Children and young people are at risk of sexual abuse in places where they should expect to be safe – their school, sports club, church and other youth-serving organisations.

Organisations are taking steps to improve children’s safety and are implementing many changes to become safer for children and young people.

The Children and Young People’s Safety (CAYPS) project is an on-going research engagement tool, developed by the Institute of Child Protection Studies, at the Australian Catholic University. The project aims to support organisations to develop and improve their child-safe culture. The Institute also uses the information to help answer research questions that will support policy and practice development across Australia and internationally. The findings in this report are based on data collected for CAYPS during 2018-2020: participants included 1851 children and young people aged 10-18, and 633 staff or volunteers.

Key findings include:

Children and young people’s views of safety

  • 50% of the young people felt safe all of the time
  • 4% never felt safe
  • 85-89% would tell someone if they felt unsafe – in order of likeliness this was likely to be Mum, a friend or Dad.
  • 75% had confidence that adults had the skills and disposition to want to help them if they felt unsafe
  • 34% knew what to do because they had discussed it with adults in the organisation
  • 50% reported barriers to seeking help if they felt unsafe
  • 10% felt unsure whether adults would know what to do even if they were approached for help

Adults’ safeguarding capabilities

  • 85% agreed they were aware of policies and that their organisation had a culture of child safety.
  • 78% had confidence to act to prevent or respond to potential or actual abuse
  • 95% had positive attitudes towards safeguarding and its importance
  • 87% felt they had good knowledge of situational prevention strategies

The project continues important research work commissioned by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, which handed down its final report in 2017. Since then, governments have agreed to implement National Principles for Child Safe Organisations, and organisations have been working to apply the principles to better protect and safeguard children from child sexual abuse.

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