Under Australian law the term 'child' is defined as a person under 18 years of age. Children have a fundamental right to be safe from any form of abuse. This is a legal requirement as well as a moral obligation.
A Child Safe organisation has good child safe policies and practices to reduce potential environmental risks and keep kids safe. The child safe approach includes education and supervision of both paid and unpaid staff about appropriate and acceptable behaviours. Strong child safety policies and procedures help deter, minimise and remove opportunities for abuse to occur within organisations. They help us be preventative rather than reacting to an unfortunate incident after it happens.
Child protection requires a commitment from everyone to ensure the environment is safe for all children. For dance teachers and leaders, this includes an awareness of the requirements and risks, a commitment to practices that minimise the risks, and the ability to respond appropriately to incidents of child abuse.
Every State and Territory has a 'working with children' or ‘working with vulnerable people’ checking system in place. In general, anyone teaching or providing services to children must satisfy the requirements of their local State or Territory system. Employers must ensure that any staff they employ can provide evidence of currency in the local State or Territory system. In some circumstances, random checks are made by the relevant authorities to ensure compliance.
There is information available from the agencies who administer those checks about how to build 'child-friendly' environments. Each state has slightly different requirements, definitions and guidelines.
Teachers should always
- work in an open environment
- avoid spending time alone with children away from others save in essential one to one situations when extreme care should be exercised.
- encourage open communication with no secrets
- treat every child equally and with respect and dignity
- put the welfare of each child first
- ensure that you/your staff are aware of the indicators of abuse and neglect of children and young people
- ensure that you/your staff are aware of an obligation to advise the employers or managers of any concerns about the safety, welfare and wellbeing of children and young people that may arise
- ensure that you/your staff are aware of mandatory obligations to report suspected risk of significant harm and of the procedures for doing so
- studio owner/teachers, school principals and company managers should maintain a register of staff employment and induction (including non-teaching staff, part-time and casual staff).
- records should be kept of any incidents or reports made to the State/Territory child protection agency as confirmation that mandatory reporting requirements have been met. (The report reference number should always be recorded)
Teachers should never
- allow or engage in horseplay, physical or sexually provocative games
- allow or engage in any form of inappropriate touching
- make sexually suggestive comments to a child or young person, even in fun
- reduce a child to tears as a form of control
- fail to act on, and record, any allegations made by a child
If any of the following occur during or in the context of a dance event or activity, we recommend you reported it to your employer, principal, manager or Child Protection Officer:
- if you accidentally hurt a child
- if a child appears to be sexually aroused by your actions
- if a child misunderstands or misinterprets something you have done
- if a child is unusually distressed and you have any suspicions of or concerns about potential abuse
If you become concerned that a child or young person known to you is being abused or neglected, or is likely to be abused or neglected, read the Mandatory Reporter Guide (MRG) for advice about what to do. In some jurisdictions, it is a legislative requirement imposed on selected classes of people to report suspected cases of child abuse and neglect to government authorities. For relevant state legislation about police checks and child safety screening programs, go to Australian Institute of Family Studies.