1.1 Purpose and scope

This policy sets out staff responsibilities for child protection and processes that staff must follow in relation to child protection matters. This policy applies to all staff members, which includes employees, contractors and volunteers.

Staff members who fail to adhere to this policy may be in breach of their terms of employment.

1.2 Key legislation

There are four key pieces of child protection legislation in New South Wales:

1.3 Related policies

There are a number of other School policies that relate to child protection that staff members must be aware of and understand including (but not limited to):

1.4 Compliance and records

The Principal or their delegate monitors compliance with this policy and securely maintains School records relevant to this policy, which includes:

1.         Child protection

The safety, protection and welfare of students is the responsibility of all staff members and encompasses:

2.1 Children protection concerns

There are different forms of child abuse. These include neglect, sexual, physical and emotional abuse.

Neglect is the continued failure by a parent or caregiver to provide a child with the basic things needed for his or her proper growth and development, such as food, clothing, shelter, medical and dental care and adequate supervision.

Sexual abuse is when someone involves a child or young person in a sexual activity by using their power over them or taking advantage of their trust. Often children are bribed or threatened physically and psychologically to make them participate in the activity. Child sexual abuse is a crime.

Physical abuse is a non-accidental injury or pattern of injuries to a child caused by a parent, caregiver or any other person. It includes but is not limited to injuries which are caused by excessive discipline, severe beatings or shakings, cigarette burns, attempted strangulation and female genital mutilation.

Injuries include bruising, lacerations or welts, burns, fractures or dislocation of joints.

Hitting a child around the head or neck and/or using a stick, belt or other object to discipline or punishing a child (in a non-trivial way) is a crime.

Emotional abuse can result in serious psychological harm, where the behaviour of their parent or caregiver damages the confidence and self-esteem of the child or young person, resulting in serious emotional deprivation or trauma.

Although it is possible for ‘one-off’ incidents to cause serious harm, in general it is the frequency, persistence and duration of the parental or carer behaviour that is instrumental in defining the consequences for the child.

This can include a range of behaviours such as excessive criticism, withholding affection, exposure to domestic violence, intimidation or threatening behaviour.

2.2 Child wellbeing concerns

Child wellbeing concerns are safety, welfare or wellbeing concerns for a child or young person that do not meet the mandatory reporting threshold, risk of significant harm in section 5.1.2.

2.3 Staff member responsibilities

Key legislation requires reporting of particular child protection concerns. However, as part of the School’s overall commitment to child protection, all staff are required to report any child protection or child wellbeing concerns about the safety, welfare or wellbeing of a child or young person to the Principal.

If the allegation involves the Principal, a report should be made to the Chairman of the School Board.

2.         Training

3.1 The School

The School provides all staff members with a copy of this policy and will provide all staff members with the opportunity to participate in child protection training annually.

3.2 Staff members

All new staff members must read this policy and sign the acknowledgement that they have read and understood the policy. All staff members must participate in annual child protection training and additional training, as directed by the Principal. The training complements this policy and provides information to staff about their legal responsibilities related to child protection and School expectations, including:

3.         Working with children

The WWC Act protects children by requiring a worker to have a WWCC clearance or current application to engage in child related work. Failure to do so may result in a fine or imprisonment.

The Office of the Children’s Guardian (OCG) is responsible for determining applications for a WWCC clearance. It involves a national criminal history check and review of reported workplace misconduct findings. The result is either to:

In addition, the OGC may impose an interim bar on engaging in child related work for both applicants and WWCC clearance holders.

WWCC clearance holders are subject to ongoing monitoring by the OCG.

4.1 Responsibilities for working with children checks

4.1.1 Staff members

Staff members who engage in child-related work and eligible volunteers (including those volunteers working at overnight camps) are required to:

It is an offence for an employee to engage in child-related work when they do not hold a WWCC clearance or if they are subject to a bar.

All volunteers are required to:

4.1.2 The School

The School is required to:

4.2 Working with children check clearance

A WWCC clearance is authorisation under the WWC Act for a person to engage in child-related work.

