Religions for Peace Australia brings occasional articles and reports from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse principally as a needful alertness to these issues for the non-Christian religious and faith communities in Australia. Child safety and creation of child-safe organisations is sine-qua-non for all faith communities in Australia. In this instance, the research of the Royal Commission into childrens’ views on their safety is important to faith communities and their leadership. We offer this research and report for your consideration.
Royal Commission releases new research on children’s views of safety
The research, “Taking Us Seriously: Children and young people talk about safety and institutional responses to their safety concerns” was conducted by the Australian Catholic University in partnership with Griffith University and the Queensland University of Technology.
In the research published by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, children and young people have identified what institutions should do to help them feel safe and be safe.
The children and young people who participated in the research said that in order for them to feel safe and be safe institutions need to have a focus on helping children and young people, value their participation, provide a safe physical environment, proactively protect them from unsafe people and experiences and employ safe and trusted adults.
Children and young people in the study also identified what makes a good response to safety issues including that adults and institutions take the time to listen to them and to acknowledge their concerns when they arise.
Royal Commission Chief Executive Philip Reed said hearing directly from children and young people was key to the Royal Commission’s understanding of best practice in preventing and responding to institutional child sexual abuse.
“Children and young people’s participation was central to this project,” he said.
“As well as including the direct views of children themselves, this study was guided by three children and young people’s reference groups.
“The researchers have now launched an online survey which aims to explore the issues arising in the focus groups with a broader sample of Australian children and young people.”
Mr Reed said the findings will inform the Royal Commission’s work on child safe organisations.
“A child safe organisation is one that actively protects children and young people from sexual abuse.
“This research is one of a suite of research projects involving children and young people and will add to our work in examining what organisational characteristics, culture, policies and practices – such as codes of conduct, complaint handling procedures, recruitment and supervision processes – will help keep children safer in institutions.”
The aim of the research was to seek the views of children and young people about safety issues – including child sexual abuse – in institutions, and how these are best addressed.
The report presents findings from ten focus groups with 121 children and young people conducted in a range of institutional settings including out-of-home care, schools, youth activities and childcare centres.
The children and young people who participated in the focus groups generally agreed that institutions were safe when a number of conditions were met:
- Focused on helping children and young people. This is demonstrated in the way adults interact with children; things children can do there; and signs that children are welcome (eg child-friendly posters, pictures and play areas).
- Valued their participation. This is demonstrated in the way adults and children interact; the value the institution places on understanding children’s fears, concerns, needs and wishes; and in mechanisms in place for children to complain, shape strategies and provide feedback.
- Provided a safe physical environment. Children felt most safe in ordered and child-friendly environments. They valued physical signs such as fences, security cameras, cameras and locks, and felt the best way of determining whether the environment is safe is to observe how children behave there.
- Proactively protected children and young people from unsafe people and experiences. This is identifying issues early; informing children of potential threats and hazards; actively communicating with children and their safety concerns; employing safe and trusted adults, and being open to monitoring by an external agency.
- Employs safe and trusted adults who: care about children and young people, act in appropriate ways, are available when children and young people need them, are able to talk about sensitive issues, prioritise children’s needs and concerns over the needs of other adults and institutions, and who do what they say they will do.
The focus groups are part of a broader research project examining children and young people’s views of safety. The project also involves an online survey which is being launched today. For more information, visit Australian Catholic University -Learning Sciences Institute Australia – Australian Survey for Kids and Young People.