Protecting Children and Vulnerable Adults Policy

Also see: The ACU Protecting Children and Vulnerable Adults webpages for more information, reference material and contacts.

  1. Background Information
  2. Definitions
  3. Policy Purpose
  4. Scope of Policy
    4.1 University Members
    4.2 ACU Sites
    4.3 Other locations - Non-ACU Sites
  5. Policy Statement
  6. Education, training and awareness raising
  7. ACU Activities Related to Children and Vulnerable Adults
  8. Risk Planning and Management
  9. Protocols for Activities with Children and Vulnerable Adults
  10. Background checks
  11. Reporting and responding to concerning behaviour
  12. Privacy
  13. Roles and Responsibilities
    13.1 All University Members
    13.2 Chief Operating Officer
  14. Policy Review
  15. Further Assistance

    Appendix 1

1.  Background Information

Promoting the safety, wellbeing and dignity of children and vulnerable adults is consistent with the Mission and Values of the Australian Catholic University (ACU).

Each state and territory in which ACU operates has legislation which applies to working with children or, in the case of ACT, vulnerable people including children (see table below).  For the purposes of this legislation, the core work of universities is not generally considered to be related to children or vulnerable adults even though their populations include students under 18 years as well as vulnerable adults.  Exceptions to this general rule include the following:

  • In South Australia, child protection legislation applies to students under 18 years at a university.  A university is categorised as an organisation which provides “educational services”.
  • In other states or territories in which ACU has sites, particular types of activities which are performed on university campuses and/or by students, staff or others, may be considered to be related to children or vulnerable adults depending on the jurisdiction.

One significant area of activity related to children or vulnerable adults is the preparation of students for the professions and community roles to which the legislation will apply. Section 7 of this Policy provides other examples of ACU activities related to children and vulnerable adults.

State / Territory

Legislation applicable to working with children or vulnerable people

NSW

Child Protection (Working with Children) Act 2012

Child Protection (Working with Children) Regulation 2013

Qld

Commission for Children and Young People and Child Guardian Act 2000

Commission for Children and Young People and Child Guardian Regulation 2011

Vic

Working with Children Act 2005

Working with Children Regulations 2006

ACT

Working with Vulnerable People (Background Checking) Act 2011

Working with Vulnerable People (Background Checking) Regulation 2012

SA

Children's Protection Act 1993

Children's Protection Regulations 2010

The Protecting Children and Vulnerable Adults Policy complies with legislative requirements and, above and beyond this, seeks to establish best practice arrangements for the protection of children and vulnerable adults.

Further background information in relation to this policy is available from the University’s Protecting Children and Vulnerable Adults webpage.

2. Definitions

The following terms have specific meanings in this Policy.

ACU Site” refers to an ACU Campus or Satellite Centre.

Child / Children” is a person or persons under the age of 18.

Child abuse and/or neglect” can generally be defined as occurring when a child has been, is being, or is likely to be subjected to physical, emotional or sexual actions or inactions which have resulted in, or are likely to result in, harm or injury to the child.  This definition is a generalisation of the definitions at law. Jurisdictionally applicable definitions can be obtained from the relevant legislation in each state and territory.

Concerning behaviour” is the actions or inactions of a person that cause or are perceived to cause or could potentially cause harm (defined below) to a child or vulnerable adult.

Harm” is defined as the detrimental impact on the physical, psychological, emotional or social safety, wellbeing and development of a child or vulnerable adult.

University Members” are the students, staff and affiliates of the Australian Catholic University including:

  • students (i.e. a person who is enrolled in any program, unit of study or research or non-award study offered by or at the University);
  • staff (i.e. academic, professional and senior staff employed on a full-time, part-time, fractional, sessional, continuing, fixed term, and casual basis)
  • affiliates including:
    • religious members
    • members of affiliated institutions performing work for ACU
    • volunteers
    • contractors and consultants performing work for ACU
    • agency staff, e.g. temporary staff
    • committee members who are not ACU employees
    • honorary members
    • visiting members
    • guests of University Members.

Vulnerable adult” refers to an adult who is experiencing disadvantage and accesses a regulated activity or service in relation to the disadvantage.  “Disadvantage” refers to but is not limited to physical or mental disability; social or financial hardship; and difficulty communicating in English and; therefore includes but is not limited to homeless people, victims of crime, migrants, refugees and asylum seekers, and people with addictions.  The “regulated activity or service” would relate to a specific service associated with the person’s disadvantage and be offered by or in conjunction with ACU and/or University Members.