4.2.1 Child-related work

Child-related work involves direct contact by the worker with a child or children and that contact is a usual part of and more than incidental to the work. Child related work includes, but is not limited to work in the following sectors:

Any queries about whether roles/duties engage in child-related work should be directed to the Principal.

4.2.2 Application/Renewal

An application or renewal can be made through Service NSW or its replacement agency.  The process for applying for and renewing a WWCC clearance with the OCG involves a national police check and a review of findings of misconduct. If the OCG grants or renews a WWCC clearance, the holder will be issued with a number which is to be provided to the School to verify the status of a staff member’s WWCC clearance.

4.2.3 Refusal/Cancellation

The OCG can refuse to grant a WWCC clearance or cancel a WWCC clearance. The person is then restricted from engaging in child-related work and not able to apply for another clearance for five years. Employers are notified by the OGC and instructed to remove such persons from child-related work.

4.2.4 Interim bar

The OCG may issue an interim bar, for up to 12 months, to high risk individuals to prevent them from engaging in child-related work while a risk assessment is conducted. If an interim bar remains in place for six months or longer, it may be appealed to the Administrative Decisions Tribunal.

Not everyone who is subject to a risk assessment will receive an interim bar; only those representing a serious and immediate risk to children.

4.2.5 Disqualified person

A disqualified person is a person who has been convicted, or against whom proceedings have been commenced for a disqualifying offence outlined in Schedule 2 of WWC Act. A disqualified person cannot be granted a WWCC clearance and is therefore restricted from engaging in child related work.

4.3 Ongoing monitoring

The OCG will continue to monitor criminal records and professional conduct findings of all WWCC clearance holders through a risk assessment process.

4.3.1 Risk assessments

A risk assessment is an evaluation of an individual’s suitability for child-related work.

The OCG will conduct a risk assessment on a person’s suitability to work with children when a new record is received which triggers a risk assessment. This may include an offence under Schedule 1, pattern of behaviour or offences involving violence or sexual misconduct representing a risk to children and findings of misconduct involving children.

4.4 Process for reporting to OCG

4.4.1 The School

Independent Schools are defined as a reporting body by the WWC Act.

The School is required to advise the OCG of the findings they have made after completing a reportable conduct investigation, including whether they have made a finding of reportable conduct. A finding of reportable conduct in relation to sexual misconduct, a sexual offence or a serious physical assault, must be referred to the OCG’s WWCC Directorate. Information must also be referred internally to the OCG’s WWCC Directorate if it meets the threshold for consideration of an interim WWCC bar, as per Section 17 of the WWC Act, pending a formal risk assessment.

The School may also be obliged to report, amend or provide additional information to the OCG as outlined in the WWC Act and the Children’s Guardian Act.

4.4.2 Finding of misconduct involving children

The School will report any finding of reportable conduct to the OCG.

When informing an employee of a finding of reportable conduct against them, the School should alert them to the consequent report to the WWCC Directorate in relation to sustained findings of sexual misconduct, a sexual offence or a serious physical assault.

The WWC Act enables a person who has a sustained finding referred to the OCG to request access to the records held by the School in relation to the finding of misconduct involving children, once final findings are made.  The entitlements of a person to request access to information in terms of section 46 of the WWC Act is enlivened when a finding of misconduct involving children has been made.

4.4.3 Other information

The School may also be required to provide information to the OGC that is relevant to an assessment of whether a person poses a risk to the safety of children or the OCG’s monitoring functions.

4.         Mandatory reporting

The Care and Protection Act provides for mandatory reporting of children at risk of significant harm. A child is a person under the age of 16 years and a young person is aged 16 years or above but who is under the age of 18, for the purposes of the Care and Protection Act.

Under the Care and Protection Act, mandatory reporting applies to persons who:

All teachers are mandatory reporters. Other staff members may also be mandatory reporters. Any queries about whether other staff members are mandatory reporters should be directed to the Principal.

