Getting Child Safe: An Overview of Australia’s Child Safe Principles for Sports Organisations

February 8, 2022

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

In our previous child safety article, we discussed the obligations of sports organisations to protect against child sex abuse under Victorian criminal and civil laws. This article will explore how sports organisations can prevent child abuse in their organisations by implementing Australia’s various Child Safe principles and policies, which were implemented in response to the 2018 Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (Royal Commission).

It will briefly explore the 2011 National Principles for Child Safe Organisations (National Principles) and the Commonwealth Child Safe Framework.  It will provide a more comprehensive examination of the implementation of Victoria’s New Child Safe Standards through the Commission for Children and Young People (CCYP), before briefly highlighting similar schemes that apply in other states and territories across Australia.

The principles discussed in this article may apply to your sporting organisation, especially if you are based in Victoria, and even where they do not specifically apply, the approaches recommended in the principles are likely to be beneficial in preventing child sexual abuse and other forms of child abuse. Sporting organisations should be aware of the applicable principles and obligations that apply to them, and ensure that they are compliant and obtaining advice where issues are identified.

The National Principles for Child Safe Organisations

The Royal Commission recommended a set of 10 child safe standards for various organisations to adopt for the purpose of developing organisational cultures which foster child safety and wellbeing. The National Principles are intended to provide guidance and help all organisations which engage with children to develop a child safe culture. Each principle includes a set of key actions which will help organisations to implement the respective principle. The National Principles focus on embedding child wellbeing at all levels, raising awareness of child safety and rights and ensuring that proper procedures are implemented and reviewed.

To find out more about the National Principles, please read this.

Commonwealth Child Safe Framework

The Royal Commission also emphasised the need for organisations to provide a child safe environment, and ensure that their staff and volunteers are equipped with the requisite skills, confidence and knowledge to keep children safe.

To implement this, the Federal government developed a Commonwealth Child Safe Framework (Framework). The Framework consists of a whole-of-government policy which sets the minimum standards for Australian government entities to “create and maintain behaviours and practices that are safe for children”. It is compulsory for all Commonwealth non-corporate entities and is strongly recommended for other Commonwealth entities. Examples of sports entities which may be affected by this are Sport Australia and the Australian Institute of Sport.  The Framework requires the organisations to adopt the National Principles.  To find out more about the Commonwealth Child Safe Framework, please read this.

Victoria’s New Child Safe Standards

On 1 July 2022, Victoria will adopt a new set of 11 Child Safe Standards (Child Safe Standards) to improve the safety of children and young people in specific organisations in place of the current 7 Child Safe Standards. These mandatory standards apply to all organisations defined as a relevant entity in section 3(1) of the Child Wellbeing and Safety Act 2005 (Vic). These organisations comprise any Category 2 entities, which include but are not limited to:

  1. Entities which provide coaching services specifically for children;
  2. Any youth organisations in which children participate or that provides activities in which children participate;
  3. Entities that provide sporting or recreational services specifically for children; and
  4. Entities which employ children.

The Child Safety Standards themselves largely mirror the National Principles, with the following exceptions:

  1. The Child Safe Standards feature an additional standard which requires organisations to:

“…establish a culturally safe environment in which the diverse and unique identities and experiences of Aboriginal children and young people are respected and valued”.

  1. The second National Principle has been changed slightly in the Child Safe Standards so that children and young people are not only informed about their rights, but are empowered by their rights.
  2. The Child Safe Standards are to be regularly reviewed and improved.

The Commission for Children and Young People

Compliance with the Child Safe Standards is primarily regulated by Victoria’s CCYP. However, there may be other regulators and enforcement agencies which help ensure compliance with the Child Safe Standards in specific circumstances. This includes the Department of Human Services, and Victoria Police where suspected criminal behaviour has occurred.

Reportable Conduct Scheme

The CCYP runs a Reportable Conduct Scheme (Scheme). The Scheme requires the heads of organisations to: have systems in place which prevent child abuse, report to the CCYP any reportable allegations, ensure that investigations are conducted thoroughly and rigorously, and inform the CCYP of outcomes or findings.

