Dialog Box

What role do volunteers play in building child safe communities?

This week is National Volunteer Week 18 – 24 May, 2020. The theme this year is ‘Changing Communities. Changing Lives.’ This year in particular, with the bushfires and the COVID-19 crisis we have seen the integral part that volunteers play in our communities.

In Australia, volunteering is an inextricable part of national identity with 5.8 million formal volunteers. Nearly 3 out of 10 Australians reported as volunteers in 2019 (Probono Australia, 2019).

Read on to learn more about the role volunteers play in creating and building child safe communities. 

What types of organisations enlist volunteers in Australia?

Volunteers work across a wide range of organisations that provide services to or engage with children and young people, with the majority found in sport and recreation organisations and clubs. It is important that leaders ensure all volunteers are included in activities undertaken within an organisation to keep children and young people safe.

Volunteering Australia 2015, ‘Key facts and statistics about volunteering in Australia’

How to ensure volunteers in your organisation are supported and able to contribute to building a child safe culture

The variety of organisations that engage volunteers to support their work highlights the significant role volunteers play in the community. It also emphasizes why it is important that volunteers are not forgotten when organisations undertake activities towards strengthening and building a child safe culture.

Just as you would ensure you have the right staff in the right positions within your organisation to achieve your business objectives, you need to do the same with your volunteers. Bringing in the right volunteers through a robust recruitment and screening process will ensure that your child safeguarding culture is perpetuated and not hampered.

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Make sure the Code of Conduct defines appropriate boundaries around how staff or volunteers communicate with children, including on social media, by phone or SMS.

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Commission for Children and Young People Victoria, 2018

10 tips for volunteer management in a child safe organisation 

If you are a leader or senior manager in your organisation, you need to ensure that all volunteers: 

  1. are recruited and onboarded with the same checks and measures as other staff;
  2. are across the organisation’s governance requirements;
  3. are included in communication channels so everyone is on the same page;
  4. have access to ongoing education and training;
  5. know what the complaints process is and who they need to contact;
  6. understand the organisation’s expectations and code of conduct especially when it comes working with children directly and indirectly;
  7. understand all the child safe policies and procedures;
  8. are adequately supported and effectively managed;
  9. are part of the continuous improvement processes;
  10. know how to empower children to participate and provide feedback. 

As a leader in your organisation you need to ensure that it is everyone’s responsibility in the organisation to ensure children are safe and out of harm’s way, physically, mentally and environmentally not just when it is convenient.

The National Principles for Child Safe Organisations collectively show that a child safe organisation is one that creates a culture, adopts strategies and takes action to promote child wellbeing and prevent harm to children and young people. Volunteers are an important part of the process of building and maintaining a child safe culture in organisations and in the broader community.  

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One of the greatest risk factors for the harm or abuse of children is the lack of awareness about it among an organisation’s staff and volunteers.

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Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse

Child safeguarding and volunteers during a crisis

When disaster hits, such as the bush fires at the start of the year and the current COVID-19 pandemic, it is even more important to ensure your volunteer processes are not minimized in any way and that your volunteers are not neglected. This is essential in ensuring your organisation continues to uphold its child safeguarding standards and is part of the cultural change in our society that will contribute to a safer future for children and young people. 

Thank you to all volunteers working with children and young people

A big thank you from the Child Wise team to all the volunteers who help and support organisations working with children and young people (directly and indirectly), for their commitment to our shared cause.

19 May 2020
Category: Blog