international students.
- Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) Child Protection Policy 2017 which sets out obligations for funded activities.
- National Principles for Child Safe Organisations 2019, an initiative of the Council of Australian Governments
- Indigenous Student Assistance Grants Guidelines 2017 issued under the Higher Education Support Act 2003