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Child protection

Annual Statement of Compliance with the Commonwealth Child Safe Framework 2022

DFAT's commitment to child safety

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade's (DFAT) commitment to child safety is detailed in DFAT's 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 services and programs 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. 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. 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 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 chapter on child protection in the staff Conduct and Ethics Manual.
  • 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 which includes a police check and robust integrity checks for DFAT staff posted to Australia's overseas network.

DFAT has a dedicated Human and Environmental 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).

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

DFAT meets the requirements under the Commonwealth Child Safe Framework. DFAT has a newly released Internal Working with Children Check – Screening Policy and Screening Procedure. This policy ensures all DFAT staff, including locally engaged and contracted staff, undertaking child-related work are appropriately screened to confirm their suitability to work with children and are made aware of their responsibilities under the Commonwealth Child Safe Framework and the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations.

Child safety initiatives undertaken in the reporting year

DFAT undertook several child safety initiatives in the 2021-22 financial year. This included managing 43 child exploitation and abuse incident notifications related to DFAT funded partners to ensure appropriate action. An audit of all DFAT positions was also undertaken to identify roles which could be defined as contact with, or working with, children to ensure appropriate screening processes are in place.

Broad communication with both staff and partners on child safety risks has continued. This included coverage of the increased child safety risk due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation and humanitarian crises. Foundation level child protection training was provided to 323 DFAT staff and practitioner level training to 105 staff. In addition, specific Child Protection Policy information was incorporated into consular training.

DFAT has also agreed to new multi-year Strategic Partnership Frameworks (SPFs) with six major international humanitarian and development agencies, and a further set of new SPFs is under development. Across all agreed SPFs, there are robust compliance measures on a range of safeguards including child protection.

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