Reportable allegations include allegations of sexual offences, sexual misconduct, physical violence, behaviour that causes significant emotional or psychological harm, and significant neglect.

Heads of organisations must report any reportable allegations to the CCYP within three business days, and provide the CCYP with certain information about the allegations and the organisation’s proposed response within 30 days.

A failure to comply with these 3-day and 30-day notification obligations without a reasonable excuse is a criminal offence. A person found guilty of an offence may be liable to a fine worth 10 penalty units ($1817.40). They may also be guilty of an offence under various other pieces of legislation, including the Crimes Act 1958 (Vic), which could result in significant fines or up to three years imprisonment.

To read more about reporting obligations, please read our previous article.


The CCYP also oversees and enforces organisations’ compliance with the Child Safe Standards. It does this by:

  1. informing and educating organisations about the Child Safe Standards and requirements for compliance;
  2. supporting organisations to comply with the Child Safe Standards where non-compliance is identified. It provides advice and guidance to organisations to understand what compliance looks like and to identify child safety risks;
  3. monitoring compliance by investigating and responding to concerns about alleged non-compliance, observing any efforts made by an organisation to remedy non-compliance, and requesting and sharing information with co-regulators and Victoria Police; and
  4. enforcing the law by:
    1. issuing a Notice to Produce to gather information, or Notice to Comply with the Child Safe Standards;
    2. requesting Victoria Police or other regulators to take action or investigate non-compliance with the Child Safe Standards;
    3. publishing information about the Child Safe Standards, naming specific organisations where appropriate;
    4. applying to the Court for a declaration of non-compliance with any notice and an order for the organisation to pay a civil penalty;
    5. prosecuting the head of the organisation for failing to notify the CCYP of a reportable allegation within the 3-day period or failing to provide a 30-day update.

Other Approaches to the National Principles and Child Safe Standards

Other Australian states and territories have different approaches to the National Principles and Child Safe Principles.

  • New South Wales has adopted the National Principles with its child safe standards.
  • Queensland has endorsed the National Principles, but they currently do not have any general child safe standards.
  • South Australia currently uses its own set of child safe standards called the “Child Safe Environments – Principles of Good Practice”. Organisations which provide services to children are required to comply with these standards.
  • Western Australia has a voluntary approach to the National Principles for organisations. Its Department of Communities, Department of the Premier and Cabinet, and Commissioner for Children and Young People are currently developing a framework for the effective implementation of the National Principles which will legally require organisations to follow them.
  • Tasmania does not currently have child safe standards. However, the Child Safe Organisations Bill 2020 has been drafted and if passed will lead to the adoption of a set of child safe standards that largely align with the National Principles.
  • The Northern Territory does not have general child safe standards. While the National Principles have been endorsed by the Northern Territory government, compliance is not monitored.
  • The ACT currently requires organisations to comply with relevant streams of the Children and Young People Standards. For example, there are a different set of standards for childcare services compared with organisations which employ children or young people. In October 2019, the ACT government committed to regulating its child safe standards and develop its scheme. The government has stated that the wording of its standards would be similar to the National Principles, but that it would also look at the Victorian and New South Wales child safe standards.


Sports organisations should be aware of the various child safety principles and policies in Australia. These child safety principles and policies may be compulsory for a sports organisation. If not, they would, at the very least, assist a sports organisation in devising an effective child safe policy which would prevent child abuse from occurring and, therefore, prevent the organisation from incurring any of the criminal or civil liabilities described in our previous child safety article.

SportsLawyer understands that sports organisations may have further questions regarding their own child safety policy. If your sports organisation needs assistance, please contact our sports law team at SportsLawyer on (03) 9642 0435 or reach out to us at

Disclaimer:  Nothing in this article should be relied upon as legal advice. The contents of this article should be regarded as information only, and for specific legal matters, independent advice should always be sought. Please contact us on or phone (03) 9642 0435 to discuss any matter or to arrange an appointment.


Related articles: Member Protection Policy: Could Yours Be Out of Date?