What is the National Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Child Sexual Abuse 2021-2030 and how will it affect businesses?

Cooper Greenberg, Samy Mansour and Mariam Azzo
24 Nov 2022 Time to read: 3 MIN

The corporate sector can play an important role in delivering support services and promoting child safe cultures in the community.

The Australian Government has recently affirmed its commitment to the National Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Child Sexual Abuse by convening a new advisory group to advise on the design, implementation and evaluation of measures under that strategy. Australian businesses – even those who may not directly have interactions with children – should be aware of the implications of the National Action Plan, including how it may affect their operations.

The National Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Child Sexual Abuse 2021-2030

The National Strategy was a key recommendation from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and seeks to raise awareness of, and support survivors of, child sexual abuse and enhance national protections to harmful sexual behaviours. The National Strategy is separated into three National Action Plans governing 2021-2024, 2025-2027 and 2028-2030 respectively. The first National Action Plan, which is currently in place, has five key themes:

  • Awareness raising, education and building child safe cultures.
  • Supporting and empowering victims and survivors.
  • Enhancing national approaches to children with harmful sexual behaviours.
  • Offender prevention and intervention.
  • Improving the evidence base.

In turn, future action plans will expand on these themes in the hope to shape a national culture that better prioritises children's wellbeing.

The Albanese Government recently re-committed to continuing the National Strategy and established a 20-person advisory group to advise on the design, implementation and evaluation of measures under the National Strategy, signalling progress in this.

The implications of implementing the National Strategy on businesses

The First Plan notes that the corporate sector can play an important role in delivering support services and promoting child safe cultures in the community.

At present, the Australian Government has invested $307.5 million to support the implementation of the National Strategy. There are some obvious sectors that the National Strategy will directly impact – particularly those that deal with children – including schools, sporting organisations, hospitals, disability support services and community health services. Measures that will particularly impact those sectors include the following:

Measure

Key theme

Implementing and promoting the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations and mandatory reporting obligations in instances of suspicions of child sexual abuse

Awareness raising, education and building child safe cultures

Setting up an ongoing national annual reporting framework for non-government organisations to report on their progress to create and maintain child safe cultures

Awareness raising, education and building child safe cultures

Developing national standards for responding to, supporting and protecting children with harmful sexual behaviours

Enhancing national approaches to children with harmful sexual behaviours

Developing an evaluation framework on the implementation and effectiveness of the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations

Improving the evidence base

 

In addition to the above sectors, there are other sectors that may not have as direct a connection with children, but still have a role to play in relation to child safety generally, including digital industries. Measures that will particularly impact those sectors include the following:

 

Measure

Key theme

Delivering an annual digital industry summit to create new solutions for online harms

Awareness raising, education and building child safe cultures

Driving public awareness of the important role of the digital industry in combatting online harms

Awareness raising, education and building child safe cultures

 

And we are seeing greater regulatory intervention in the digital space – for example, Australia's eSafety Commissioner has been granted new powers to help detect and remove child sexual abuse material. eSafety can issue, and has issued, legal notices requiring providers of social media services, messaging services, gaming services, file-sharing services and other apps and certain other sites accessible from Australia to show how they are meeting the new Basic Online Safety Expectations. In turn, these businesses must now take proactive steps to prioritise the safety of their platform as it pertains to child usage and potential for abuse.

Where to from here for Australian businesses

In addition to monitoring the design and implementation of the National Strategy, and developing strategies – now – to deal with its implications, businesses should consider how they want to engage with the Australian Government (including the National Office for Child Safety) on the National Strategy, in order to assist with its application.

In addition to this, businesses in the digital and technology industry are very welcome to get in touch with us to discuss the endorsement of and / or implementation of the Voluntary Principles developed by Australia, Canada, New Zealand, UK, US (together with WeProtect), to counter online child sexual exploitation; and opportunities to collaborate with various Australian government bodies on the protection of children.

GET IN TOUCH

Mariam Azzo

Sydney
Special Counsel
Disclaimer
Clayton Utz communications are intended to provide commentary and general information. They should not be relied upon as legal advice. Formal legal advice should be sought in particular transactions or on matters of interest arising from this communication. Persons listed may not be admitted in all States and Territories.