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 comply with all laws that apply in relation to child safety.
Under Part 4 of the Children’s Guardian Act 2019 (NSW), the head of an organisation that is the registered proprietor of a Catholic school is required to notify the Office of the Children’s Guardian if they become aware that an employee, volunteer or contractor engaged by the school is the subject of a reportable allegation or reportable conviction.
‘Reportable allegation’ means an allegation that an employee, volunteer or contractor has engaged in conduct that may be reportable conduct.
‘Reportable conviction’ means a finding of guilt by a court in NSW or elsewhere of an offence involving reportable conduct.
‘Reportable conduct’ means:
- a sexual offence committed against, with or in the presence of a child
- sexual misconduct (conduct that is sexual in nature but not a sexual offence) towards, with or in the presence of a child
- an assault against a child
- ill-treatment or neglect of a child
- behaviour that causes significant emotional or 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.
Upon receiving, or being made aware of a reportable allegation or conviction, the school must:
- provide notice to the Office of the Children’s Guardian within seven business days;
- investigate the reportable allegation or determine if a conviction is a reportable conviction; and
- provide a report to the Office of the Children’s Guardian regarding the investigation or determination within 30 days.
An allegation of reportable conduct is considered to be sustained (that is, on the balance of probabilities the case against the person has been proved) if the decision maker is reasonably satisfied that the reportable conduct occurred. The school must then decide what action to take against the employee which may include a range of sanctions, for example a formal warning, training or counselling, to termination of employment.
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).