5.1 Reports to Communities and Justice

A mandatory reporter must, where they have reasonable grounds to suspect that a child (under 16 years of age) is at risk of significant harm, report to the Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ) as soon as practicable. The report must include the name, or a description, of the child and the grounds for suspecting that the child is at risk of significant harm.

In addition, the School may choose to make a report to the DCJ where there are reasonable grounds to suspect a young person (16 or 17 years of age) is at risk of significant harm and there are current concerns about the safety, welfare and well-being of the young person.

In the independent school sector, a mandatory reporter will meet their obligation if they report to the Principal in the School. This centralised reporting model ensures that a person in the School has all of the information that may be relevant to the circumstances of the child at risk of significant harm and addresses the risk of the School not being aware of individual incidences that amount to cumulative harm.

5.1.1 Reasonable grounds

‘Reasonable grounds’ refers to the need to have an objective basis for suspecting that a child or young person may be at risk of significant harm, based on:

‘Reasonable grounds’ does not mean a person is required to confirm their suspicions or have clear proof before making a report.

5.1.2 Significant harm

A child or young person is ‘at risk of significant harm’ if current concerns exist for the safety, welfare or well-being of the child or young person because of the presence, to a significant extent, of any one or more of the following circumstances:

What is meant by ‘significant’ in the phrase ‘to a significant extent’, is that which is sufficiently serious to warrant a response by a statutory authority irrespective of a family’s consent.

What is significant, is not minor or trivial and may reasonably be expected to produce a substantial and demonstrably adverse impact on the child or young person’s safety, welfare or well-being.

The significance can result from a single act or omission or an accumulation of these.

5.3 Process for mandatory reporting

5.3.1 Staff members

Staff members must raise concerns about a child or young person who may be at risk of significant harm with the Principal as soon as possible to discuss whether the matter meets the threshold of ‘risk of significant harm’ and the steps required to report the matter.

However, if there is an immediate danger to the child or young person and the Principal or next most senior member of staff is not contactable, staff members should contact the Police and/or the Child Protection Helpline (13 21 11) directly and then advise the Principal or next most senior member of staff at the School as soon as possible.

Staff members are not required to and must not, undertake any investigation of the matter. Staff members are not permitted to inform the parents or caregivers that a report to the DCJ has been made.

Staff members are required to deal with the matter confidentially and only disclose it to the persons referred to above or as required to comply with mandatory reporting obligations. Failure to maintain confidentiality will not only be a breach of this policy, but could incite potential civil proceedings for defamation.

5.3.2 The School

In general, the Principal or their delegate will report these matters to the DCJ and where necessary, the Police. This is supported by the DCJ in accordance with best practice principles.

5.4 Process for reporting concerns about students

5.4.1 Staff members

The Care and Protection Act outlines a mandatory reporter’s obligation to report to the DCJ concerns about risk of significant harm. However, to ensure centralised reporting, all staff members are required to report any concern regarding the safety, welfare and wellbeing of a student to the Principal.  Staff members who are unsure as to whether a matter meets the threshold of ‘risk of significant harm’, should report their concern to the Principal regardless.

Staff members are required to deal with all reports regarding the safety, welfare or wellbeing of a student confidentially and only disclose it to the Principal and any other person the Principal nominates.

5.         Reportable conduct

Section 29 of the Children’s Guardian Act 2019 requires the Heads of Entities, including non-government schools in New South Wales, to notify the OCG of all allegations of reportable conduct and convictions involving an ’employee’ and the outcome of the School’s investigation of these allegations. Under the Children’s Guardian Act 2019, allegations of child abuse only fall within the reportable conduct jurisdiction if the involved individual is an employee of the relevant entity at the time when the allegation becomes known by the Head of Entity.

Reportable Conduct:

The OCG:

6.1 Reportable conduct

Under the Children’s Guardian Act 2019, reportable conduct is defined as:

Reportable conduct does not extend to:

6.1.1 Definitions

The following definitions relate to reportable conduct:

Definitions of ‘grooming’, within child protection legislation, are complex. Under the Crimes Act, grooming or procuring a child under the age of 16 years for unlawful sexual activity is classed as a sexual offence. The Crimes Act (s73) also extends the age of consent to 18 years when a child is in a ‘special care’ relationship. Under Schedule 1(2) of the WWC Act, grooming is recognised as a form of sexual misconduct. The Children’s Guardian Act 2019 and this Child Protection Policy reflect these definitions within the context of the Reportable Conduct Scheme (Division 2).

