Why do schools need guidance on the prevention of child sexual abuse?

School is one of the places where children and young people spend most time outside their homes. 

The Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (2017) has shown that children and young people have experienced sexual abuse in institutions, such as schools, that were meant to be caring for them.

This abuse has been carried out by adults working in the institutions and by other children and young people.

Research and the work of the Royal Commission show that child sexual abuse is more likely to occur (or to go unreported) in institutions that:

  • do not have a culture of respecting and listening to children
  • do not have easily accessible child safety and child protection policies
  • prioritise the school’s reputational or financial interests over children’s safety
  • discourage or do not act on complaints
  • have top-down cultures of authority that disempower children (and junior staff) and affect their
    ability to disclose experiences of abuse.
Schools are important settings for the prevention of child sexual abuse. Teachers and school staff already have responsibilities for reporting concerns about student welfare. They can also help to build the protective capabilities of students, and of all adults working with children, so that abuse does not occur.

Guidance and resources

Most states and territories provide resources and training that can help school staff and principals identify and respond to child sexual abuse. Many schools have child-safe policies and procedures in place. This guidance is meant to complement the existing training and advice by describing strategies for the prevention of child sexual abuse through building a positive and child-safe school environment. The guidance also includes links to a selection of prevention resources and training in each state and territory.