Chapter 14

Learning and improving

Introduction

As explored in Chapter 13, System failings(opens in a new window), the Terms of Reference required the Board of Inquiry to examine the response of the Department of Education (Department) to the historical child sexual abuse that was the subject of the Board of Inquiry’s work. As discussed in that Chapter, the Board of Inquiry has found that there were significant failings in the Department’s response.

One of the objectives of the Board of Inquiry, as set out in the Terms of Reference, was to ‘[r]eiterate the State’s commitment that such abuse must not happen again’.1 Consistently with this objective, the Board of Inquiry has examined the changes over time in legislation, policies and procedures to prevent and respond to child sexual abuse in government schools, and has also examined the system currently in place. The Terms of Reference did not, however, extend to requiring the Board of Inquiry to examine the effectiveness of those changes, or of the system currently in place.

This Chapter provides an overview of the major changes in child safety legislation, policies and procedures over time, and how the current system addresses many of the system failings described in Chapter 13(opens in a new window).

Major changes across the years

As outlined in Chapter 13(opens in a new window), the Board of Inquiry has found that the Victorian education system did not have policies or procedures in place concerning child sexual abuse in government schools between 1960 and 1994.

From 1994 onwards, successive governments introduced new legislation, policies and procedures to better respond to allegations of child sexual abuse. From the mid-2010s, further reforms were introduced in response to landmark inquiries, including the 2013 Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry into the Handling of Child Abuse by Religious and Other Non-Government Organisations and the 2017 Royal Commission into Institutional Reponses to Child Sexual Abuse (Royal Commission).

Changes between 1994 and 2017

A number of legislative amendments and policies were introduced between 1994 and 2017 that provided guidance to employees of the Department on how to respond to child sexual abuse and manage teacher misconduct. This section provides a brief overview of the key changes during this period.

In 1993, the Children and Young Persons Act 1989 (Vic) (Children and Young Persons Act) was amended to include mandatory reporting for specified professionals.2 The mandatory reporting obligation came into effect for some professionals in November 1993, with principals and teachers becoming mandatory reporters in July 1994.3

This mandatory reporting obligation required principals and teachers to report if a child ‘has suffered, or is likely to suffer, significant harm as a result of sexual abuse and the child’s parents have not protected [the child]’.4

The introduction of mandatory reporting legislation prompted the development of guidance for principals and teachers regarding their obligations to report child sexual abuse. This guidance initially included allegations of child abuse perpetrated by a family member and over time extended to include allegations of child abuse perpetrated outside of the family.

In 1994, Child Abuse and Neglect: The Teacher’s Response was published, outlining the mandatory reporting obligations of teachers under the Children and Young Persons Act in relation to familial abuse.5 These obligations included reporting to the then Department of Health and Community Services any physical injury to a child resulting from abuse, sexual abuse or neglect.6 The Board of Inquiry understands these guidelines did not include reporting obligations related to child abuse perpetrated outside of the family.7

In 1998, the Department published Managing Unsatisfactory Performance: A Guide for Principals.8 This document stated that ‘serious misconduct’ by a teacher should be dealt with under the Teaching Service Act 1981 (Vic) (Teaching Service Act).9 It was the first document to outline the steps that principals should take to respond to allegations of child sexual abuse by a teacher, including reporting to the Department’s then Complaints and Investigations Unit.10

In 2001, the Australian Industrial Relations Commission certified the Victorian Government Schools Agreement 2001, which was binding on all people employed in government schools in Victoria.11 Consistent with this agreement, the Department published the Victorian Government Schools Teacher Class Handbook, which provided guidance on ‘[c]omplaints, unsatisfactory performance and serious misconduct’.12 The Department also reviewed and updated the Protecting Children protocols (guidance to support staff to report child sexual abuse and refer information to Victoria Police) and extended them to include all Victorian schools.13

In 2005, the Department published Guidelines for Managing Complaints, Unsatisfactory Performance and Serious Misconduct in Relation to Teachers, following amendments to the Teaching Service Act.14 These guidelines were the first to set out the right of the Secretary of the Department to remove a teacher from teaching duties if a serious allegation had been raised — before an investigation was completed.15

In 2007, the Children and Young Persons Act was repealed and replaced with the Children Youth and Families Act 2005 (Vic). The new Act established a framework for ‘promoting the wellbeing’ of children and young people.16

In 2007, the Department published Responding to Allegations of Student Sexual Assault: Procedures for Victorian Government Schools.17 This document stated that any allegation that a teacher or school employee had committed a sexual assault must be reported to Victoria Police and the Department’s Conduct and Ethics Branch.18 The document also set out procedures for principals to follow in responding to child sexual abuse, including immediate response, support for students, preservation of evidence, and reporting both within the Department and to Victoria Police.19

In 2010, the Department and the then Department of Human Services Child Protection co-published the Protecting the Safety and Wellbeing of Children and Young People protocol, which replaced the 2001 protocols.20 The purpose of the new protocol was to define the respective roles of the child protection service (a statutory service provided by the then Department of Human Services Child Protection), the then Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, licensed children’s services and Victorian schools ‘in working together to protect children and young people from abuse and neglect’.21

This protocol also updated mandatory reporting procedures and outlined the responsibilities of school staff in responding to abuse and neglect, including child sexual abuse.22 It stated that if there was an allegation of abuse perpetrated by a staff member at a school, the matter must be immediately reported to Victoria Police.23 Similarly, if the then Department of Human Services Child Protection received information alleging that a teacher abused a child or a young person, this information should be referred to Victoria Police.24

In 2013, the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry into the Handling of Child Abuse by Religious and Other Non-Government Organisations delivered its Betrayal of Trust report.25 This report recommended landmark changes to how organisations should report and respond to child sexual abuse.

The Department gave evidence to the Board of Inquiry that significant reforms occurred following the Betrayal of Trust report that affected its policies with regard to responding to allegations, complaints, notifications and reports of child sexual abuse.26 These reforms included the implementation in 2016 of the first iteration of Child Safe Standards in Victorian government schools.27

In 2017, the Royal Commission delivered its final report inquiring into institutional responses to child sexual abuse across Australia.28 More than 8,000 victim-survivors engaged with the Royal Commission through private sessions.29 The Royal Commission made systemic recommendations to improve the safety of children in institutions, including defining 10 National Child Safe Standards.30 The existing Victorian Child Safe Standards were updated to reflect these national standards.31

Departmental areas with responsibility for responding to child sexual abuse

Under the current framework for child safety, the Department has a range of policies and procedures in place to prevent, investigate and respond to allegations and incidents of child sexual abuse in government schools.

To aid understanding of how these policies and procedures work in practice, an overview of the areas within the Department that have responsibility for preventing and responding to child sexual abuse in government schools is given in Table 4. Unlike the situation between 1960 and 1999, the Department now has formalised lines of accountability and responsibility for responding to child sexual abuse in government schools.

Table 4 Department: Areas with responsibility for responding to child sexual abuse (as at November 2023)

AreaRole in preventing or responding to child sexual abuse
Wellbeing, Health and Engagement Division
  • develops and distributes child safety policies and advice to government schools regarding prevention of child sexual abuse32
  • provides advice to government schools on how to respond to child sexual abuse
  • is not directly involved in individual incident responses or investigations33
  • plays a significant role in ensuring that government school staff are trained in their responses to and reporting requirements in relation to child sexual abuse.34
School Compliance Unit
  • conducts assessments and site visits of government schools to assess compliance with the Minimum Standards for school registration, which include the Child Safe Standards.35
Security and Emergency Management Division
  • develops and distributes the Managing and Reporting School Incidents (including Emergencies) policy. This policy requires principals to report allegations of child sexual abuse involving a current student to the Incident Support and Operations Centre.36
Incident Support and Operations Centre
  • provides initial incident response, including giving immediate advice to school principals on what steps to take
  • follows internal protocol and actions for information-sharing to refer a report of alleged child sexual abuse to all other relevant areas in the Department.37
Employee Conduct Branch
  • manages all complaints, misconduct and unsatisfactory performance allegations against adults working in schools38
  • reports allegations of child sexual abuse to relevant organisations under the Reportable Conduct Scheme
  • investigates allegations of child sexual abuse
  • provides advice on disciplinary actions if allegations are proven.
Sexual Harm Response Unit
  • supports schools to respond to incidents of child sexual abuse.39 (The scope of the unit now includes historical child sexual abuse).40
Regional and area teams, including school support staff
  • support schools to respond to allegations of child sexual abuse and to support victim-survivors and their families, mostly through school support staff.41

Current policies, procedures and practices in response to inquiries

Current policies and procedures that resulted from the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry into the Handling of Child Abuse by Religious and Other Non-Government Organisations and the Royal Commission are outlined below.

