Working with Children Check – How We Can Do Better

Launched in July of 2022, Emma’s Project, recently renamed Our Collective Experience Project, was first introduced to the public by Emma Hakansson and Australian Childhood Foundation CEO Dr Joe Tucci. Emma shared during the project launch that she was sexually abused by an adult who was supposed to keep her safe, and that she had not been taught how to communicate what was happening to her when she was a child. Emma’s story gave me insight into yet another version of child sexual abuse that I had not heard. It was very different from my own lived experience but the common threads were there. Emma and I, now adults, know that if we want to make a positive change to protect children we need a collective effort from the adults within our community to make the safety of children a priority.

During the launch of the project, Emma, Joe and the team at Australian Childhood Foundation shared that they were inviting any adults with lived experiences of child sexual abuse to participate in an anonymous survey. In hearing this, I shared the information far and wide. As a survivor, I know too many people who have been subjected to child sexual abuse, our stories are unique, as were our needs as children and what we need now as adults. It was important to me that everyone I knew had access to participate if they wished to, so they could share their unique experiences and thoughts on how things could have been different for them.

There was an option to self-nominate and join the Lived Experience Advisory Committee, yet another opportunity for me to continue to share my lived experience. In May of 2023, I joined the committee and began to work with the incredible survivors in the team.

The significant and unique research that came from the survey is the first of its kind in Australia to be done this way. It has amplified the voices and wisdom of survivors and aims to contribute to substantial policy change to reduce the prevalence of child sexual abuse.

In our first report, which can be found here, we discuss the insights on prevention and early intervention.

In the first analysis of the survey responses, it is clear that survivors wanted the adults around them to know more and to be prepared to do more to protect children. Respondents did not believe that the onus should be on children to protect themselves from sexual abuse. To take up this responsibility adults need to feel capable and confident to first identify the need for action, and then understand the most appropriate course of action to take to protect and support the child.

Introduced in 2000, the Working with Children Check (WWCC) is legislated by each state and territory to conduct a background check for people seeking to engage in child-related work. The check aims to prevent people from working with children if records indicate they may pose a risk to children. The process of the application is administrative, with no additional requirements on WWCC holders to undertake any training in the area of child abuse or child protection.

It is therefore recommended that all State and Territory Governments introduce a nationally consistent mandatory online training program about child sexual abuse as an essential requirement in the application process for all adults seeking a WWCC.

Adding mandatory training to the pre-existing platform of a WWCC is a small step to take that may lead to large and far-reaching benefits for children and community efforts to prevent child sexual abuse. It is cost-effective with the potential to impact the safety of children at scale across diverse geographic and demographic communities.

I truly believe that our children are worth it.

On Thursday 22nd February Australian Childhood Foundation and the Lived Experience Advisory Committee launched our first report from Our Collective Experience Project at Victoria’s Parliament House. In support of this call to action, I have written my own letter, which was delivered on the day to the Ministers with copies of the report and additional letters from survivors, requesting the introduction of mandatory education to the WWCC.

My story is just one of the many from people with lived experience of child sexual abuse, but together we can begin to reduce these numbers, by starting with mandatory child abuse prevention education being included in the Working With Children Check application process and for all other professional registration systems for people who work with children.

You don’t need to be a survivor to support us, you just need to share why you too believe that the government needs to make these changes.

The problem of child sexual abuse is one for us adults to solve, so with that clear intention, I am calling on you to lend your voice to help us protect children today.

To support us, visit Australian Childhood Foundation’s website and follow the steps to email Victorian Ministers to share with them why you want this change made.

On behalf of myself, the Lived Experience Advisory Committee and all of the survivors out there, thank you for supporting us.


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