Catholic schools in NSW are committed to creating child-safe environments where the safety, well-being and dignity of all children is paramount.
Catholic schools acknowledge the important legal, moral and spiritual responsibility to create a safe and nurturing environment for students and complies with all of the laws which apply in relation to child safety.
Under Part 3A of the Ombudsman Act 1974 (NSW), Catholic schools are required to notify the NSW Ombudsman about allegations of ‘reportable conduct’ and to investigate those allegations.
‘Reportable conduct’ means:
- A sexual offence or sexual misconduct against or in the presence of a child
- Assault, ill-treatment or neglect of a child
- Behaviour causing psychological harm to a child
- Failing to reduce or remove a risk of a child becoming a victim of child abuse
- Concealing a child abuse offence
If a school receives an allegation of reportable conduct, they must notify the Ombudsman within 30 days, investigate the allegation, and notify the Ombudsman of the outcome of the investigation.
Where an investigation finds an allegation of reportable conduct to be sustained (that is, on the balance of probabilities the conduct did occur), the school must decide what action to take against the employee. Such action could range from providing a warning, training or counselling, to dismissal.
Working with Children Check
Under the Child Protection (Working with Children) Act 2012 (NSW), any employer who engages a worker in child-related work, must make sure the worker has a current clear Working with Children Check (WWCC) or a current application for a WWCC that hasn’t been refused for any reason. The employer must also record and verify the WWCC (or application) details. Verification is done through the Office of the Children’s Guardian.
Once an employer has verified a worker, the Office of the Children’s Guardian will notify the employer should that person no longer hold, or be barred from holding, a WWCC. A WWCC may be cancelled at the initiative of the holder, or an interim bar may be placed on it while the Office of Children’s Guardian conducts a risk assessment in relation to the worker. A worker may be barred from working with children if charged with or convicted of certain criminal offences. In any of these cases, the Office of the Children’s Guardian will notify the employer so that they do not continues to engage the worker in child-related work.
Children at Risk of Significant Harm
Under the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998 (NSW), any person who, in the course of their work, delivers education to children, and any person in a management position with direct responsibility or supervision of the provision of education, has a duty to report to the Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ) the name or a description of the child they suspect is at risk of significant harm. Teachers are mandatory reporters, but under the legislation an arrangement is in place which allows them to report such concerns to the Principal of their school, who then must report it to DCJ.
Risk of significant harm is defined in section 23 of the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998 (NSW) and includes where a child or young person’s basic physical or psychological needs are not being met or are at risk of being physically or sexually abused or ill-treated. It also includes where the parents or caregivers fail to ensure the child receives necessary medical care or an education or have behaved in such a way towards the child or young person that they are at risk of suffering psychological harm.
The information contained on this website is of a general nature only and does not constitute legal advice. There may be other obligations imposed on schools in relation to child protection that are not mentioned here. If your school needs help with a child protection related issue, you can contact the CSNSW Legal Hotline on 1800 4CSNSW (1800 427 679).