Child Safe Standards and the Reportable Conduct Scheme

In response to the Betrayal of Trust report, the Victorian Government established the 2016 Child Safe Standards and the 2017 Reportable Conduct Scheme.42

The Child Safe Standards and the Reportable Conduct Scheme exemplify the major reforms in child safety that took place from 2016 onwards, and establish the framework for child safety in Victoria today.

Child Safe Standards

In 2016, the Child Safe Standards were first put into operation in Victorian government schools.43 The Child Safe Standards are compulsory standards that schools must legally comply with to keep children safe and protect them from abuse.44

In 2017, the Royal Commission recommended and defined 10 National Child Safe Standards. These were endorsed by the former Council of Australian Governments in 2019 as the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations (National Principles).45

The Department’s evidence was that in 2022, Victoria updated its Child Safe Standards to align with the National Principles.46 Under Ministerial Order 1359, issued on 31 January 2022, all Victorian schools must comply with the current Child Safe Standards and embed a culture of ‘no tolerance’ for child abuse.47

The Child Safe Standards also form part of the Minimum Standards for school registration (Minimum Standards) set out in the Education and Training Reform Act 2006 (Vic) (Education and Training Reform Act).48 Under that Act, all Victorian schools must comply with the Minimum Standards, including the Child Safe Standards, as a condition of registration and continued operation.49

Reportable Conduct Scheme

In 2017, the Reportable Conduct Scheme was introduced under the Child Wellbeing and Safety Act 2005 (Vic).

The Reportable Conduct Scheme is a ‘child safety mechanism’ that requires all employees of the Department, including all school-based employees, to notify the relevant officer of the Department when there is an allegation of ‘reportable conduct’ raised against employees of the Department, volunteers or school council employees.50

An allegation of ‘reportable conduct’ refers to where a person has a reasonable belief that there has been a sexual offence, sexual misconduct (including child sexual abuse) or physical violence against, with, or in the presence of a child; behaviour causing significant emotional or psychological harm to a child; or significant neglect of a child.51

The Reportable Conduct Scheme sets out to whom a person should report an allegation, and when the Department should notify the Commission for Children and Young People (Commission).52 As discussed later in this Chapter, the Commission is a statutory body that promotes the safety and wellbeing of Victorian children and young people.53

PROTECT

The Department gave evidence to the Board of Inquiry that ‘[t]he resources and policies that support implementation of the Child Safe Standards are extensive’.54

The Department has a website called PROTECT, which is an online repository of resources for implementing the Child Safe Standards.55 For example, one resource available on PROTECT is the Identifying and Responding to All Forms of Abuse in Victorian Schools policy. This policy supports school staff to take action if they ‘suspect, receive a disclosure, or are witness to any form of child abuse’.56

Other available resources include an action list, a policy template, a code of conduct template, a risk register and training presentations.57

Current policies, procedures and practices: preventing child sexual abuse in government schools

The Department did not have any policies or procedures concerning child sexual abuse or the prevention of child sexual abuse in government schools between 1960 and 1994.

Today, the Child Safe Standards form the basis of the Department’s and government schools’ policies and procedures to ensure children feel safe and are safe at school.58 Two major approaches to the prevention of child sexual abuse are effective employee screening and school registration.

Employee screening

Evidence was given to the Board of Inquiry that historically the Department did not have any processes in place to reduce the risk of employing someone who had committed a sexual offence in relation to a child.

Jenny Atta PSM, Secretary, Department of Education, gave evidence that the Department now undertakes ‘significant vetting of staff before they are employed’.59 This includes registration with the Victorian Institute of Teaching (VIT). Registration requires individuals to meet a range of criteria, such as the absence of a criminal record.60 If an individual has a criminal record, the VIT will assess their ‘suitability to teach’ on the merits of each case.61 This includes consideration of criminal offences and whether the individual has been the subject of a finding of reportable conduct by the Commission.62

The Department also has a Suitability for Employment Checks policy and a Working with Children and Other Suitability Checks for School Volunteers and Visitors policy, which set out further requirements and guidance in relation to pre-employment checks.63

In addition, the Department’s Recruitment in Schools policy sets out the steps a principal is required to take, and the matters they must be satisfied of, before a person commences employment.64 These include ensuring that:

  • the person is registered with the VIT
  • the person is a fit and proper person and is suitable for child-connected work
  • the person has a current Working with Children Check, if they are to be employed as an education support class worker.65

The policy also requires a principal to confirm whether a person has an ‘employment limitation’ in place, and to ask questions of the person’s current or previous employer relating to how the person conducted themselves when working with children.66

The Employment Limitation policy applies if a person is the subject of an allegation of misconduct with regard to their employment with the Department. This policy sets out the circumstances in which the Department can impose a ‘limitation’ on a person’s eligibility for employment in a government school or on a school council.67 A limitation can be placed on a person following a disciplinary process for misconduct or unsatisfactory performance, or if they resign during the course of an investigation.68

The Department can also place a limitation on a former employee if that employee engaged in misconduct during their employment, but the Department did not become aware of it until after their employment ceased.

In practice, a limitation may preclude a person from further employment in the Department or in the Victorian Government Teaching Service or limit the terms of a person’s employment (for example, a teacher may be restricted to a fixed-term period of employment).69

School registration

The Department ensures that any registered school adheres to the Minimum Standards, which include the Child Safe Standards. Schools can only be registered if they meet the Minimum Standards.70

The Minimum Standards place obligations on schools to effectively respond to and report child sexual abuse allegations, including the implementation of prevention measures such as governance, culture and training.71

The Department gave evidence that in term 2, 2022 (commencing 26 April 2022), it implemented a new model for assessing compliance with the Minimum Standards that was intended to be ‘more comprehensive and robust, and subject to greater quality control’.72

Regarding the assessment of schools against the Child Safe Standards, in the 2022 calendar year:

  • The Department initially assessed the majority of schools as fully compliant with 72 per cent of the Child Safe Standards.
  • Ninety-one per cent of schools became fully compliant within three months of the initial assessment.
  • All schools were fully compliant by the end of the ‘compliance assessment process’.73

The Department gave evidence that the rates of school compliance were affected by the new assessment model and the new Child Safe Standards, which came into effect on 1 July 2022.74

Current policies, procedures and practices: responding to child sexual abuse in government schools

The Department gave evidence to the Board of Inquiry that, in addition to the prevention measures described above, it has a range of policies and procedures in place directed to ensuring an effective response to allegations of child sexual abuse.

Supporting teachers and staff to identify and respond to child sexual abuse

One of the Department’s historical failings in responding to child sexual abuse was the lack of training for teachers and principals in how to identify child sexual abuse, and how to respond to it and report it.

Staff training

The Department’s evidence was that schools are now required to train their staff annually in relation to certain child safety policies, procedures and practices; for example, the Protecting Children — Reporting and Other Legal Obligations policy.75 School leaders, such as principals, are also encouraged to undertake training on the Minimum Standards.76

In addition, the Department gave evidence that it provided training to support schools in transitioning to the 2022 Child Safe Standards. This included:

  • online introductory briefings
  • workshops to support schools to update their own policies and processes to align with the new requirements.77

The Department’s School Compliance Unit assesses schools against the Child Safe Standards at least every five years (and in most cases every four years). This includes determining whether school staff have completed annual child safety training.78

The Department’s evidence was that if schools are not compliant with the Child Safe Standards, the School Compliance Unit provides them with a ‘rectification plan’.79 A rectification plan sets out the actions that a school must take to address the areas of non-compliance that have been identified.80 The Department generally asks schools to address all rectifications within six weeks of receiving the initial assessment report.81 The school will then receive a final compliance report once all rectifications have been actioned.82

Information on policies and resources

The Department now has a range of policies and procedures in place to assist teachers and school staff to identify and respond to child sexual abuse.

To support government school staff to access materials and understand their obligations generally, the Department introduced the Policy and Advisory Library (PAL) in 2020.83 PAL contains policies, guidance and resources for all operational topics, as well as links to legislation and related policies.84 These include policies about responding to allegations or incidents of child sexual abuse in government schools.85 In contrast, PROTECT provides schools, early childhood services and higher education and training facilities with resources related to the Child Safe Standards and information and advice on how to protect children, create a child safe environment, and identify and respond to signs of abuse.86

The Department communicates key changes to any policies or procedures via weekly emails to school leaders, such as principals, and administrative staff.87 PAL also includes a register of all changes or updates.88 When a significant policy change or a new policy is introduced, the Department publishes an article to explain what the changes mean in practice.89 For example, when the new Child Safe Standards came into effect in mid-2022 the Department published an article that included advice and guidance on staff training.90

Reporting and investigating

As outlined in Chapter 13(opens in a new window), the Board of Inquiry found that between 1960 and 1994 the Department did not have any policies or procedures governing how schools or officials should report and investigate child sexual abuse.

