Some of the laws and other obligations that your agency must comply with are specific to your agency or type of agency, for example:
- the Zoo is established under the Zoological Parks and Gardens Act 1995
- catchment management authorities are established under the Catchment and Land Protection Act 1994
Other laws and other obligations apply across the Victorian public sector. These are commonly known as ‘whole of government’ laws and obligations. They usually apply to all or most DELWP agencies.
Your agency must ensure that it is aware of which whole of government obligations apply to it.
- Your agency should have a Legislative compliance policy.
- This model policy might assist you in drafting a policy for your agency.
Some examples of whole of government laws that may apply to your agency (and may have related obligations such as regulations, standards, codes, government policies, etc.) include:
|Good Governance||Public Administration Act 2004||Sets the basic good governance standards for Victoria’s ‘public entities’ (almost all DELWP agencies).|
|Integrity||Protected Disclosures Act 2012||Victoria has integrity laws and independent public watchdogs e.g. Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission. Almost all DELWP agencies must comply.|
|Privacy and Data Protection Act 2014|
|Financial Management||Financial Management Act 2004(FMA)||Some DELWP agencies are subject to the FMA (usually those with an annual report that is tabled or reported in Parliament by the minister).|
|Good Administration||Public Records Act 1973 (PRA)||Almost all DELWP agencies have record keeping requirements under the PRA.|
|Transparency||Freedom of Information Act 1982 (FOI)||The FOI Act applies to almost all DELWP agencies.|
|Human Rights||Charter in the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006||Almost all DELWP agencies must comply with the Charter.|
|Child Safe Standards in the Child Wellbeing and Safety Act 2005||Your agency needs to determine whether it must comply with the Child Safe Standards or is exempt.|
Child Safe Standards
In 2016, new Child Safe Standards were published under Part 6 of the Child Safety and Wellbeing Act 2005. Their purpose is to ensure that ‘applicable entities’ to which the standards apply have a culture, policies and procedures that ensure the safety of children is promoted, child abuse is prevented, and allegations of child abuse are properly responded to.
The Commission for Children and Young People has an educative, advice, oversight and enforcement role in relation to the standards. In addition, if the standards apply to your agency (see below) then as part of DELWP’s oversight and support role we can ask your agency for information about how your agency is complying with these obligations.
Note the standards do not change the responsibility to report child abuse to the police and to conduct working with children checks
What are the standards?
There are seven standards which are underpinned by three key principles Identifying and reducing risk (standard 6) is a good starting point for implementing the standards and can inform the development of a child safe policy (standard 2) and a code of conduct (standard 3).
|Standard 1||Strategies to embed an organisational culture of child safety, including through effective leadership arrangements.|
|Standard 2||A child safe policy or statement of commitment to child safety.|
|Standard 3||A code of conduct that establishes clear expectations for appropriate behaviour with children.|
|Standard 4||Screening, supervision, training and other human resources practices that reduce the risk of child abuse by new and existing personnel.|
|Standard 5||Processes for responding to and reporting suspected child abuse.|
|Standard 6||Strategies to identify and reduce or remove risks of child abuse.|
|Standard 7||Strategies to promote the participation and empowerment of children.|
Do the standards apply to my agency?
There are over 100 major DELWP agencies and over 1,200 small (category 3) committees of management. Whether your agency is an ‘applicable entity’ that must work towards having the standards in place will depend on two key questions:
- Is it an ‘applicable entity’? Your agency will be an ‘applicable entity’ if it falls within the types of organisations listed in the schedules to the Act. There is a strong focus on health and education organisations. However, there are also other types such as ‘constituted by or under any Act and have functions of a public nature’. All DELWP agencies have functions of a public nature and almost all are constituted by or under an Act.
- If so, is it ‘exempt’ from compliance with the standards? Although your agency is almost certainly an ‘applicable entity’, it may be exempt under section 19 of the Act from complying with the standards. The most likely grounds for exemption are those set out in section 22 of the Act.
Whilst many DELWP agencies will be exempt from the standards under section 22 of the Act, this requires careful consideration to determine. For example, your agency will not be exempt if it:
- engages a child (a person less than 18 years of age) as a staff member, work experience student, or volunteer
- provides services specifically (not necessarily exclusively) for children - which may, for example, include certain events and activities for members of the public, or
- provides facilities specifically (not necessarily exclusively) for use by children who could be considered to be under its ‘supervision’.
Further information is available from the Commission for Children and Young People (e.g. Guides and tip sheets) and the Department of Health and Human Services (e.g. An Overview of the Victorian Child Safe Standards and the Child Safe Standards Toolkit).