The Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has highlighted the fact that children and young people are at risk of sexual abuse within schools, residential care units, sporting teams, holiday camps and other youth-serving organisations. Between 2015-17, the ACU Institute of Child Protection Studies (with partners from QUT and Griffith University) completed a series of studies to explore children’s experiences of safety within organisations and to gauge their perceptions of the way that adults and institutions were acting to keep them safe and respond when they were harmed.

The first study included focus groups with 121 children and young people (aged 4-18) in a variety of settings and developed a child-informed survey that captured the extent to which adults and institutions were meeting their needs. Colleagues from Southern Cross University then conducted a nested study that explored the special needs of young people with disability and ICPS researchers and their partners recognised the particular needs of young people in residential care and completed a study to explore their needs. These studies stressed the value of engaging children and young people in developing, monitoring, implementing and evaluating child-safe practices, of establishing adult-child alliances and working collaboratively to ensure that safeguarding initiatives not only improve children’s safety but also their feelings of safety and confidence in adults within institutions.

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