When asked about its current policies, the Department’s evidence was that it now has in place detailed policies and procedures for reporting and responding to allegations or suspicions of child sexual abuse in government schools.91

All schools are required to use the Four Critical Actions for Responding to Incidents, Disclosures and Suspicions of Child Abuse (Four Critical Actions), which are published on the PROTECT website.92 These actions are:

  • responding to an emergency
  • reporting to authorities
  • contacting parents and carers
  • providing ongoing support.93

In line with these actions, a school must report all incidents, suspicions and disclosures of child abuse, including child sexual abuse, to Victoria Police.94 The school is also required to report all incidents, suspicions and disclosures of child abuse involving a school staff member, contractor, volunteer or visitor internally to the Employee Conduct Branch and the Incident Support and Operations Centre within the Department.95 Ms Atta gave evidence that these parts of the Department ‘work together to ensure that all next steps are taken’.96

Incident Support and Operations Centre staff provide immediate advice to principals about what actions they need to take in response to a report.97 This advice includes a reminder to implement the Four Critical Actions.98

Actions in relation to alleged perpetrators, such as their suspension, are then managed by the Employee Conduct Branch.99 Ms Atta gave evidence that as soon as a report of child sexual abuse is received, the branch undertakes ‘an immediate risk assessment’ before a formal investigation commences.100 Action taken might include the suspension of a teacher or the removal of a teacher from the classroom.101

The Department’s evidence was that the Employee Conduct Branch considers any risks to students or other children, and provides advice to relevant decision-makers, such as a Regional Director or the Deputy Secretary within the Department, based on this risk assessment.102 The assessment includes consideration of the nature of the allegations, the current role and duties of the individual, action taken by Victoria Police and any steps already taken by the Department.103

For allegations against current employees, or employees within the scope of the Reportable Conduct Scheme, the Employee Conduct Branch takes steps to assess whether a notification to the Commission is required.104 For allegations against former employees, the Employee Conduct Branch will check if the person is still registered with the VIT and, if so, will inform the VIT of the allegation.105

Under the Complaints, Misconduct and Unsatisfactory Performance — Teaching Service policy and guidelines, the Employee Conduct Branch also appoints an investigator to investigate the allegations of child abuse.106

The Department liaises with Victoria Police before starting any investigation to ensure that it does not interfere with any criminal investigation or proceedings.107 Ms Atta also gave evidence that if Victoria Police requests the Department to temporarily suspend an investigation to avoid interference with its own investigation, the Department would comply but would still take steps to ensure child safety, such as removing the teacher from the classroom.108

Following a ‘significant child safety incident’, the School Compliance Unit assists schools to undertake a post-incident review to identify opportunities to improve child safety policies, procedures and practices.109

It is clear that, in contrast to the historical position, the Department now has procedures in place to ensure that schools prioritise the safety of children when a report of child sexual abuse is raised, and understand clearly how to respond to such reports. As Ms Atta explained in her evidence, there are now policies for principals to ‘understand that the default is to report’ child sexual abuse.110

In addition, the Department has policies in place to identify an incident of child sexual abuse for which there has been no report and subsequently the failure to report may be investigated. In her evidence, Ms Atta said that these policies exist as ‘part of [a] culture of child safety and the priority given to child protection’.111

The Department’s engagement with Victoria Police

The Department gave evidence to the Board of Inquiry that the Employee Conduct Branch works with Victoria Police, as well as the Australian Federal Police and police in other jurisdictions, in relation to allegations of child sexual abuse connected to Victorian government schools.112 This includes reporting allegations, assisting police with their inquiries, and ensuring that steps taken by the Department do not interfere with police investigations.113

The Board of Inquiry also received evidence that for every new arrest or charge in relation to child sexual abuse in government schools, the Department’s Sexual Harm Response Unit works with Victoria Police to ‘ensure any communications issued by the school will not compromise any criminal processes’.114

In addition, the Sexual Harm Response Unit will liaise with Victoria Police, the relevant Centre Against Sexual Assault or other appropriate support services, and with Child Protection within the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing, as appropriate.115 The Department gave evidence that:

We aim to ensure that we work collaboratively with the victim-survivor on any engagement with Victoria Police, taking a trauma-informed approach, whilst also ensuring that reports of criminal allegations are being made to police, from a community safety perspective.116

The Department’s engagement with the Commission for Children and Young People

As noted earlier in this Chapter, the Commission is a statutory body that promotes the safety and wellbeing of Victorian children and young people.117 This includes scrutiny of services for children and young people.118

Under the Department’s Reportable Conduct policy, the Employee Conduct Branch is responsible for notifying the Commission of reportable allegations.119

When the Employee Conduct Branch becomes aware of a reportable allegation, it will provide the following information to the Commission:

  • initial advice, including the nature of the allegation and identity of the alleged perpetrator, within three business days
  • an update on the investigation, including details of the allegation and investigation process, within 30 calendar days
  • other information upon request from the Commission.120

The Employee Conduct Branch provides a report to the Commission at the finalisation of an investigation. This includes whether the allegations have been substantiated, the reasons for the finding, any disciplinary or other actions taken, and reasons for taking or not taking those actions.121 In the event that the Employee Conduct Branch reports to the Commission that the allegations of reportable conduct are substantiated, the Commission must notify the Secretary of the Department of Justice and Community Safety for the purposes of a Working with Children Check, except in some limited circumstances.122

Where the Commission receives a direct notification from a member of the public that relates to the Department or a government school, the Commission will refer the allegation to the Employee Conduct Branch for investigation.123

The Department’s engagement with the Victorian Institute of Teaching

The VIT was established in 2002 and is an independent statutory authority that regulates members of the teaching profession to ensure quality teaching.124 It is a legal requirement for all teachers to be registered with the VIT.125

The Department’s evidence was that the Employee Conduct Branch notifies the VIT of the outcomes of disciplinary investigations against teachers, in accordance with the Education and Training Reform Act.126 This includes informing the VIT:

  • of the outcome of reportable conduct investigations relating to employees of the Department registered with the VIT
  • where criminal charges are laid or are likely to be laid in relation to a teacher or principal
  • when an ‘employment limitation’ is put in place by the Department.127

The VIT then shares information with the Employee Conduct Branch about the suspension of teaching registrations and decisions to cancel or not to renew registrations.128

The Department’s engagement with Working with Children Check Victoria

The Working with Children Check was introduced in Victoria in 2006 under the Working with Children Act 2005 (Vic).129 It is now established under the Worker Screening Act 2020 (Vic), which came into force on 1 February 2021 and repealed the 2005 Act.130 The Working with Children Check is a screening process for assessing or reassessing people who work with or care for children in Victoria.131 It includes assessing an individual’s criminal history and professional conduct to ensure children are protected from sexual or physical harm.132

The Department does not provide information directly to Working with Children Check Victoria.133 Teachers are exempt from a Working with Children Check if they hold a current registration with the VIT.134 This is because the VIT’s registration process closely aligns with the way Working with Children Checks are assessed.135

Working with Children Checks are required for non-teaching staff who are not registered with the VIT.136

Working with Children Check Victoria notifies the Department in writing if an employee’s or volunteer’s Working with Children Check is suspended or revoked.137

The Department’s engagement with the Victorian Disability Worker Commission

The Victorian Disability Worker Commission regulates unregistered disability workers and responds to complaints about disability workers.138

If an allegation of child sexual abuse relates to a ‘disability worker’ within the meaning of the Disability Service Safeguards Act 2018 (Vic), the Department must notify the Victoria Disability Worker Commission.139

The definition of ‘disability worker’ captures education support workers providing support to a student with disability, but does not generally cover teachers.140 The Employee Conduct Branch is responsible for assessing allegations to consider whether a notification to the Victorian Disability Worker Commission is required.141

Supporting children, families, parents and communities when child sexual abuse occurs

The Board of Inquiry found that between 1960 and 1994 the Department failed to put in place any policies or processes for the provision of support to victim-survivors, their parents and families, when they disclosed child sexual abuse.

The Department gave evidence to the Board of Inquiry that one of its priorities today is supporting children, families and communities impacted by child sexual abuse.