An alleged sexual offence does not have to be the subject of criminal investigation or charges for it to be categorised as a reportable allegation of sexual offence.

Note – crossing professional boundaries comes within the scope of the scheme to the extent that the alleged conduct meets the definition of sexual misconduct. That is, the conduct with, towards or in the presence of a child that is sexual in nature (but is not a sexual offence).

Ill-treatment can include a range of conduct such as making excessive or degrading demands of a          child; a pattern of hostile or degrading comments or behaviour towards a child; and using       inappropriate forms of behaviour management towards a child.

Neglect can be an ongoing situation of repeated failure by a caregiver to meet a child’s physical or psychological needs, or a single significant incident where a caregiver fails to fulfill a duty or obligation, resulting in actual harm to a child where there is the potential for significant harm to a child. Examples of neglect include failing to protect a child from abuse and exposing a child to a harmful environment.

For a reportable allegation involving psychological harm, the following elements must be present:



6.2 Process for reporting of reportable conduct allegations or convictions

6.2.1 Staff members

Any concerns about any other employee engaging in conduct that is considered inappropriate, or reportable conduct, or any allegation of inappropriate or reportable conduct made to the employee or about the employee themselves must be reported to the Principal. Where it is uncertain if the conduct is reportable conduct but is considered inappropriate behaviour this must also be reported.

Staff members must also report to [the Principal] when they become aware that an employee has been charged with or convicted of an offence (including a finding of guilt without the court proceeding to a conviction) involving reportable conduct. This includes information relating to the employee themselves.

If the allegation involves the Principal, the staff member must report to the Chairman of the School Board.

6.2.2 Parents, carers and community members

Parents, carers and community members are encouraged to report any conduct that is in their view inappropriate, reportable or criminal conduct to [The Principal] or their delegate. All such reports will be dealt with in accordance with the School’s complaint handling procedures.

6.2.3 The School

The Principal, as the Head of Entity under the Children’s Guardian Act 2019, must:

The notification should include the following information:

(a) that a report has been received in relation to an employee of the School, and

(b)  the type of reportable conduct, and

(c)  the name of the employee, and

(d)  the name and contact details of School and the Head of Entity, and

(e)  for a reportable allegation, whether it has been reported to Police, and

(f) if a report has been made to the Child Protection Helpline, that a report has been made, and

(g)  the nature of the relevant entity’s initial risk assessment and risk management action,

(a)  details of the reportable allegation or conviction considered to be a reportable conviction,

(b)  the date of birth and working with children number, if any, of the employee the subject of the report,

(c)   the police report reference number (if Police were notified),

(d)   the report reference number if reported to the Child Protection Helpline,

(e)  the names of other relevant entities that employ or engage the employee, whether or not directly, to provide a service to children, including as a volunteer or contractor.

6.3 Process for investigating an allegation of reportable conduct

The Principal is responsible for ensuring that the following steps are taken to investigate an allegation of reportable conduct.

6.3.1 Initial steps

Once an allegation of reportable conduct against an employee is received, the Principal is required to:

6.3.2 Investigation principles

During the investigation of a reportable conduct allegation the School will:

6.3.3 Investigation steps

In an investigation the Principal or appointed investigator will generally:

Submission of an interim report must include;


The steps outlined above may need to be varied on occasion to meet particular circumstances. For example, it may be necessary to take different steps where the matter is also being investigated by the DCJ or Police.

An ESOA may have an appropriate support person with them during the interview process. Such a person is there for support only and as a witness to the proceedings and not as an advocate or to take an active role.

6.4 Risk management throughout an investigation of a reportable conduct allegation

Risk management means identifying the potential for an incident or accident to occur and taking steps to reduce the likelihood or severity of its occurrence.

