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CSIRO’s commitment to child safety

Working with children and young people is not our core statutory function, however, it is critical to our Vision for ‘creating a better future for Australia’. We are committed to the safety and wellbeing of all children and young people involved in our activities and programs, whether we are undertaking research, engaging with the public or nurturing future scientists.

The importance of child safety and wellbeing is embedded in our organisational leadership, governance and culture. We aim to create an environment where all children and young people (under 18 years of age) are valued and feel safe.

For nearly 40 years, CSIRO Education and Outreach have been developing and delivering high-quality science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM) programs for teachers, students, and the wider community. Our Education and Outreach professionals and research staff offer a range of programs nationally, all designed to bring real science to life in our classrooms and communities.

In addition to our specialist team of CSIRO Education and Outreach professionals, CSIRO People across the organisation participate in a variety of activities involving children and young people.

These activities include but are not limited to:

  • tours of our labs, facilities and collections (e.g. Lab22, Canberra Deep Space Communication complex, Parkes Telescope, Australian National Collections);
  • work experience, summer vacation and indigenous cadetship programs;
  • school careers days;
  • guest lectures;
  • recruitment for research trials (e.g. increasing vegetable intake in children);
  • interactions through social media posts; and
  • public events.

After completing the 2021 enterprise level risk assessment of child safety under Requirement 1 of the Commonwealth Child Safety Framework, the overall risk ratings for CSIRO are assessed to be:

  • low risk - for strategic governance and management of CSIRO Education and Outreach programs.
  • medium risk - for child safety culture and ensuring staff awareness for ad hoc events.

As context for the above risk ratings, CSIRO has a Child Safe Policy in place and a Child Safe Compliance Plan. This Child Safe Policy includes mandatory requirements for activities involving children and young people, including Working with Children/Vulnerable People Checks (which incorporates a National Police Check) and compulsory reporting of suspected child abuse and harm.   The Child Safe Compliance Plan outlines relevant steps for various functions within CSIRO to implement the Child Safe Policy, including providing requisite resources, understanding the compliance obligations, setting compliance objectives, monitoring compliance, reporting on compliance and taking any corrective actions.

The Child Safe Policy also discusses CSIRO’s commitment to ensuring that all staff, affiliates and volunteers are supported to comply with the policy. This includes tailored recruitment practices, providing ongoing training and supervision, and conducting continuous risk assessments of activities. To date, there is already Code of Conduct training (which includes a Child Safe component), access is provided to relevant information sources including FAQs, and there are risk assessments to implement appropriate risk controls for activities involving children and young people.

Where CSIRO engages third party providers to work with children and young People, we also include appropriate clauses that reflect our obligations under the Commonwealth Child Safe Framework in our procurement processes and contractual arrangements.

In that context, the medium risk rating for child safety culture and ensuring staff awareness has been made in recognition of the breadth of task required for organisations as large as CSIRO to ensure that every relevant individual is correctly implementing the Child Safe Policy. In particular, the following key risks were identified from the annual risk assessment:

  1. CSIRO is still in the early stages of implementing a child safe culture across the organisation, where implementation of the National Principles and Commonwealth Child Safe Framework is progressing and not yet complete;
  2. Further development of procedures is required, including social media procedures;
  3. Further education and training is required to raise awareness amongst all staff/affiliates/volunteers/relevant third parties, and to develop their ability to identify and manage potential risks in both physical and online environments; and
  4. Further education and training are required to ensure mandatory reporting of any recognised threats, abuse or harm of children and young people.

CSIRO recognises the importance of managing the above risks, as the consequences of potential harm to children and young people can otherwise be significant, including accidental harm, vicarious trauma, physical abuse, psychological abuse/emotional abuse, neglect, sexual abuse, and online grooming) .

To further mitigate the above risks, in 2021/2022 CSIRO will carry out a comprehensive communication campaign to raise greater awareness of our requirements within the National Principles and the Commonwealth Child Safety Framework, specifically focusing on ad hoc events and less obvious online interactions.  

In addition, CSIRO has established a system for child safety training and the management of our working with children/vulnerable people checks (Requirement 2). We are now looking to improve the efficiency of these systems to support compliance.

We also have established procedures and processes for child safety training, risk assessments, third-party procurement and Working with Children and Vulnerable People checks. CSIRO has adopted and implemented the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations (Requirement 3). We have committed to review and update the CSIRO Child Safe Policy every 2 years. This process is currently underway, and we are concurrently reviewing the information and resources available to our people to promote a child safe culture.

We know that to achieve the desired culture of child safety in CSIRO we need to invest further time and resources to continually improve. In September 2021, as part of National Child Protection week, CSIRO made a pledge with the National Association for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (NAPCAN) by stating publicly “We are committed to the safety and wellbeing of all children and young people involved in our activities and programs (in person and online).”

CSIRO is committed to regularly reviewing and monitoring our compliance with the Commonwealth Child Safety Framework and showing leadership by publishing our annual compliance review (Requirement 4 ). To facilitate transparency and accountability we invite any comments on our inaugural annual compliance statement via email to [email protected].

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