In line with the Four Critical Actions, which are published on the PROTECT website, the Department must provide immediate trauma-informed responses to students affected by sexual abuse.142 This support is normally delivered by the area-based Student Support Service and school-based wellbeing staff, including specialist allied health staff.143

The Department’s evidence was that the Student Support Service will work to re-establish student wellbeing and safety.144 Depending on the circumstances, this may include liaising with the Department of Families, Fairness and Housing and sexual assault support services to respond to the needs of the victim-survivor and their family.145

When a criminal charge is laid, or there is a substantiation of an allegation through an investigation conducted by the Department, the Sexual Harm Response Unit takes on responsibility for identifying how to best support victim-survivors, their families and the community.146

The Sexual Harm Response Unit provides ‘end-to end case management’ and is responsible for assisting school principals and relevant regional or area teams to ‘appropriately support victim-survivors and their families, and to assist principals to appropriately notify and engage with school communities’.147

The Department’s evidence was that the Sexual Harm Response Unit seeks to ensure the following:

  • It undertakes a risk assessment to determine whether other individuals may have been sexually abused or harmed.
  • Appropriate supports are offered to victim-survivors and their families, including an apology.
  • School principals engage appropriately with school staff and communities, including by sending communications to the school community and past students.
  • There is ongoing dialogue with Victoria Police throughout the criminal process.
  • The school undertakes a post-incident review, with support from the Department, to evaluate its child safety and wellbeing policies, procedures and practices.148

Disciplinary action in response to child sexual abuse

As explored in Chapter 13(opens in a new window) the Board of Inquiry has found that the Department failed in its approach to disciplinary action in response to child sexual abuse matters between 1960 and 1994. The Department’s approach had prioritised the reputation of the Victorian education system, including the reputation and continued employment of teachers, over the safety of children.

The Department gave evidence to the Board of Inquiry that it now takes a very different approach to disciplinary action in response to child sexual abuse in government schools.149

The Education and Training Reform Act sets out the legislative framework for managing allegations of child sexual abuse by a government school employee. Under this Act, the Secretary of the Department has the power to take action against an employee for misconduct or a criminal offence, following an investigation.150 The Act also allows the Secretary to conduct an inquiry, where they reasonably believe there are grounds for doing so, and to suspend the employee from duty during the inquiry.151 The Secretary may take disciplinary action against the employee, including a reprimand, fine, demotion or termination of employment.152

The Complaints, Misconduct and Unsatisfactory Performance — Teaching Service policy and guidelines establish how complaints will be handled and ensures that the Department conducts disciplinary processes in accordance with the principles of procedural fairness and in line with the Education and Training Reform Act.153

Once the Department’s investigation is complete, the relevant decision-maker, such as the Deputy Secretary, is responsible for determining whether the allegations of child sexual abuse are substantiated and what disciplinary action will be taken, with guidance from the Employee Conduct Branch.154

The Department’s evidence was that if allegations of child sexual abuse are substantiated, the disciplinary action is termination of employment.155 In her evidence, Ms Atta confirmed to the Board of Inquiry that, under the Education and Training Reform Act:

any substantiation … and certainly any conviction for a sexual offence, for sexual abuse against a child, that would result in termination. A conviction of that kind — in fact, there is no discretion around that under the Act now, and that immediately would happen.156

Ms Atta also confirmed that the teaching registration for the perpetrator would be cancelled permanently.157

This approach is significantly different to the Department’s responses to child sexual abuse between 1960 and 1994, according to the evidence the Board of Inquiry received. Despite legislation allowing for the suspension and dismissal of teachers, information was provided to the Board of Inquiry that some teachers remained employed in the education system after convictions for child sexual abuse offences came to light.

As explored in Chapter 13(opens in a new window), the Board of Inquiry also found that the Department previously used staff transfers as a way of managing a complaint or a report about child sexual abuse on the part of a teacher.

Ms Atta gave evidence that the option for transfers as an outcome of the disciplinary process was removed from legislation in 2004. While Ms Atta could not confirm if transfers had been used to manage a complaint about child sexual abuse in the years preceding 2004, her evidence was that it is:

no longer, and for a long time now [has] not been an option to any decision-maker of a disciplinary outcome to use a transfer mechanism to move an offender, or an alleged offender, to another school or another part of the Department.158

Managing records of alleged child sexual abuse

The Board of Inquiry understands that the Department has introduced changes to improve record management policies in relation to allegations of child sexual abuse.

The current legal framework that governs the Victorian education system’s record management obligations comprises the Public Records Act 1973 (Vic) (Public Records Act), the Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) and the Public Record Office Victoria standards. This framework specifically covers the education system’s management of documents relating to allegations of child sexual abuse.

In 2010, the first explicit requirement for public sector agencies to retain records related to child abuse allegations was introduced.159 Since then, a range of new obligations have been implemented.

In 2022, following the new Child Safe Standards coming into effect, all government and non-government schools in Victoria were required to meet the same minimum record retention requirements for student health, safety and wellbeing records.160

Several retention and disposal authorities (legal standards under the Public Records Act) now establish how the education system must treat and retain documents related to current and historical allegations of child sexual abuse, as well as relevant employment and disciplinary records.161

The Department must permanently retain all policy, strategy and procedural documentation related to prevention, reporting and investigations of child sexual abuse.162 The Department must also retain, for 99 years, all records relating to its reporting and investigation of any allegations of child sexual abuse.163 In addition, the Department is obligated to retain all training documents related to responding to child sexual abuse for 45 years.164

The Department’s evidence was that it now records and retains information on child sexual abuse allegations in keeping with these requirements.165 For example, the Sexual Harm Response Unit maintains its own records of all new allegations and incidents of child sexual abuse.166 Files are electronic and are stored securely with restricted access.167

Ms Atta gave evidence to the Board of Inquiry that:

[adhering to these requirements] is a very important focus [of] our work now. One, ensuring that we’ve got proper documentation, for instance, of misconduct processes, of investigations, but, two, [that we are] absolutely compliant with those requirements around the management of records and their retention.168

The Board of Inquiry understands that since the early 1990s, government schools also have responsibility for the storage, maintenance and disposal of records, including those pertaining to child sexual abuse (noting there was no explicit requirement to retain records related to child sexual abuse allegations until 2010).169 This responsibility was conferred in the early 1990s, when the storage of school records was decentralised.170 The Department provides records management guidance to schools, to help address record inconsistencies and loss.171 Schools must store records in line with the same legislative obligations that govern the Department’s record-keeping.172

In 2019, the Department introduced the School Records Management Program, which aims to reduce record loss by retrieving records from schools and archiving them.173

The Victorian Government has stated that it is ‘working to improve records and record keeping practices of institutions that care for or provide services to children’.174

Responding to allegations of current and historical child sexual abuse

Based on information provided by the Department, it appears that the Department manages allegations of historical child sexual abuse in the same way it manages allegations of recent child sexual abuse. The information that the Department provided to the Board of Inquiry did not differentiate between how the Department responded to victim-survivors who had experienced historical child sexual abuse and how it responded to those who had experienced recent child sexual abuse.

For example, both current and former students can report allegations of recent or historical child sexual abuse to the Department through the same mechanism: a direct phone number and email address for the Sexual Harm Response Unit.175

This section describes how the Department responds to allegations from current and former students of recent or historical child sexual abuse.

In March 2023, the Department reviewed the aspects of its website regarding how current and former students can engage with the Department about allegations of child sexual abuse.176 As a result of this review, current and former students can now access a dedicated central contact line in the Department if they wish to raise allegations of child sexual abuse with the Department, in addition to being able to report to Victoria Police and the school.177 In addition, the website includes information for victim-survivors about support schemes and justice pathways that they may be eligible for or may wish to consider.178

The Department gave evidence that it has also expanded the Sexual Harm Response Unit’s functions to improve the Department’s response to, and support of, all victim-survivors of child sexual abuse in government schools — both current and historical.179

When a victim-survivor contacts the Sexual Harm Response Unit, the Department gave evidence that its staff work with the individual in a trauma-informed way and are guided by the wishes of the individual.180 It also gave evidence that its staff listen to people’s experiences and offer further information and contact with the Department if required.181

If the alleged perpetrator is currently working in a government school, or has worked in a government school in the past seven years, the Sexual Harm Response Unit undertakes a risk assessment for students.182 This includes identifying students who may have interacted with the alleged perpetrator and who may have been abused, in close collaboration with the school principal and Victoria Police.183 The Department’s evidence was that the Sexual Harm Response Unit then takes steps to respond, including, where appropriate, communicating with those students or the school community.184

The Department gave evidence that the Sexual Harm Response Unit’s involvement with historical child sexual abuse matters ‘is currently quite limited’.185 Between late June 2023 (when the direct central phone number and email address for reporting abuse were published on the Department’s website) and 3 November 2023, six victim-survivors reported child sexual abuse that occurred before 31 December 1999.186

When an allegation of child sexual abuse is made, the Employee Conduct Branch establishes whether the it relates to a current or former employee within the scope of the Reportable Conduct Scheme.187 If the allegation relates to a current employee, the Employee Conduct Branch assesses whether the allegation should be reported to the Commission.188 If the allegation relates to a former employee, the Employee Conduct Branch checks to see whether the person is still registered with VIT and, if so, informs the VIT of the allegation.189

The Employee Conduct Branch also seeks to establish whether the allegation relating to a current or former employee has been reported to Victoria Police. If the allegation has not yet been reported, the Employee Conduct Branch will take steps to ensure a report is made to Victoria Police.190

Further improvements

As explored throughout this Chapter, the Department has significantly improved its approach to preventing and responding to child sexual abuse compared with the period between 1960 and 1999. In saying this, it should be emphasised that the Board of Inquiry’s Terms of Reference did not extend to assessing the effectiveness of the Department’s current response. However, given that the Department’s historical approach was marked by a complete absence of relevant policies and procedures, the fact the Department now has extensive and detailed policies and procedures in place to provide guidance to schools and staff members regarding their obligations in preventing, identifying, responding to, and reporting child sexual abuse is in itself a considerable improvement.

