Commonwealth Child Safe Framework
Annual statement of compliance
The Commonwealth Child Safe Framework (the Framework) was established in response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. The Framework aims to protect children and young people from the risk of harm and abuse. The Framework sets the minimum standards for Commonwealth entities to ensure a safe environment for children and includes four key requirements around risk assessment and mitigation, training and compliance, and National Principles for child safe organisation. The following is the Federal Court entity's annual child safety statement in accordance with the fourth requirement under the Framework.
The Federal Court Entity's commitment to child safety
The Federal Court Entity, which includes the Federal Court of Australia, Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (Division 1), Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (Division 2) and the National Native Title Tribunal is committed to the safety and wellbeing of all children and young people that may have interactions within the Entity.
The Federal Court Entity's interaction with children
The majority of the Federal Court Entity's interactions with children and young people occur within the family law jurisdiction of the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (Division 1) and the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (Division 2). This primarily occurs through the operations of the Court Children's Service (CCS), which is responsible for conducting forensic assessments to advise the Courts on children's needs and views in relation to family law proceedings. CCS also includes child care officers in some locations, whose role is to care for children while their parents attend family law related forensic assessments.
It is important to note that the judicial functions of each individual court falls outside of the Federal Court of Australia Entity. This includes the Federal Court, the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (Division 1) and the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia (Division 2) in both the family law jurisdiction and general federal law. The Courts are independent Chapter III of the Constitution Courts. Similarly, the clinical assessments and reports undertaken by CCS are prepared for the purpose of the judicial function. Whilst the Child Safe Framework does not apply to the judicial functions of the Courts, under the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) and other relevant legislation, the best interests of the child is the paramount consideration in any family law matter involving children.
Child safety risk assessment and actions taken to mitigate these risks
The Federal Court Entity has undertaken a risk assessment in relation to children in accordance with the Framework. The Entity's overall risk rating is 'medium'. This risk assessment has found that the Entity manages child safety risks associated with or arising from its activities and within its operational context, to the lowest practical level. The key child safety related risks are associated with the operational activities involved in children attending court buildings for the purposes of clinical assessments during family law matters. These activities are requirements for the proper function of the family law jurisdictions.
The key features in mitigating these risks are:
- staff and contractors who work directly with children are required to have current working with children checks and national police checks upon appointment.
- childcare facilities are staffed by qualified and carefully recruited workers that have current Working With Children checks, and have appropriate signing in procedures for children attending the child care rooms. There are relevant policies and procedures in place including a Childcare Handbook and emergency management procedures.
- CCS staff and Regulation 7 Family Consultants are all qualified psychologists or social workers with extensive experience working with children, who undertake induction programs and relevant ongoing training.
- all Entity facilities have evacuation procedures which accommodate children in the buildings at the time of an emergency.
- security staff are subject to appropriate checks prior to their approval to work unsupervised.
- where necessary, Safety Plans in individual matters acknowledge and make provision for any children attending the building who may be at risk of harm from parties or persons associated with parties.
Compliance with the Framework
The Federal Court Entity meets the requirements of the Framework. The Entity has developed a Child Safety and Welfare Policy and undertakes annual risk assessments. The Entity also adopts the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations and seeks to create and maintain organisational culture and practices that foster child safety and wellbeing.
Child safety initiatives undertaken in the reporting year
Staff working with children receive ongoing training as part of their broader role where those roles are relevant to child safety more broadly.
Measures taken to apply child safety measures to funded third parties
The Entity has measures in place through CCS, including for Regulation 7 Family Consultants, outlining the expectations of external providers relating to child safety. This includes requirements for working with children checks, police checks and reference checks through the recruitment process, induction and training, and ongoing professional supervision.
31 October 2022