*The below is a chapter summary only of the Interim Report. You can download the chapter in full at the bottom of the page.

What we are learning about preventing child sexual abuse

As the Royal Commission inquires into responses to child sexual abuse in institutions, there are four key areas we must consider:

Prevention How to better protect children against sexual abuse.
Identification and reporting

How to ensure:

  • children, staff, parents and the community can
    identify abuse
  • children disclose abuse quickly
  • people and institutions report allegations, incidents or
    risks of abuse.
Response How to eliminate or reduce obstacles so institutions respond effectively to reports of abuse.
Justice for victims How to address or alleviate the impact of abuse and ensure justice for victims.

Chapter 4 outlines what we have learned so far about prevention. Chapter 5 goes on to discuss our work in the other three areas.

The National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2009–2020 states that governments, institutions, parents, families, neighbourhoods and communities all have a role to play in preventing child sexual abuse.1 Children can also be included in prevention efforts.

This chapter looks at three areas of activity that our consultations and the limited evidence available from the literature suggest are critical to preventing child sexual abuse in institutional settings.2 They are:

  • conducting recruitment and pre-employment screening
  • implementing child safe practices
  • teaching children to recognise abuse and helping them to avoid it.

Key points

We are learning about the different ways everyone can help to protect children.

Recruitment and pre-employment screening

  • Screening during recruitment can help to detect perpetrators and deter registered offenders from joining institutions that care for children.
  • All states and territories have some form of mandatory background check for those working with children, but their checks and conditions vary.
  • Many institutions would support a national, or nationally consistent, approach to screening.

Child safe practices

  • To be child safe, it is essential for institutions to be child friendly, prioritise child protection and regularly review their policies, procedures and practices.
  • Recent years have seen a major shift towards situational prevention strategies in child safe institutions, like ensuring the physical environment has good natural surveillance.
  • Whole-of-community approaches might also have benefits.

Child-focused programs to reduce vulnerability

  • Programs can help children recognise abuse in an age-appropriate way, and help them avoid situations that might put them at risk.
  • Institutions can help empower children to avoid and disclose abuse.