Importantly, the Department’s approach now seeks to prioritise the safety of children, and the Department no longer uses transfers as a way of managing allegations of child sexual abuse against a teacher.

The Board of Inquiry is aware that the Department is continuing to explore opportunities to further improve its response to child sexual abuse in government schools, including consideration of:

  • improvements to records management and the provision of documents to victim-survivors
  • how it responds to victim-survivors of historical child sexual abuse
  • how to incorporate learnings from historical child sexual abuse matters into current child safety practices.

Child sexual abuse still occurs today. Institutions need to continually reflect on how to best prevent and respond to child sexual abuse, so there can be ongoing learning and improvement. This is essential to achieving the State’s commitment that child sexual abuse ‘must not happen again’.191

Chapter 14 Endnotes

  1. Order in Council (Vic), ‘Appointment of a Board of Inquiry into Historical Child Sexual Abuse in Beaumaris Primary School and Certain Other Government Schools’, Victorian Government Gazette, No S 339, 28 June 2023, cl 2(d).
  2. Children and Young Persons (Further Amendment) Act 1993 (Vic) s 4.
  3. Ben Mathews, Mandatory Reporting Laws for Child Sexual Abuse in Australia: A Legislative History (Report for the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, August 2014) 10.
  4. Children and Young Persons Act 1989 (Vic) s 63.
  5. Protective Services for Children and Young People Branch of Community Services Victoria, Child Abuse and Neglect: The Teacher’s Response (2nd ed, updated by the Community and Professional Education Unit, Child Protection, Health and Community Services, with the guidance of the Department of Education, 1994); Document prepared by the Victorian Department of Education in response to a Notice to Produce, ‘The History and Evolution of the Department’s Policies and Practices from 1 January 2000 to the Date of this Notice, in Relation to Responding to Any Allegation, Complaint, Notification or Report of Historical Child Sexual Abuse’, 13 October 2023, 6 [14].
  6. Document prepared by the Victorian Department of Education in response to a Notice to Produce, ‘The History and Evolution of the Department’s Policies and Practices from 1 January 2000 to the Date of this Notice, in Relation to Responding to Any Allegation, Complaint, Notification or Report of Historical Child Sexual Abuse’, 13 October 2023, 6 [14]; Email from State of Victoria to the Board of Inquiry, 6 February 2024.
  7. Email from State of Victoria to the Board of Inquiry, 6 February 2024.
  8. Document prepared by the Victorian Department of Education in response to a Notice to Produce, ‘The History and Evolution of the Department’s Policies and Practices from 1 January 2000 to the Date of this Notice, in relation to Responding to Any Allegation, Complaint, Notification or Report of Historical Child Sexual Abuse’, 13 October 2023, 6 [16].
  9. Document prepared by the Victorian Department of Education in response to a Notice to Produce, ‘The History and Evolution of the Department’s Policies and Practices from 1 January 2000 to the Date of This Notice, in Relation to Responding to Any Allegation, Complaint, Notification or Report of Historical Child Sexual Abuse’, 13 October 2023, 6 [16].
  10. Document prepared by the Victorian Department of Education in response to a Notice to Produce, ‘The History and Evolution of the Department’s Policies and Practices from 1 January 2000 to the Date of This Notice, in Relation to Responding to Any Allegation, Complaint, Notification or Report of Historical Child Sexual Abuse’, 13 October 2023, 6 [16].
  11. Document prepared by the Victorian Department of Education in response to a Notice to Produce, ‘The History and Evolution of the Department’s Policies and Practices from 1 January 2000 to the Date of This Notice, in Relation to Responding to Any Allegation, Complaint, Notification or Report of Historical Child Sexual Abuse’, 13 October 2023, 7 [19]; Victorian Government Schools Agreement 2001, Australian Education Union and State of Victoria, Department of Education, Employment and Training, signed 15 January 2001 (certified by the Australian Industrial Relations Commission, Commissioner Smith).
  12. Document prepared by the Victorian Department of Education in response to a Notice to Produce, ‘The History and Evolution of the Department’s Policies and Practices from 1 January 2000 to the Date of This Notice, in Relation to Responding to Any Allegation, Complaint, Notification or Report of Historical Child Sexual Abuse’, 13 October 2023, 7 [19].
  13. Document prepared by the Victorian Department of Education in response to a Notice to Produce, ‘The History and Evolution of the Department’s Policies and Practices from 1 January 2000 to the Date of this Notice, in Relation to Responding to Any Allegation, Complaint, Notification or Report of Historical Child Sexual Abuse’, 13 October 2023, 8 [20].
  14. The Education and Training Reform Act 2006 (Vic) consolidated 11 separate Acts dealing with education and training and repealed the Teaching Service Act 1981 (Vic). Document prepared by the Victorian Department of Education in response to a Notice to Produce, ‘The History and Evolution of the Department’s Policies and Practices from 1 January 2000 to the Date of This Notice, in Relation to Responding to Any Allegation, Complaint, Notification or Report of Historical Child Sexual Abuse’, 13 October 2023, 8 [21].
  15. Document prepared by the Victorian Department of Education in response to a Notice to Produce, ‘The History and Evolution of the Department’s Policies and Practices from 1 January 2000 to the Date of This Notice, in Relation to Responding to Any Allegation, Complaint, Notification or Report of Historical Child Sexual Abuse’, 13 October 2023, 8 [21], 9 [23(e)].
  16. ‘Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 (2007-)’, Find and Connect (Web Page, 20 April 2016) <https://www.findandconnect.gov.au/ref/vic/biogs/E000410b.htm>(opens in a new window); Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 (Vic) s 1.
  17. Document prepared by the Victorian Department of Education in response to a Notice to Produce, ‘The History and Evolution of the Department’s Policies and Practices from 1 January 2000 to the Date of This Notice, in Relation to Responding to Any Allegation, Complaint, Notification or Report of Historical Child Sexual Abuse’, 13 October 2023, 9–10 [26].
  18. Document prepared by the Victorian Department of Education in response to a Notice to Produce, ‘The History and Evolution of the Department’s Policies and Practices from 1 January 2000 to the Date of This Notice, in Relation to Responding to Any Allegation, Complaint, Notification or Report of Historical Child Sexual Abuse’, 13 October 2023, 9–10 [26].
  19. Document prepared by the Victorian Department of Education in response to a Notice to Produce, ‘The History and Evolution of the Department’s Policies and Practices from 1 January 2000 to the Date of This Notice, in Relation to Responding to Any Allegation, Complaint, Notification or Report of Historical Child Sexual Abuse’, 13 October 2023, 10 [26]; Department of Education and Early Childhood Development and Department of Human Services Child Protection, Protecting the Safety and Wellbeing of Children and Young People (Protocol, May 2010) <https://www.education.vic.gov.au/school/principals/spag/safety/Documents/protectionofchildren.PDF>.(opens in a new window)
  20. Document prepared by the Victorian Department of Education in response to a Notice to Produce, ‘The History and Evolution of the Department’s Policies and Practices from 1 January 2000 to the Date of This Notice, in Relation to Responding to any Allegation, Complaint, Notification or Report of Historical Child Sexual Abuse’, 13 October 2023, 10 [27]; Department of Education and Early Childhood Development and Department of Human Services Child Protection, Protecting the Safety and Wellbeing of Children and Young People (Protocol, May 2010) 5 <https://www.education.vic.gov.au/school/principals/spag/safety/Documents/protectionofchildren.PDF>.(opens in a new window)
  21. Department of Education and Early Childhood Development and Department of Human Services Child Protection, Protecting the Safety and Wellbeing of Children and Young People (Protocol, May 2010) 5 <https://www.education.vic.gov.au/school/principals/spag/safety/Documents/protectionofchildren.PDF>(opens in a new window).
  22. Document prepared by the Victorian Department of Education in response to a Notice to Produce, ‘The History and Evolution of the Department’s Policies and Practices from 1 January 2000 to the Date of This Notice, in Relation to Responding to Any Allegation, Complaint, Notification or Report of Historical Child Sexual Abuse’, 13 October 2023, 10 [28]; Department of Education and Early Childhood Development and Department of Human Services Child Protection, Protecting the Safety and Wellbeing of Children and Young People (Protocol, May 2010) 23–5 <https://www.education.vic.gov.au/school/principals/spag/safety/Documents/protectionofchildren.PDF>(opens in a new window).
  23. Department of Education and Early Childhood Development and Department of Human Services Child Protection, Protecting the Safety and Wellbeing of Children and Young People (Protocol, May 2010) 25 <https://www.education.vic.gov.au/school/principals/spag/safety/Documents/protectionofchildren.PDF>.(opens in a new window)
  24. Department of Education and Early Childhood Development and Department of Human Services Child Protection, Protecting the Safety and Wellbeing of Children and Young People (Protocol, May 2010) 25 <https://www.education.vic.gov.au/school/principals/spag/safety/Documents/protectionofchildren.PDF>.(opens in a new window)
  25. Family and Community Development Committee, Betrayal of Trust: Inquiry into the Handling of Child Abuse by Religious and other Non-Government Organisations, (Report, PP No 275, session 2010-13, November 2013).
  26. Document prepared by the Victorian Department of Education in response to a Notice to Produce, ‘The History and Evolution of the Department’s Policies and Practices from 1 January 2000 to the Date of This Notice, in Relation to Responding to Any Allegation, Complaint, Notification or Report of Historical Child Sexual Abuse’, 13 October 2023, 11 [32].