Working with Children or Vulnerable People Check” or “WWC/V Check” refers to the following in the states or territory in which ACU operates or equivalent arrangements in other jurisdictions:

Blue Card System

Queensland

Working With Children Check

NSW

Working with Children Check

Victoria

Working with Vulnerable People Registration

ACT

Child-Related Employment Screening

South Australia

3. Policy Purpose

The purpose of this Policy is to set out ACU’s commitment to protecting children and vulnerable adults.  The Policy provides information about the following:

  • ACU’s policy position in relation to the protection of children and vulnerable adults;
  • ACU’s commitment to education, training and development of University Members;
  • requirements for approval and examples of ACU activities that are related to children and/or vulnerable adults;
  • risk planning and management requirements;
  • protocols for activities with children and/or vulnerable adults;
  • background checking requirements;
  • expectations in relation to reporting and responding to concerning behaviour; and
  • roles and responsibilities.

The Policy should be read in conjunction the Protecting Children and Vulnerable Adults Procedures (the Procedures).

4. Scope of Policy

4.1 University Members

This Policy applies to all University Members whenever they come into contact (including incidental contact) with children and/or vulnerable adults on an ACU site or at another location when they are conducting ACU business or representing ACU.  University Members should also be guided by this Policy and legislative requirements at other times.

4.2 ACU Sites

While the University precincts are private property, some areas are publicly accessible and permission to enter them is not normally required.  In addition to applying to University Members, this Policy applies to visitors and members of the public participating in activities or events on ACU sites.  It also provides guidance for reporting a member of the public whose behaviour towards children, vulnerable adults or other members of the ACU community is considered to be inappropriate or concerning.

4.3 Other locations - Non-ACU Sites

A significant portion of University Members’ activities with children and vulnerable adults are conducted at the site of or on behalf of another organisation (e.g. schools, health service facilities, community organisations and government agencies).  Such activities include clinical practice or professional practice placement (students) and supervision (staff), community engagement activities, research, research consulting, academic professional practice, staff secondments, and events or activities sponsored by ACU.

The other organisations involved in such activities with University Members share responsibility for the safety and wellbeing of children and vulnerable adults, and may have policies and procedures in relation to the protection of children and/or vulnerable adults which will apply while those activities are being conducted.   The application of another organisation’s policy or procedures will not displace this Policy, which will also apply.

5. Policy Statement

All children and vulnerable adults who interact with University Members on ACU sites or within the wider community have the right to feel safe and to be safe.

ACU is committed to the safety and wellbeing of all children and vulnerable adults who interact with University Members.  ACU does not tolerate any behaviour which is inconsistent with this commitment by any University Member or member of the public on an ACU site.

The achievement of a safe environment for children and vulnerable adults requires the commitment of all members of the ACU community.  Activities and behaviour of all ACU members, whether on ACU sites or elsewhere, must contribute to the safety and wellbeing of children and vulnerable adults and not expose them to harm.  Harm can be caused by action or inaction.  Therefore, all ACU members share responsibility for the safety and wellbeing of children and vulnerable adults by complying with this Policy and other components of the ACU commitment to protecting children and vulnerable adults.

6. Education, training and awareness raising

ACU is committed to providing opportunities for all University Members to participate in education, training and awareness raising activities relevant to protecting children and vulnerable adults.  Knowledge and the sharing of knowledge in relation to this subject is critical to the effective implementation of this Policy and to making ACU and the wider community a safe place for children and vulnerable adults.

ACU’s specific commitments to education, training and awareness raising in relation to protecting children and vulnerable adults include the following:

(i)    This Policy will be communicated to all new University Members through enrolment, onboarding, induction and orientation processes (as applicable), and to existing University Members through newsletters and information.

(ii)  Every ACU undergraduate student will be required to complete an online module about protecting children and vulnerable adults regardless of whether they have direct contact with children and/or vulnerable adults during their studies.[1]

(iii) All fixed-term and continuing staff will be required to complete the online module about protecting children and vulnerable adults as part of their induction, and existing fixed-term and continuing staff will also be required to complete the online module[2].

