There are literally hundreds of laws and regulations that schools in Australia are required to follow in their day-to-day operations.
Rising out of this legal jungle there is one responsibility that supersedes them all — our duty of care to our students.
The student duty of care is an obligation for schools and teachers not to act negligently. Schools and teachers have a duty to take or exercise ‘reasonable care’ to protect students from risks of harm that are ‘reasonably foreseeable’ whilst they are involved in school activities, or are present for the purposes of a school activity.
That means that the school constantly assesses its activities against the benchmark of what is a reasonably foreseeable risk. Camps, excursions, sports events, experiments, etc are all assessed to offer acceptable levels of safety.
In terms of individual personal safety, the school recognises that it has an obligation to report concerns it has in regard to its students to relevant government agencies. This is mandated under the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998 (the Care Act).
The 10 Child Safe Standards we operate under are:
- Child safety is embedded in organisational leadership, governance and culture
- Children participate in decisions affecting them and are taken seriously
- Families and communities are informed and involved
- Equity is upheld and diverse needs are taken into account
- People working with children are suitable and supported
- Processes to respond to complaints of child abuse are child-focused
- Staff are equipped with the knowledge, skills and awareness to keep children safe through continual education and training
- Physical and online environments minimise the opportunity for abuse to occur
- Implementation of the Child Safe Standards is continuously reviewed and improved
- Policies and procedures document how the organisation is child safe.
To be able to offer safety to our students, we require our community’s assistance.
If a student or member of our school community sees or hears evidence that a student is at risk of harassment, neglect, bullying or being placed in danger, disclosing this to a member of staff not only alerts us to a problem, it allows us to act to protect one of our own.
This is not “dobbing”. This is behaving as a responsible friend, classmate, teammate and member of our school community.
The thing that most limits our ability to act to provide a safe environment for our students is not being told what is happening.
“Mandatory reporting is the legislative requirement for selected classes of people to report suspected child abuse and neglect to government authorities.”
We ask our community to help us to help those who need our help.
Rather than assume that “everybody knows what is happening” or “it’s none of my business”, if you are worried about someone’s safety or their wellbeing, please tell us.
Sometimes those who are at risk cannot tell us themselves. An individual may fear they won’t be believed, or will be victim-blamed. They can feel ashamed and might even blame themselves. Minimising their experiences is also common “because denial is a safer place than feeling traumatised.”
The Royal commission “has shown that there are misperceptions, attitudes, beliefs and behaviour in all Australian communities that can enable, encourage or normalise sexually abusive behaviour towards children. Such attitudes and misunderstandings can discourage victims from disclosing abuse or seeking help.”
You can and should help.
Our staff are well trained and aware of their responsibilities in regard to acting on disclosures of any form of abuse.
We work with a range of government agencies to deal with any child protection issues that are raised with us.
St Columba is committed to providing education and care to children and young people.
As a School, we care for all, protect all, reach out to all and seek the well-being of all. We are committed to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of all children and young people at the School and we are dedicated to protecting them from harm.