The Principal is responsible for risk management throughout the investigation and will assess risk at the beginning of the investigation, during and at the end of the investigation.

6.4.1 Initial risk assessment

Following an allegation of reportable conduct against an employee, the Principal conducts an initial risk assessment to identify and minimise the risks to:

The factors which will be considered during the risk assessment include:

The Principal will take appropriate action to minimise risks. This may include the ESOA being temporarily relieved of some duties, being required not to have contact with certain students, being asked to take paid leave, or being suspended from duty. When taking action to address any risks identified, the School will take into consideration both the needs of the child(ren) and the ESOA.

A decision to take action on the basis of a risk assessment is not indicative of the findings of the matter. Until the investigation is completed and a finding is made, any action, such as an employee being suspended, is not to be considered to be an indication that the alleged conduct by the employee did occur.

6.4.2 Ongoing risk assessment

The Principal will continually monitor risk during the investigation including in the light of any new relevant information that emerges.

6.4.3 Findings

At the completion of the investigation, a finding will be made in relation to the allegation and a decision made by the Principal regarding what action, if any, is required in relation to the ESOA, the child(ren) involved and any other parties.

6.4.4 Information for the ESOA

The ESOA will be advised:

The ESOA does not automatically have the right to:

The WWC Act enables a person who has a sustained finding referred to the OCG to request access to the records held by the School in relation to the finding of misconduct involving children, once final findings are made.  The entitlements of a person to request access to information in terms of section 46 of the WWC Act is enlivened when a finding of misconduct involving children has been made.

6.4.5 Disciplinary action

As a result of the allegations, investigation or final findings, the School may take disciplinary action against the ESOA (including termination of employment).

In relation to any disciplinary action the School will give the ESOA:

6.4.6 Confidentiality

It is important when dealing with allegations of reportable conduct that the matter be dealt with as confidentially as possible.

The School requires that all parties maintain confidentiality during the investigation including in relation to the handling and storing of documents and records.

Records about allegations of reportable conduct against employees will be kept [in a secure area] and will be accessible by [the Head of Entity or with the Head of Entity’s express authority].

No employee may comment to the media about an allegation of reportable conduct unless expressly authorised by the Principal to do so.

Staff members who become aware of a breach of confidentiality in relation to a reportable conduct allegation must advise the Principal.

6.         Criminal offences

In 2018 the Crimes Act was amended to adopt recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. The new offences are designed to prevent child abuse and to bring abuse that has already occurred to the attention of the Police.

7.1 Failure to protect offence (Crimes Act 1900 – NSW)

An adult working in a school, therefore all staff members, will commit an offence if they know another adult working there poses as serious risk of committing a child abuse offence and they have the power to reduce or remove the risk, and they negligently fail to do so either by acts and/or omissions.

This offence is targeted at those in positions of authority and responsibility working with children who turn a blind eye to a known and serious risk rather than using their power to protect children.

7.2 Failure to report offence (Crimes Act 1900 – NSW)

Any adult, and therefore all staff members, will commit an offence if they know, believe or reasonably ought to know that a child abuse offence has been committed and fail to report that information to Police, without a reasonable excuse. A reasonable excuse would include where the adult has reported the matter to the Principal and is aware that the Principal has reported the matter to the Police.

7.3 Special Care Relationships (Crimes Act 1900 – NSW)

It is a crime in NSW for a staff member, volunteer or contractor to have a sexual relationship with a student where there is a special care relationship.  The Act provides that a young person is under an adult’s special care if the adult is a member of the teaching staff of the School at which the young person is a student; or has an established personal relationship with the young person in connection with the provision of religious, sporting, musical or other instruction.

The Special Care (sexual intercourse) offence under s73 was supplemented by an additional special care offence involving sexual touching now under s73A of the Crimes Act. The new offence under s73A will expand special care offences to also apply to non-penetrative sexual touching. The offence will protect children aged 16-17 years from inappropriate sexual contact with teachers and others who have special care of the child.