  27. Statement of Stephen Fraser, 3 November 2023, 2 [8], 15 [54].
  28. Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (Final Report, 2017).
  29. Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (Final Report, 2017) Preface and Executive Summary, 8.
  30. Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (Final Report, 2017) Preface and Executive Summary, 9.
  31. Statement of Stephen Fraser, 3 November 2023, 15 [54].
  32. Statement of Stephen Fraser, 3 November 2023, 2 [5], 5 [25].
  33. Statement of Stephen Fraser, 3 November 2023, 5 [26].
  34. Letter from State of Victoria to the Board of Inquiry, 25 January 2024, Table A (Department of Education) 8 [11].
  35. Statement of Elly Gay, 3 November 2023, 10 [36], 12 [41].
  36. Statement of David Howes, 3 November 2023, 17 [67]–[68].
  37. Statement of David Howes, 3 November 2023, 17 [68]–[69].
  38. Statement of Elly Gay, 3 November 2023, 2 [6(b)].
  39. Statement of Elly Gay, 3 November 2023, 2 [8].
  40. Statement of Elly Gay, 3 November 2023, 2–3 [8].
  41. Statement of David Howes, 3 November 2023, 17–18 [71].
  42. Statement of Stephen Fraser, 3 November 2023, 2 [8].
  43. Statement of Stephen Fraser, 3 November 2023, 2 [8].
  44. Department of Education (Vic), Child Safe Standards: School Operations (Policy, 1 July 2022) [4].
  45. Statement of Stephen Fraser, 3 November 2023, 2 [9]; Australian Human Rights Commission, National Principles for Child Safe Organisations (Report, 2018) 3.
  46. Statement of Stephen Fraser, 3 November 2023, 2 [10].
  47. Statement of Stephen Fraser, 3 November 2023, 3 [14]–[15]; ‘Implementing the Child Safe Standards: Managing the Risk of Child Abuse in Schools and School Boarding Premises’ (Ministerial Order No 1359, 31 January 2022, Education and Training Reform Act 2006 (Vic)) 1 [1.1](c).
  48. Department of Education (Vic), Minimum Standards and School Registration: School Operations (Policy, 3 November 2023) [10].
  49. Education and Training Reform Act 2006 (Vic) s 4.3.1(6)(b), (e).
  50. Department of Education (Vic), Reportable Conduct (Policy, 9 September 2022) 1.
  51. Department of Education (Vic), Reportable Conduct (Policy, 9 September 2022) 2.
  52. Department of Education (Vic), Reportable Conduct (Policy, 9 September 2022) 2.
  53. ‘Who We Are’, Commission for Children and Young People (Web Page) <https://ccyp.vic.gov.au/about-us/who-we-are>(opens in a new window).
  54. Statement of Stephen Fraser, 3 November 2023, 4 [22].
  55. ‘PROTECT’, VIC.GOV.AU (Web Page, 18 December 2023) <https://www.vic.gov.au/protect>(opens in a new window); Document prepared by the Victorian Department of Education in response to a Notice to Produce, ‘The History and Evolution of the Department’s Policies and Practices from 1 January 2000 to the Date of This Notice, in Relation to Responding to Any Allegation, Complaint, Notification or Report of Historical Child Sexual Abuse’, 13 October 2023, 13 [39].>; Document prepared by the Victorian Department of Education in response to a Notice to Produce, ‘The History and Evolution of the Department’s Policies and Practices from 1 January 2000 to the Date of This Notice, in Relation to Responding to Any Allegation, Complaint, Notification or Report of Historical Child Sexual Abuse’, 13 October 2023, 13 [39].
  56. Department of Education and Training, Identifying and Responding to All Forms of Abuse in Victorian Schools (Policy, 2.1 ed, 2018), 2; Statement of Stephen Fraser, 3 November 2023, 8 [32(c)].
  57. Statement of Stephen Fraser, 3 November 2023, 4–5 [23(a–e)].
  58. The Child Safe Standards are made by the Minister under the Child Wellbeing and Safety Act 2005 (Vic) s 17 and given effect by Ministerial Order 1359 under the Education Training and Reform Act 2006 (Vic); Statement of Stephen Fraser, 3 November 2023, 2 [6].
  59. Transcript of Jenny Atta, 17 November 2023, P-217 [29]–[31].
  60. Transcript of Jenny Atta, 17 November 2023, P-217 [29]–[31].
  61. ‘Criminal History Checks’, Victorian Institute of Teaching (Web Page, 11 January 2024) <https://www.vit.vic.edu.au/maintain/criminal-history-checks>(opens in a new window).
  62. ‘Suitability and Fitness to Teach’, Victorian Institute of Teaching (Web Page, 14 August 2023) <https://www.vit.vic.edu.au/conduct/suitability>(opens in a new window).
  63. Document prepared by the Victorian Department of Education in response to a Notice to Produce, ‘The Department’s Current Policies and Practices for Responding to Any Allegation, Complaint, Notification or Report of Child Sexual Abuse Alleged to Have Been Perpetrated by School-based Staff Today’, 13 October 2023, 9–10 [36]; Department of Education (Vic), Suitability for Employment Checks (Policy, 1 April 2021); Department of Education (Vic), Working with Children Checks and Other Suitability Checks for School Volunteers and Visitors (Policy, 12 July 2022).
  64. Statement of Bella Stagoll, 3 November 2023, 11 [44]; Department of Education (Vic), Recruitment in Schools (Policy, 28 August 2023).
  65. Teachers are exempt from a Working with Children Clearance if they hold a current registration with the VIT. This is because the VIT’s registration process closely aligns with the way Working with Children Clearances are assessed. Statement of Bella Stagoll, 3 November 2023, 11 [44]; Department of Education (Vic), Recruitment in Schools (Policy, 28 August 2023).
  66. Statement of Bella Stagoll, 3 November 2023, 11 [45]; Department of Education (Vic), Recruitment in Schools (Policy, 28 August 2023) 52–3.
  67. Department of Education (Vic), Employment Limitation (Policy, 21 December 2022) 11–13.
  68. Department of Education (Vic), Employment Limitation (Policy, 21 December 2022) 11–12.
  69. Department of Education (Vic), Employment Limitation (Policy, 21 December 2022) 3; Letter from the State of Victoria to the Board of Inquiry, 25 January 2024, Table A (Department of Education) 10 [16].
  70. Document prepared by the Victorian Department of Education in response to a Notice to Produce, ‘The Department’s Current Policies and Practices for Responding to Any Allegation, Complaint, Notification or Report of Child Sexual Abuse Alleged to Have Been Perpetrated by School-based Staff Today’, 13 October 2023, 6 [18]; Education and Training Reform Act 2006 (Vic) s 4.3.1(6)(b).
  71. Statement of Elly Gay, 3 November 2023, 12 [40].
  72. Statement of Elly Gay, 3 November 2023, 12 [39].
  73. Statement of Elly Gay, 3 November 2023, 14–15 [49].
  74. Statement of Elly Gay, 3 November 2023, 15 [50].
  75. Statement of Elly Gay, 3 November 2023, 9 [32], 11 [38]; Statement of Stephen Fraser, 3 November 2023, 10 [37(a)].
  76. Statement of Stephen Fraser, 3 November 2023, 10 [37(b)].
  77. Statement of Stephen Fraser, 3 November 2023, 9 [35].
  78. Statement of Elly Gay, 3 November 2023, 10–11 [37], 12 [39].
  79. Statement of Elly Gay, 3 November 2023, 10–11 [37]; Letter from the State of Victoria to the Board of Inquiry, 25 January 2024, Table A (Department of Education) 11 [20].
  80. Victorian Department of Education, ‘Minimum Standards and School Registration: Guidance’, EDUCATION.VIC.GOV.AU (Web Page, 3 November 2023) <https://www2.education.vic.gov.au/pal/minimum-standards/guidance>(opens in a new window).
  81. Victorian Department of Education, ‘Minimum Standards and School Registration: Guidance’, EDUCATION.VIC.GOV.AU (Web Page, 3 November 2023) <https://www2.education.vic.gov.au/pal/minimum-standards/guidance>(opens in a new window).
  82. Victorian Department of Education, ‘Minimum Standards and School Registration: Guidance’, EDUCATION.VIC.GOV.AU (Web Page, 3 November 2023) <https://www2.education.vic.gov.au/pal/minimum-standards/guidance>(opens in a new window).
  83. Victorian Department of Education, ‘About PAL’, EDUCATION.VIC.GOV.AU (Web Page, 20 April 2021) <https://www2.education.vic.gov.au/pal/about-pal>(opens in a new window).
  84. Statement of Elly Gay, 3 November 2023, 9 [32]; Victorian Department of Education, ‘Policy and Advisory Library’, EDUCATION.VIC.GOV.AU (Web Page) <https://www2.education.vic.gov.au/pal>(opens in a new window).
  85. Statement of Elly Gay, 3 November 2023, 2 [6]. See e.g: Victorian Department of Education, ‘Child Safe Standards’, EDUCATION.VIC.GOV.AU (Web Page, 1 July 2022) <https://www2.education.vic.gov.au/pal/child-safe-standards/policy>.(opens in a new window)
  86. Victorian Government, ‘PROTECT: The Child Safe Standards’, VIC.GOV.AU (Web Page, 18 December 2023) <https://www.vic.gov.au/protect>(opens in a new window); Letter from the State of Victoria to the Board of Inquiry, 25 January 2024, Table A (Department of Education) 11 [21].
  87. Statement of Elly Gay, 3 November 2023, 10 [33].
  88. Statement of Elly Gay, 3 November 2023, 10 [34]; Victorian Department of Education, ‘Recently Updated PAL Topics’, EDUCATION.VIC.GOV.AU (Web Page, 22 December 2023) <https://www2.education.vic.gov.au/pal/recently-updated>(opens in a new window).
  89. Statement of Elly Gay, 3 November 2023, 10 [35].
  90. Statement of Elly Gay, 3 November 2023, 10 [35]; Victorian Department of Education, Creating a Child-safe Environment (Intranet post, 31 May 2023) 1–2.
  91. See generally Transcript of Jenny Atta, 17 November 2023, 219 [26]–[35]; Statement of Bella Stagoll, 3 November 2023.
  92. Victorian Department of Education, PROTECT: Identifying and Responding to All Forms of Abuse in Victorian Schools (Policy, July 2022) <https://www.education.vic.gov.au/Documents/about/programs/health/protect/ChildSafeStandard5_SchoolsGuide.pdf> 5.(opens in a new window)
  93. Victorian Department of Education, Four Critical Actions for Schools: Responding to Incidents, Disclosures and Suspicions of Child Abuse (PROTECT Guidelines, undated) 1.
  94. Victorian Department of Education, Four Critical Actions for Schools: Responding to Incidents, Disclosures and Suspicions of Child Abuse (PROTECT Guidelines, undated) 1.
  95. Victorian Department of Education, Four Critical Actions for Schools: Responding to Incidents, Disclosures and Suspicions of Child Abuse (PROTECT Guidelines, undated) 1.
  96. Transcript of Jenny Atta, 17 November 2023, 220 [8]–[14].
  97. Statement of David Howes, 3 November 2023, 17 [68].
  98. Statement of David Howes, 3 November 2023, 17 [68].
  99. Statement of Elly Gay, 3 November 2023, 5 [16].
  100. Transcript of Jenny Atta, 17 November 2023, 220 [36]–[46].
  101. Transcript of Jenny Atta, 17 November 2023, 220 [36]–[46].
  102. Statement of Bella Stagoll, 3 November 2023, 17 [76].
