Letter from the Director of ICPS in National Child Protection Week

Photo of Professor Daryl Higgins.

Director of ACU's Institute of Child Protection Studies, Professor Daryl Higgins.

National Child Protection Week, held from 3 – 9 September, provides an important opportunity to reflect on ACU’s commitment and work towards supporting safer institutions and communities for children.

For more than a decade, the Institute of Child Protection Studies team has been dedicated to undertaking quality research, evaluation and community education activities to enhance outcomes for children, young people and families; particularly through promoting the voices and participation of children, strengthening service systems and informing practice, and supporting child-safe communities. The personal passion and commitment of this staff team has seen ICPS expand into a nationally recognised centre of research excellence, in the field of child, youth and family welfare.

Over the last four years, we have worked closely with the research program of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. Our significant experience and expertise in conducting research with children about sensitive issues ensured that we were best-placed to talk to children about safety in institutions. This work forged partnerships with the Royal Commission and other academic institutions to deliver new and valuable insights which will inform the Royal Commission’s recommendations; and has publicly demonstrated the ACU’s commitment to taking a leadership role in the Catholic sector to support both the work of the Royal Commission, and the development of safer institutions.

Over 1400 young Australians were involved in our research, sharing their views, perceptions and experiences of personal safety in a range of institutions, including schools, early childhood centres, residential care, church, holiday camps and sports teams. We also spoke to young carers, young people with a disability, and Aboriginal students. Our studies included interviews, focus groups, and a national online survey, the Australian Survey of Kids and Young People. In addition to the children’s safety studies, we conducted research about the help-seeking needs and gaps for preventing child sexual abuse, which identified challenges to primary prevention, and implications for policy and practice. More information about these studies and publications is available in our recent Research Update.

Although our research work for the Royal Commission has concluded, ICPS continues to support institutions to improve their capacity to safeguard children. We recently worked with the National Committee for Professional Standards to develop a short animation presenting the findings of the study, which will be delivered across all dioceses on Child Protection Sunday. We are also working to engage partners in rolling out a second wave of the Australian Survey of Kids and Young People, measuring children’s safety in institutions, providing expert advice to organisations on implementing Child Safe Standards and other Child Safe approaches, and providing training and sector support.

In addition to our research and evaluation work, ICPS supports the ACU Provost’s establishment of an ACU-wide Safeguarding Children, Young People and Vulnerable Adults Reference Group to support the Church, Catholic, government and non-government organisations to create safe cultures and structures. This Reference Group, and the associated working groups, demonstrates the collective commitment and willingness of the ACU team to providing leadership in building safer communities and institutions for children across the Catholic sector.

Professor Daryl Higgins
Director, Institute of Child Protection Studies

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