(iv) All other University Members (i.e. not covered by (ii) or (iii)) engaged in activities involving children or vulnerable adults may be required to complete an online module about protecting children and vulnerable adults[3] if required by their supervisor.

(v)  Child protection awareness raising campaigns will be promoted by ACU (e.g. National Child Protection Week run by National Association for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (NAPCAN)).

7.  ACU Activities Related to Children and Vulnerable Adults

All activities related to children and vulnerable adults require approval from the relevant approval authority in accordance with the Procedures.

As stated in section 1 of this Policy, in most states and territories in Australia the core work of universities is not normally treated as being related to children or vulnerable adults under relevant legislation because undergraduate tertiary students under 18 years of age are considered to be sufficiently adult for the core activities of universities.

There are exceptions in different jurisdictions and some of those exceptions include:

  • where the activities of University Members cross into other sectors and contexts;
  • circumstances where tertiary students who are under 18 years are considered to be children such as when they are:
    • receiving regular one-on-one service, teaching, advice or support);
    • participating in activities such as field trips, sporting activities, research, community engagement, professional practice or clinical placement;
  • where the University provides a service or activity primarily for or directed at children and/or vulnerable adults;
  • in South Australia, whenever there is direct contact between a University Member and a person (student) under 18 years of age or that person’s confidential records.

Attachment 1 provides some descriptions and examples of activities conducted by University Members which involve children and vulnerable adults.  These activities have been categorised as work, student, research or events.  Many (but not all) of the examples in Attachment 1may require background checks, depending on the specific requirements of the relevant state or territory within which the activity is conducted (refer to section 10 of this Policy and note that the ACT requires background checks for activities associated with the provision of services to vulnerable adults).

The approval requirements for activities involving children and vulnerable adults which are set out in the Procedures apply to all such activities not just those which may require background checks.

8.  Risk Planning and Management

A risk management plan will normally be developed, approved and implemented for ACU activities involving children and vulnerable adults.  ACU’s Risk Management Policy and Procedures set out the University’s approach to risk management.  The ACU WHS Risk Management Guidelines also provide guidance in relation to risk management planning.

The objective of risk management within the context of protecting children and vulnerable adults is to remove or minimise potential risks to the safety and wellbeing of children and/or vulnerable adults involved in activities with University Members and/or on ACU sites.  It involves identifying and analysing hazards, assessing the risks associated with those hazards and identifying strategies to control, remove or minimise the risk.

Refer to the Procedures for guidance on risk planning and management for activities involving children and/or vulnerable adults.

9.  Protocols for Activities with Children and Vulnerable Adults

The Code of Conduct for All Staff and the Student Conduct and Discipline Policy and Procedures articulate the University’s expectations of behaviour of all University Members.  The protocols set out below complement the Code and the Student Conduct and Discipline Policy, and provide further guidance to University Members on how to behave when they are engaged in activities related to children and vulnerable adults.

In circumstances where University Members’ activities with children or vulnerable adults are conducted at another organisation’s site or on behalf of another organisation, the codes and policies of that organisation may also apply while those activities are being conducted. The application of the other organisation’s codes and policies will operate in conjunction with ACU’s Code of Conduct, the Student Conduct and Discipline Policy and this Policy which will also apply.

Protocol

Examples

Conduct interactions in the presence of other adults

  • To help   children feel safe, avoid being alone with children.  Ensure that another adult is present, or   close by and able to observe interactions when providing one-on-one   services to children or vulnerable adults.
  • Wherever   possible, conduct interactions in professional spaces and not in a home   environment.
  • Do not   transport unaccompanied children unless parental consent is provided.

Avoid unnecessary physical contact

  • Do not   initiate, encourage or accommodate unnecessary physical contact.
  • Deal   sensitively with inappropriate physical contact and report it to a supervisor.
  • Ensure that   any physical contact with a child or vulnerable adult is appropriate and can be explained in terms of the appropriate activity and needs of the child   or vulnerable adult.

Behave professionally at all times

  • Only make   contact in an official capacity and as part of duties.
  • Avoid   discussing personal details.
  • Be a   positive role model.
  • Do not show   favouritism and treat all children and vulnerable adults equitably and   respectfully.
  • Any steps   taken to manage disruptive or unsafe behaviour should not be humiliating or   isolating.
  • While in hearing   range of children, avoid conversations with other adults on adult or personal   subject matter (e.g. relationships, lifestyle, alcohol consumption).

