Dialog Box

5 minutes with Belinda Ding from St John Ambulance Australia

Since 1991 Child Wise has supported organisations including local government, schools, sport clubs and not-for-profits that work with children to improve their child safety practice and work towards becoming safe environments for children and young people.

St John Ambulance Australia engaged Child Wise to provide specialist knowledge and guidance on their child safe journey and has demonstrated outstanding commitment to becoming a child safe organisation.

Belinda has kindly agreed to share some of her thoughts and reflections on the work that has been done so far.

What prompted you to take action towards improving child safety standards in your organisation?

Child safety is of paramount importance to St John Ambulance Australia Inc (St John). The release of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse’s Final Report prompted St John to consider what we may change or do better as the National Office of St John in Australia, to ensure that we are best serving the children and young people in St John’s care and that our practices protect them from harm.

How did you find out about Child Wise and the work that we do?

Child Wise has a long history and excellent reputation in the Australian community for being the ‘go to’ child abuse prevention organisation. St John has previously utilised Child Wise resources in policy development.

Why did you choose Child Wise? What selection criteria did you follow?

Quality is important to St John, and we wanted to ensure that the service with the best reputation and that would place children’s interests at the heart of any work done, was the service that we engage. Child Wise has a strong history of assisting organisations to become child safe.

What kind of activities did you undertake as part of ‘becoming child safe’?

St John is still going through the process of getting two thumbs up on becoming child safe—there is a lot of work to do to ensure that we are at our very best, but we are confident that we will get there with the support of Child Wise. The main areas that we are working on include:

  • considering the role of the National organisation in ensuring the quality of child safe practices in all St John entities across Australia
  • improving our consultation methods with children and young people, their families and other youth stakeholders when developing or improving our policies
  • strengthening our existing policies and procedures
  • creating model policies and procedures for St John entities to use and customise to their local context
  • creating new educational resources for children and young people, their families and St John’s leaders.
How did you find the process?

The process was relatively simple. It involved us providing a significant amount of information to Child Wise to enable them to perform their Child Wise Needs Analysis—from production of documents to organising employees and volunteers to undertake a survey and identifying members to participate in one-to-one interviews.

What are some of the complexities you face in regards to child safety?

Our greatest challenge is that St John is a federated structure, and the programs and services of each St John entity differs across the nation. In addition, legislations are not harmonised across the country. This means that a one size fits all approach to child safety is not possible and we need to structure our approach in a way that ensures minimum standards will be met, however allowing for flexibility so that St John entities may customise their approach to the unique landscape and contexts of their operations in their own state or territory.

If a child was attending an activity at your organisation, what would they hear or see that would make them feel safe, valued and respected?

One of St John’s current standards is that all children engaged in our Youth Program will receive personal safety education. For us, this looks like activity sheets and courses that young members can undertake through their participation at their group or division. Under our Behaviour Management Policy, all groups or divisions will also develop their own Agreed Code of Behaviour—so it is developed for young people, by young people. This helps our youth members to ‘own’ the Code of Behaviour and take responsibility for their own actions.

What role do you think leadership plays in creating a culture that is child safe?

Strong leadership is central to creating a successful child safe culture in an organisation—if the leadership is not fully on board and seen driving improvements, practices and change, then cultural change will fail. Our leaders are role models to other members, they are also constantly under the spotlight and their actions are scrutinized by others. If they do not appear to be committed to child safety, it is very hard for their members to maintain a strong commitment.

How important is it that all staff are part of the process?

In our organisation, child safety is everybody’s responsibility and it’s everybody’s business—this is regardless of the service area of individual members. At the St John National Office, every member—whether paid staff or volunteer—is trained in child safety (including our policies and procedures) and receives refresher training annually. Our members understand that the safety of children comes first, and that they may be called on at any time to assist a child or their family, or a St John leader in providing support around child safety.

What have you found to be the most beneficial?

The Child Wise Needs Analysis is very thorough and has done a wonderful job of identifying gaps and areas for improvement. In addition, having the support of the Child Wise staff in reviewing our proposed changes and improvements is incredibly beneficial in ensuring that we ‘get it right.’

What has been the most challenging?

Probably the most challenging part of the process is the workload generated as a result and choosing what to prioritise as all of the feedback is highly relevant and valuable. Having the support of the organisation’s leadership and their commitment to improvement, has been the greatest buffer to countering these challenges.

What has been the most valuable part of working with Child Wise to help you to become a child safe organisation?

Working with Child Wise has provided reassurance that we are working from quite a solid base in terms of our policies, procedures and practices but that we can also do things better in some areas. The specific advice relating to what we can improve and how we might go about doing this has helped to pave the way forward.  

What are some of the outcomes of working with Child Wise?

The St John National Office are still going through the process of making those improvements to our approach however, we are very hopeful that the changes that we do make will have a positive impact on not only the children we engage, but our adult members who work with them.

Is there anything else you would like to tell us?

The process has been very smooth, and the support and practical advice of Child Wise staff has been wonderful.

Would you recommend Child Wise to other organisations? Why?

Absolutely. St John are the leading organisation in first aid training in Australia, not the leading organisation in child safety. And while we think that we do a pretty good job in terms of child safety, the topic is far too important and requires expert advice. The advice and ideas of Australia’s leading child protection organisation is, at the end of the day, invaluable to us and the children engaged with St John will ultimately benefit.


St John Ambulance has done amazing work and is well on its way to becoming a child safe organisation.

To find out how Child Wise can support your organisation, call 1300 CHILD WISE (1300 24453 9473) or email office@childwise.org.au

12 September 2018
Category: News
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