BB Safe | Safeguarding Culture & Compliance

Content warning: Please be aware the following content contains reference to accounts of child sexual abuse which may be distressing for some people.

BBSafe – marking 5 years since the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse

15 December 2022
We hear you, we see you, we will never forget

In the decade since the Royal Commission started I have met with dozens of survivors of institutional sexual abuse and read hundreds of account of sexual abuse. Every story is important. Every voice must be heard. Every survivor must be honoured. For people who experienced abuse, even decades later the pain, hurt and confusion can be as real as when the abuse occurred.

The Royal Commission shone a light on the risks and dynamics of abuse and gave us hundreds of pages of findings and lessons. What we are left with is a very well researched blueprint for safeguarding children when they are in contact with institutions – community organisations, sports clubs, extra curricular activities, religious organisations. We were also given a wealth of information about how to respond well where abuse does occur.

Finding a way to keep these issues on our agendas is critical – with the passage of time, it is easy to get caught up in the busy-ness of it all, and default to just doing compliance. However, the Royal Commission demonstrated over and over that poor culture can undermine the effectiveness of compliance.

Cultures where the importance of safeguarding is not understood will lead to cut corners, or overreliance on compliance activity. An example is the need to fill staff or volunteer positions in a hurry so that an activity or service can run, meaning reference checks don’t get done properly, or the need for a working with children check is overlooked. It seems like a minor issue, an annoyance, but the consequences can be disastrous and tragic and unnecessary.

Cultures where adults take individual and collective responsibility for the safety of children will help children thrive. A safety focused culture is the best defense – sending a clear message that ‘this is the way we do things here, we look after our kids, and anything dodgy will be found out and will not be tolerated’. A strong safeguarding culture will act as a deterrent in the same way CCTV cameras or burglar alarms will deter someone from breaking in to your house. 

So, five years on, keep these issues alive in your organisation. Do the compliance – but make sure it is underpinned by a deep commitment, understanding and resources at all levels of your organisation. Have regular conversations about safeguarding, understand your risks, listen to children, do the training.

Let’s make sure these lessons are not lost in the passage of time but that, for every child who has experienced abuse, we do our part to make sure these things never happen again. 

We honour all survivors of abuse. We will never forget.

Sarah Lim