Use technology appropriately

  • Ensure that   photographing, audio recording or filming via any medium is authorised in   writing by the parent or guardian (see the Procedures for guidance in   relation to arrangements) and/or child   or vulnerable adult, and is used solely for the purposes for which they have   been authorised.
  • Ensure that   there is no identifying personal information in photographs or film footage   of children or vulnerable adults, e.g. name tags; and avoid images of   children in minimal clothing, e.g. swimwear.
  • Take steps   to encourage the responsible use of personal equipment e.g. mobile devices   should not be used to   photograph, record or film.
  • Do not   provide personal contact details and always use ACU email and telephone for   communication.
  • Do not   “friend” or “connect” via social media unless for purposes related to the   work and with the consent of the parent or guardian.
  • Be aware of   issues associated with online safety.    A useful resource for this is the website of the Australian Government Office of the Children’s   e-Safety Commissioner.

Listen and act

  • If a child   or vulnerable adult raises a concern, ask open questions, listen patiently,   be compassionate and reassure them; and then take appropriate action to   address the concern.
  • If a child   or vulnerable adult reports concerning behaviour which has occurred at ACU or   elsewhere, take action to report the behaviour in accordance with section 11   of this Policy.

Seek parental consent and assent from the child or vulnerable adult, where appropriate

  • Seek   consent from a parent or guardian of a child or vulnerable adult where   prudent to do so.  Refer to the Procedures   for further guidance in relation to this matter.
  • Where   appropriate, seek assent written from the child or vulnerable adult to participate   in an activity e.g. a research study.

Planning of University spaces

  • Select   venues and spaces for activities and events which facilitate the personal   safety and access of children and vulnerable adults.
  • Ensure that   principles of personal safety are a requirement in design briefs for new and   refurbished spaces (e.g. visibility into rooms accessed by children and   vulnerable adults).

Planning an activity

  • Engage in   risk planning and management (refer to section 8 of this Policy).

10. Background checks

ACU is committed to applying a high standard of practice in relation to background checks for University Members engaged in activities related to children or vulnerable adults.  ACU also recognises the limitations of background checks, namely that they only exclude those with known behaviour which may represent a risk to children and/or vulnerable adults from working with them.  Therefore, background checks should be used in conjunction with other strategies to provide a safe environment for children and vulnerable adults (i.e. risk management, protocols, reporting, etc.).

Background checks for University Members involved in activities with children and/or vulnerable adults may be conducted through:

  • Working with Children or Vulnerable People Checks (herein referred to as WWC/V checks) required under certain circumstances by state or territory legislation;
  • police (criminal record) checks;
  • professional registration for teachers and health practitioners (this may include the above checks depending on the jurisdiction and specific registration requirements).

There are important differences between police checks and WWC/V checks.  A police check is conducted at a single point in time and is based on police records at that time.  A WWC/V check is subject to ongoing monitoring during the period of the clearance and is based on police records as well as information from other sources (including charges and findings where there is no criminal conviction, depending on the jurisdiction).

ACU is committed to having arrangements in place for WWC/V checks which ensure the following:

  • University Members have or obtain the appropriate WWC/V check clearance when:
    • they engage in activities which involve children and/or vulnerable adults, and
    • those activities meet the criteria for WWC/V checks within the State or Territory in which the activities are undertaken.
  • WWC/V check clearances are monitored to ensure that all University Members required to have checks have valid clearances in place.
  • Any University Member who does not have a WWC/V check clearance (whether that be due to a failure to obtain clearance or the removal of an existing clearance) are not permitted to engage in activities with children and/or vulnerable adults.  This also includes any University Member who may have a previously approved clearance but discloses a change to their police information.
  • From time to time the WWC/V clearance status of University Members is audited.  Each year, normally in December, the Chief Operating Officer will consider and determine the audit scope, process and timing, which may be different for different categories of University Members.
  • There is a single University-wide database which records information about WWC/V checks for all University Members for whom checks have been conducted (under development at the time of writing);
  • Information in relation to individual WWC/V checks is managed appropriately and in accordance with confidentiality and privacy requirements.