  103. Statement of Bella Stagoll, 3 November 2023, 17 [76].
  104. Statement of Bella Stagoll, 3 November 2023, 17 [78]; Victorian Department of Education, ‘Reportable Conduct’, EDUCATION.VIC.GOV.AU (Web Page, 9 September 2022) <https://www2.education.vic.gov.au/pal/reportable-conduct-scheme/policy>(opens in a new window).
  105. Statement of Bella Stagoll, 3 November 2023, 17 [79].
  106. Statement of Bella Stagoll, 3 November 2023, 4 [13]; Victorian Department of Education, ‘Complaints, Misconduct and Unsatisfactory Performance: Teaching Service’, EDUCATION.VIC.GOV.AU (Web Page, 15 June 2020) <https://www2.education.vic.gov.au/pal/complaints-misconduct-and-unsatisfactory-performance/overview>(opens in a new window).
  107. Statement of Bella Stagoll, 3 November 2023, 4 [13].
  108. Transcript of Jenny Atta, 17 November 2023, 221 [13]–[19].
  109. Victorian Department of Education, Process for Employee Conduct (EC) to Notify the Sexual Harm Response Unit (SHRU) of Relevant New Matters (Guidelines, undated) 1.
  110. Transcript of Jenny Atta, 17 November 2023, P-219 [29]–[45].
  111. Transcript of Jenny Atta, 17 November 2023, P-219 [26]–[35].
  112. Statement of Bella Stagoll, 3 November 2023, 9 [37].
  113. Statement of Bella Stagoll, 3 November 2023, 9 [37].
  114. Statement of Elly Gay, 3 November 2023, 5 [17]–[18].
  115. Statement of Elly Gay, 3 November 2023, 9 [30].
  116. Statement of Elly Gay, 3 November 2023, 17 [58].
  117. ‘Who We Are’, Commission for Children and Young People (Web Page) <https://ccyp.vic.gov.au/about-us/who-we-are(opens in a new window)>.
  118. ‘Who We Are’, Commission for Children and Young People (Web Page) <https://ccyp.vic.gov.au/about-us/who-we-are(opens in a new window)>.
  119. Statement of Bella Stagoll, 3 November 2023, 8 [30].
  120. Statement of Bella Stagoll, 3 November 2023, 8 [31]; Child Wellbeing and Safety Act 2005 (Vic) s 16M.
  121. Statement of Bella Stagoll, 3 November 2023, 8–9 [32].
  122. Child Wellbeing and Safety Act 2005 (Vic) s 16ZD; Statement of Bella Stagoll, 3 November 2023, 17 [78].
  123. Statement of Bella Stagoll, 3 November 2023, 9 [33].
  124. ‘About VIT’, Victorian Institute of Teaching (Web Page) <https://www.vit.vic.edu.au/about>(opens in a new window).
  125. ‘About VIT’, Victorian Institute of Teaching (Web Page) <https://www.vit.vic.edu.au/about>(opens in a new window).
  126. Statement of Bella Stagoll, 3 November 2023, 9 [34]; Education and Training Reform Act 2006 (Vic) s 2.6.30.
  127. Statement of Bella Stagoll, 3 November 2023, 9 [35].
  128. Statement of Bella Stagoll, 3 November 2023, 9 [36].
  129. Premier of Victoria, ‘New Laws to Better Protect Victoria Children’ (Media Release, 25 October 2016)<https://www.premier.vic.gov.au/new-laws-better-protect-victorian-children>.(opens in a new window)
  130. ‘Legislation re Working with Children Checks’, VIC.GOV.AU (Web Page, 12 January 2023) <https://www.vic.gov.au/legislation-wwcc>(opens in a new window).
  131. ‘Working with Children Check’, VIC.GOV.AU (Web Page, 24 November 2023) <https://www.vic.gov.au/working-with-children-check>(opens in a new window).
  132. ‘Working with Children Check’, VIC.GOV.AU (Web Page, 24 November 2023) <https://www.vic.gov.au/working-with-children-check>(opens in a new window).
  133. Statement of Bella Stagoll, 3 November 2023, 10 [39].
  134. ‘Working with Children Information’, Victorian Institute for Teaching (Web Page, 16 August 2023) <https://www.vit.vic.edu.au/maintain/wwc>(opens in a new window).
  135. ‘Working with Children Information’, Victorian Institute for Teaching (Web Page, 16 August 2023) <https://www.vit.vic.edu.au/maintain/wwc>(opens in a new window). See also ‘Working with Children: FAQ’, Victorian Institute for Teaching (Web Page) <https://www.vit.vic.edu.au/faqs/wwc(opens in a new window)>.
  136. Statement of Bella Stagoll, 3 November 2023, 10 [38]; Victorian Department of Education, ‘Suitability for Employment Checks’, EDUCATION.VIC.GOV.AU (Web Page, 1 April 2021) <https://www2.education.vic.gov.au/pal/suitability-employment-checks/overview>(opens in a new window).
  137. Statement of Bella Stagoll, 3 November 2023, 10 [38]; ‘Victorian Teacher Information re Working with Children Checks’, VIC.GOV.AU (Web Page, 31 May 2023) <https://www.vic.gov.au/victorian-teacher-information>(opens in a new window).
  138. ‘Victorian Disability Worker Commissioner’, Victorian Disability Worker Commission (Web Page) <https://www.vdwc.vic.gov.au/about/commissioner>(opens in a new window).
  139. Statement of Bella Stagoll, 3 November 2023, 10 [40]; Disability Service Safeguards Act 2018 (Vic) s 60(1).
  140. Statement of Bella Stagoll, 3 November 2023, 10 [40]; Disability Service Safeguards Act 2018 (Vic) s 3(1) (definitions of ‘disability worker’ and ‘disability service’); Victorian Disability Worker Commission, ‘Who is a Disability Worker?(Fact Sheet, June 2021) 1–2.
  141. Statement of Bella Stagoll, 3 November 2023, 10 [42].
  142. Victorian Department of Education, PROTECT: Identifying and Responding to All Forms of Abuse in Victorian Schools (Policy, July 2022)<https://www.education.vic.gov.au/Documents/about/programs/health/protect/ChildSafeStandard5_SchoolsGuide.pdf>(opens in a new window) 36, 44–51.
  143. Transcript of Jenny Atta, 17 November 2023, P-221 [40]–[43]; Letter from the State of Victoria to the Board of Inquiry, 25 January 2024, Table A (Department of Education) 12–13 [25].
  144. Letter from the State of Victoria to the Board of Inquiry, 25 January 2024, Table A (Department of Education) 12–13 [25].
  145. Statement of David Howes, 3 November 2023, 17–18 [71].
  146. Statement of Elly Gay, 3 November 2023, 2 [8]; Victorian Department of Education, Sexual Harm Matters — Internal Protocol for Actions and Information-sharing (Protocol, 10 October 2023) 8.
  147. Statement of Elly Gay, 3 November 2023, 3 [11].
  148. Statement of Elly Gay, 3 November 2023, 4–5 [15].
  149. See generally Transcript of Jenny Atta, 17 November 2023; Statement of Bella Stagoll, 3 November 2023.
  150. Statement of Bella Stagoll, 3 November 2023, 3 [7(a)]; Education and Training Reform Act 2006 (Vic) s 2.4.60(1).
  151. Education and Training Reform Act 2006 (Vic) s 2.4.64.
  152. Education and Training Reform Act 2006 (Vic) s 2.4.61.
  153. Statement of Bella Stagoll, 3 November 2023, 4 [12], 12 [50]; Victorian Department of Education, ‘Complaints, Misconduct and Unsatisfactory Performance: Teaching Service’, EDUCATION.VIC.GOV.AU (Web Page, 15 June 2020) <https://www2.education.vic.gov.au/pal/complaints-misconduct-and-unsatisfactory-performance/overview>(opens in a new window).
  154. Statement of Bella Stagoll, 3 November 2023, 4 [13].
  155. Statement of Bella Stagoll, 3 November 2023, 4–5 [13].
  156. Transcript of Jenny Atta, 17 November 2023, P-222 [18]–[24]. See also Education and Training Act 2006 (Vic) s 2.3.10.
  157. Transcript of Jenny Atta, 17 December 2023, P-222 [18]–[26].
  158. Transcript of Jenny Atta, 17 December 2023, P-223 [1]–[9].
  159. Statement of Kara Krusche, 3 November 2023, 3 [8].
  160. Victorian Government, Victorian Government Annual Report 2022: Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (Annual Report, April 2023) 12.
  161. Statement of Kara Krusche, 3 November 2023, 2–3 [7].
  162. Public Record Office Victoria, PROS 19/08: Retention and Disposal Authority for Records of Organisational Responses to Child Sexual Abuse Incidents and Allegations (Authority, PROS 19/08, 11, 10 July 2019) 11 [1.1].
  163. Public Record Office Victoria, PROS 19/08: Retention and Disposal Authority for Records of Organisational Responses to Child Sexual Abuse Incidents and Allegations (Authority, PROS 19/08, 11, 10 July 2019) 12 [1.2].
  164. Public Record Office Victoria, PROS 19/08: Retention and Disposal Authority for Records of Organisational Responses to Child Sexual Abuse Incidents and Allegations (Authority, PROS 19/08, 11, 10 July 2019) 14 [1.3].
  165. Transcript of Jenny Atta, 17 November 2023, P-224 [40]–[42].
  166. Statement of Elly Gay, 3 November 2023, 8 [29].
  167. Statement of Elly Gay, 3 November 2023, 8 [29].
  168. Transcript of Jenny Atta, 17 November 2023, P-224 [39]–[42].
  169. Statement of Kara Krusche, 3 November 2023, 5 [18].
  170. Statement of Kara Krusche, 3 November 2023, 5 [18].
  171. Statement of Kara Krusche, 3 November 2023, 5 [20].
  172. Statement of Kara Krusche, 3 November 2023, 2 [5].
  173. Statement of Kara Krusche, 3 November 2023, 5 [21]; Victorian Department of Education, ‘Records Management — School Records’, EDUCATION.VIC.GOV.AU (Web Page, 26 July 2023) <https://www2.education.vic.gov.au/pal/records-management/print-all>(opens in a new window).
  174. Victorian Government, Victorian Government Annual Report 2022: Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (Annual Report, April 2023) 11.
  175. Statement of Elly Gay, 3 November 2023, 6 [20].
  176. Statement of Elly Gay, 3 November 2023, 6 [20].
  177. Statement of Elly Gay, 3 November 2023, 6 [20].
  178. Statement of Elly Gay, 3 November 2023, 6 [21]; Victorian Department of Education, ‘Report Abuse if You’re a Current or Former Student’, EDUCATION.VIC.GOV.AU (Web Page, 22 November 2023) <https://www.vic.gov.au/report-abuse-if-youre-current-or-former-student>(opens in a new window).
  179. Statement of Elly Gay, 3 November 2023, 2–3 [8].
  180. Statement of Elly Gay, 3 November 2023, 6–7 [22] – 7 [23].
  181. Statement of Elly Gay, 3 November 2023, 7 [26].
  182. Statement of Elly Gay, 3 November 2023, 16–17 [57].
  183. Statement of Elly Gay, 3 November 2023, 16–17 [57].
  184. Statement of Elly Gay, 3 November 2023, 16–17 [57].
  185. Statement of Elly Gay, 3 November 2023, 2–3 [8].
  186. Statement of Elly Gay, 3 November 2023, 6 [20], 7 [23].
  187. Statement of Bella Stagoll, 3 November 2023, 17 [77].
  188. Statement of Bella Stagoll, 3 November 2023, 17 [78].
  189. Statement of Bella Stagoll, 3 November 2023, 17 [79].
  190. Statement of Bella Stagoll, 3 November 2023, 18 [81].
  191. Order in Council (Vic), ‘Appointment of a Board of Inquiry into Historical Child Sexual Abuse in Beaumaris Primary School and Certain Other Government Schools’, Victorian Government Gazette, No S 339, 28 June 2023, cl 2(d).
AreaRole in preventing or responding to child sexual abuse
Wellbeing, Health and Engagement Divisiondevelops and distributes child safety policies and advice to government schools regarding prevention of child sexual abuse.32

