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Child protection

Annual Statement of Compliance with the Commonwealth Child Safe Framework

DFAT’s commitment to child safety

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) commitment to child safety is detailed in the Departments Child Protection Framework and Policy. We have a zero-tolerance approach to child exploitation and abuse. This applies to our organisation and those we work with. Recognising it is a shared responsibility, we continue to strengthen child safeguarding – by enhancing accountability, improving support for children affected, and driving cultural change through strong leadership.

DFAT’s interaction with children

DFAT employees may interact with children (both in person and remotely) through consular assistance, passport services, public diplomacy activities, or medical services overseas for staff and family members on postings.

DFAT funds services and programs, primarily in our region, that enhance global development and promote stability, security, and economic prosperity. These services and programs may interact with children either directly or indirectly. Delivering overseas, often in countries that do not offer the same standards of protection to children as Australia, requires careful management.

Child protection risks and mitigation measures

DFAT undertakes an annual risk assessment, identifying, evaluating and managing risks to child safety in all DFAT business. A key risk is compliance with policies and/or domestic and international laws and conventions that seek to protect children. The response to COVID-19 has added complexity. Restrictions on movement can make it harder to report concerns, engage with communities, investigate incidents, and provide support to victims/survivors. Due to our operating context, the child protection risk rating for DFAT is high.

DFAT has strong and longstanding child protection policies and processes in place (established in 2008) to manage child safety risk. These are highly regarded domestically and internationally. DFAT’s Child Protection Framework applies to all DFAT staff and all funded partners. It sets expectations for conduct, reporting, risk management, recruitment and screening, and training. It requires immediate mandatory reporting of any instance of suspected or alleged child exploitation and abuse, and minimum child protection standards for DFAT funded partners who are child focused or have activities that involve working with children. We regularly share our lessons, knowledge, tools and materials with other government agencies and funded partners to improve approaches. Further key protection measures include:

  • A robust Preventing Sexual Exploitation, Abuse and Harassment Policy that applies to all DFAT staff and all DFAT business
  • Due diligence assessments that must be completed before entering into development program funding agreements. Assessments specifically review the program’s integrity and child protection systems and controls.
  • A comprehensive accreditation process for the Australian NGO Cooperation Program.
  • An Environmental and Social Safeguards Policy for the development program that protects the rights, health and safety of all people including children.
  • Legally enforceable clauses in agreements specifically focusing on child protection.
  • Passport policies, procedures, guidelines and training that clearly outline child protection obligations and reporting requirements.
  • A dedicated chapter on child protection in the staff Conduct and Ethics Manual.
  • Clear Consular Policy and Consular Operations Handbooks that assist staff manage allegations of child sex offences, forced marriage and other child protection related issues.
  • Access restrictions to inappropriate websites and an IT Acceptable Use Policy with clear guidelines on inappropriate usage.
  • A minimum Negative Vetting 2 security clearance includes a police check and robust integrity checks for all DFAT staff posted to Australia’s overseas network.

DFAT has a dedicated Child and Adult Safeguards section providing advice, training, and building the child safeguarding capacity of DFAT staff and our funded partners in Australia and overseas. All DFAT staff, prior to posting, must complete DFAT’s Child Protection eLearning (foundation level) as part of their pre-posting requirements. If working on a development program or positions that work with children, staff must also complete Child and Adult Safeguards training (practitioner level).

Additionally, our grant templates include a Working with Children Check Statement of Compliance requiring assurance that funded partners and their staff comply with the working with children legislative requirements in the jurisdictions in which the Grant Activity is undertaken (including in Australia and overseas) for the duration of the Grant Activity.

Compliance with the Commonwealth Child Safe Framework and measures to improve compliance

DFAT meets the requirements under the Commonwealth Child Safe Framework. DFAT completed an audit of child related positions in 2018 and is developing assurance processes for working with children check requirements by June 2022. A Child Protection Policy review in 2020-21 assessed compliance and identified areas to ensure greater alignment with the National Principles. This work will be completed in early 2022.

Child safety initiatives undertaken in the reporting year

DFAT undertook several child safety initiatives in the 2020-21 financial year. We updated staff eLearning to include new Commonwealth and state mandatory reporting requirements and facilitated several expert/practitioner level staff training in Australia and overseas. To manage the increased child safety risk since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we developed a suite of products for, and communicated broadly to, both staff and funded partners, including through an all-staff video, a new staff Managing Safeguard Risk portal and a Webinar on Child and Adult Safeguards in DFAT for our funded partners. We agreed, along with 13 other countries, to aligned language on preventing sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment to use in new agreements with United Nations agencies funded through Australia’s international development program.

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