11.  Reporting and responding to concerning behaviour

Protecting the safety and wellbeing of children and vulnerable adults relies on every University Member accepting responsibility to report any concerning behaviour towards them.  This responsibility applies to behaviour that is witnessed or disclosed to a University Member by another person including a child or vulnerable adult.

Certain members of the ACU community have legislative responsibilities to report suspected cases of child abuse and/or neglect to government authorities. These legislative responsibilities are not the same across all states and territories in which ACU operates.  ACU relies upon members with such mandatory reporting responsibilities to be aware of and perform them with commitment and diligence and in accordance with the requirements of the relevant jurisdiction. However, having mandatory reporters within ACU does not abrogate the responsibility of every University Member to report concerning behaviour towards children and vulnerable adults.  The Procedures identify to whom a report should be made.  The Procedures should be consulted before making a report; however, a University Member is expected to:

  • if a child or vulnerable adult is being (or in imminent danger of being) harmed, contact the Police (telephone 000) and notify ACU National Security Centre (telephone ext 8888 or 1300 729 452), or a person in a position of authority within ACU (e.g. supervisor, manager or coordinator).
  • if child abuse and/or neglect is witnessed or suspected contact the relevant state or territory child protection agency listed in the Procedures and notify ACU National Security Centre (telephone ext 8888 or 1300 729 452), or a person in a position of authority within ACU (e.g. supervisor, manager or coordinator).

The Procedures also set out ACU process for reporting concerning behaviour and the action that will follow such a report.  The Procedures are intended to ensure that:

  • all reports are documented and immediate action taken;
  • children and vulnerable adults are safe and supported; and
  • action is taken to remove the person(s) engaged in the concerning behaviour (whether they are a University Member or member of the public) from contact with children or vulnerable adults.

12.  Privacy

It is the policy of ACU to respect the confidentiality of information and the privacy of individuals. ACU is bound by the Australian Privacy Principles (APP) contained in the Privacy Act 1988.  Further information is available from the ACU Privacy Policy.

13.  Roles and Responsibilities

13.1 All University Members

The responsibilities of University Members include the following:

  • contributing to the safety and wellbeing of children and vulnerable adults and not exposing them to harm;
  • cooperating fully with any action by the University to make ACU safe for children and vulnerable adults;
  • completing required education and training in relation to the protection of children and vulnerable adults in accordance with section 6 of this Policy;
  • seeking approval of activities involving children and/or vulnerable adults in accordance with section 7 of this Policy and the Procedures;
  • complying with the protocols set out in section 9 of this Policy where they engage in activities which involve children and/or vulnerable adults;
  • reporting any concerning behaviour in accordance with section 11 of this Policy and the Procedures.
  • undertaking background checks if required by ACU in accordance with section 10 of this Policy and the Procedures.  If a WWC/V check is required, ensuring that the WWC/V clearance remains valid and is renewed in accordance with the requirements of the relevant state or territory government agency.  They are also responsible for informing ACU of changes to their WWC/V clearance status.

13.2 Chief Operating Officer

Each year normally in December, the Chief Operating Officer will determine and advise the scope, process and timing of the audit of WWC/V clearance status of University Members (refer to section 10 of this Policy).

14. Policy Review

Any staff member who wishes to make any comments about the Policy may forward their suggestions to the Human Resources Services and Support Unit.

15. Further Assistance

Should further advice be required staff should contact the Human Resources Services and Support Unit, HR@acu.edu.au or extension 4222.

Also see: The ACU Protecting Children and Vulnerable Adults webpages for more information, reference material and contacts.

Related Policies, Procedures, Guidelines and Local Protocols

ACU Code of Conduct for All Staff
Statute 10 Student Conduct and Discipline
Children of Staff and Students on University Premises Procedure
Policy on Course Approval, Amendment and Review (Award Courses)
Guidelines for Course Approval, Amendment and Review (Award Courses)
Recruitment and Selection Policy and Procedures
Acceptable Use of IT Policy
Risk Management Policy and Procedures
WHS Risk Management Guidelines
ACU Staff Enterprise Agreement 2013-2017
Critical Incident Management Policy and Procedures
ACU Bullying Policy (applies to staff)
Bullying in the Working or Learning Environment Statement (applies to students).
Research Code of Conduct
Satellite Centres Policy and Procedures

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