provides advice to government schools on how to respond to child sexual abuse.

is not directly involved in individual incident responses or investigations.33

plays a significant role in ensuring that government school staff are trained in their responses to and reporting requirements in relation to child sexual abuse.34
School Compliance Unitconducts assessments and site visits of government schools to assess compliance with the Minimum Standards for school registration, which include the Child Safe Standards.35
Security and Emergency Management Divisiondevelops and distributes the Managing and Reporting School Incidents (including Emergencies) policy. This policy requires principals to report allegations of child sexual abuse involving a current student to the Incident Support and Operations Centre.36
Incident Support and Operations Centreprovides initial incident response, including giving immediate advice to school principals on what steps to take.

follows internal protocol and actions for information-sharing to refer a report of alleged child sexual abuse to all other relevant areas in the Department.37
Employee Conduct Branchmanages all complaints, misconduct and unsatisfactory performance allegations against adults working in schools.38

reports allegations of child sexual abuse to relevant organisations under the Reportable Conduct Scheme.

investigates allegations of child sexual abuse.

provides advice on disciplinary actions if allegations are proven.
Sexual Harm Response Unitsupports schools to respond to incidents of child sexual abuse. (The scope of the unit now includes historical child sexual abuse).39
Regional and area teams, including school support staffsupport schools to respond to allegations of child sexual abuse and to support victim-survivors and their families, mostly through school support staff.41

Updated