These Australian child safety statistics should concern you

August 2021
Read Time: 4 minutes

It’s natural to worry about your kids when they’re not around, over 8 in 10 parents do. 

Yes, despite the relief and the fact that you finally have the space to breathe. Because even though it’s stressful, exhausting, and sometimes infuriating, they are the most important thing in the world.

They are your world.

So, it comes as no surprise that 37% of you worry about your children all the time when they are not around.

But what is surprising is that those 37% of parents may have a point, Oho’s Australian Child Safety-Check Study has found. 

Do you send your children to sport?

As Australians, this is deeply ingrained in our culture.

You take them to early morning practice (no matter how many coffees it takes to get out of bed), and you’re their biggest cheerleader on a Saturday (even when they are the last one swimming and every other child has already left the pool).

Win or lose, you love to see them play, as well as seeing the many benefits they receive from participating in sport.

But have you ever stopped to consider what is happening when you are not watching?

As much as we love our sport, Australia has a history of child abuse by coaches and mentors that extends back for decades and has still not properly been addressed.

From young boys suffering at the hands of the St. Kilda Little League’s pedophile ring in the 1970s to a former water sports coach and private school teacher that was charged with possessing and distributing child exploitation materials, as well as the indecent treatment of a child under 16, as recent as 5 July 2021 – stories of abuse are continually surfacing; and they are not limited to one state or sport.

 

Do you trust sporting staff to do the right thing? What about the organisations that hire them?

If you’re like most other Australian parents, you do. Despite your high level of concern for your child’s safety, you expect organisations to be doing the right thing, to be fulfilling their moral and legal obligations to protect them.

79% of parents trust organisations caring for their children to uphold the safety of their workforce by actively maintaining the accreditations of workers and volunteers.  

In fact, 55% of you expect organisations to be monitoring them continuously.

And you trust they are because there is a system in place – the Working With Children Check system.

The truth is that the system – and most of the organisations under it – are failing us.

Every day, at least one Working with Children Check (WWCC) is revoked in almost every state in Australia. Yet only 5% of organisations are competently verifying WWCCs after hiring a new employee.

And if a breach ever were to occur, our studies indicate you would expect organisations to be notified within 1.9 days and to act within 48 hours when, in reality, the window of risk typically lasts between 1 to 3 years.

That’s between 12 and 36 months for any abuser to strike, especially in sport, where perpetrators know there are loopholes in the system because they have been able to get away with it for so many years.

How is the system failing us?

As behavioral studies have come to show, the threat of punishment does not adequately stop people from misbehaving. We see this behavior among owners or managers faced with the decision to comply with child safety laws, just as we see it among perpetrators who choose to abuse children.

Multiplying the risk of harm to your child is the fact that 1 in 4 Australians who work or volunteer with children have never participated in ‘child safety’ training.

In another article, we reveal the results of a study by Child Wise, a global child protection NGO, adding to our findings about the issue of child safety in Australia.

So, even if you’re sending your child to the 1 in 20 organisations that are maintaining their safety checks, there is the risk that even though staff may be well trained in sport, they have not necessarily been trained in caring for children.

If you’re shocked by these findings, you are not alone. In fact, that is what started Oho, when our Executive Director and mum of 3, Claire Rogers, discovered the truth.

“For years, I was sending my children to childcare, school, extra-curricular activities, holiday programs under the blind assumption that thorough child-safety checks were being carried out by those organisations on all staff and volunteers.”

 

Are we wrong to expect organisations to do better? Of course not.

But we are wrong to assume that what they are doing is enough and that the system has our back.

In fact, what if we told you that even governments are not upholding their duty? Just six months ago, it was discovered that local governments leasing infrastructures, like tennis courts, to clubs and coaches, were not asking for Working with Children Checks – creating the perfect conditions for abuse to thrive.

 

So what can we do to protect our children?

As a society, we cannot control the intentions of predators and abusers, but we can control their access to our children. Oho’s Australian Child Safety-Check Study found that:

61% of parents said it would help mitigate their concerns if organisations were continuously monitoring child safety accreditations.

And 88% support a technological solution that would achieve this, as well as alerting organisations in due time.

This is the hope that Oho provides.

Built on the founding premise that any incident of abuse is one too many, Oho exists to improve child safety standards in Australia. It’s why we do what we do.

By providing organisations with a way to frequently and automatically check their workers’ and volunteers’ accreditations, Oho allows organisations to act within a maximum of 7 days when a check becomes invalid.

That’s over 350 days better than the current standard where our children are left exposed to abuse due to organisations being unaware of a problem.

Now you know the problem we are facing, but you’re also aware of the solution at hand. Now, all we need is for organisations to be. Which is why parents and caregivers in Australia are being urged to question, speak up and demand organisations to do better for their children.

 

It’s time we stop assuming and start doing. Start by educating ourselves, informing our family and friends, and most importantly – protecting our children by asking organisations to do better.

If you haven’t already, read the Australian Child Safety-Check Study and the supporting research by Child Wise.

Oho was created to end the cycle of institutional abuse and protect every child in Australia.

To support us in our mission, we invite you to share this article with another parent, or what you thought of it below. Let us know if you’ve had any concerns about your child’s safety by emailing hello@weareoho.com, so we can talk to organisations and help raise the standards in Australia.

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