From 1 July 2017 school Principals will be obliged to ensure compliance with the Reportable Conduct Scheme introduced by amendments to the Child Wellbeing and Safety Act 2005. The Scheme will be administered by the Commission for Children and Young People, including by overseeing investigations or conducting investigations itself.
School Principals will be obliged to notify the Commission of any reportable allegation against an employee of their school within 3 business days after becoming aware of the allegation and then, as soon as practicable and within 30 days after becoming aware of the allegation, notify the Commission of:
- detailed information about the reportable allegation
- whether or not the school proposes to take any disciplinary or other action in relation to the employee and the reasons why
- any written submissions of the employee in relation to what disciplinary or other action should be taken by the school.
Reportable conduct under the Scheme includes:
a. a sexual offence committed against, with or in the presence of, a child
b. sexual misconduct committed against, with or in the presence of, a child
c. physical violence committed against, with or in the presence of, a child
d. any behaviour that causes significant emotional or psychological harm to a child
e. significant neglect of a child.
School Principals will be obliged to investigate a reportable allegation against an employee or permit either VRQA or an independent investigator engaged by the school to investigate the allegation. The Principal is also required to inform the Commission of the identity of the investigator and then give the Commission a copy of the findings of the investigation and the reasons for those findings, and details of any disciplinary or other action that the Principal proposes to take and the reason why, or why no such action will be taken.
The Act also places the obligation on the school Principal to ensure that his or her school has the following in place:
- a system for preventing the commission of reportable conduct by an employee of the school within the course of the employee's employment
- a system for enabling any person, including an employee of the school, to notify the Principal of a reportable allegation against an employee of which the person becomes aware
- a system for enabling any person, including an employee of the school, to notify the Commission of a reportable allegation involving the Principal of which the person becomes aware
- a system for investigating and responding to a reportable allegation against an employee of the school.
For the purpose of the Scheme, an employee is a person of or over the age of 18 years who is employed by the school or engaged by the school to provide services, such as a volunteer, contractor, office holder or officer (whether or not the person provides services to children).
Schools will already have policies and procedures that comply with the Child Safe Standards and these will assist schools towards compliance with the Reportable Conduct Scheme.
However, Principals should now review and if necessary update their current policies to ensure compliance with their obligations under the Reportable Conduct Scheme. Alternatively, they may consider implementing a separate Reportable Conduct Scheme policy to ensure that they have proper systems in place that address their specific obligations under the Act.