National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) is committed to implementing the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations and the Commonwealth Child Safe Framework.
The NHMRC Child Safe Policy (policy) provides a risk-based approach to the management of NHMRC's obligations under the Framework and the National Principles. Our staff and contractors do not engage in child-related work as part of their standard duties and Working with Children and/or Vulnerable People Checks have not been required for engagement.
Nevertheless, we take seriously our obligations to ensure the safety of children and are committed to a safe workplace for all. This policy supports that commitment. It will be reviewed annually, informed by our annual statement of compliance and risk assessment to ensure it remains fit for purpose.
As Australia's leading expert body for supporting health and medical research, our mission is 'Building a healthy Australia'. Through funding high-quality health and medical research, we invest in the creation of new knowledge about the origins, prevention and treatment of disease and the promotion of health and wellbeing. Through clinical, public health and environmental health guidelines and other pathways, we support the translation of research into evidence-based health practice and policy.
We administer legislation that governs research and provides guidance on responsible research practices and ethical issues that fosters the highest standard of ethics and integrity in the conduct of research and the delivery of health care.
We are responsible to the Commonwealth Minister for Health and Aged Care.
We have offices in Canberra and Melbourne.
Governed by the National Health and Medical Research Council Act 1992 (NHMRC Act), our functions are to pursue activities designed to:
- raise the standard of individual and public health throughout Australia
- foster the development of consistent health standards between the various States and Territories
- foster medical research and training and public health research and training throughout Australia
- foster consideration of ethical issues relating to health.
This policy applies to all of our employees and contracted staff and recognises our relationship with Administering Institutions, which are third parties funded by NHMRC to conduct health and medical research, some of which may involve children.
For the purposes of this policy:
- a 'child' is an individual under the age of 18 years.
- 'abuse and harm' is defined as any action, or lack of action, that significantly harms the child's physical, psychological or emotional health and development.
- 'children's rights' is defined as a child’s entitlement to thrive, develop and be safe, participate in decisions that affect them, be free from discrimination and to have their best interests as a primary consideration in all actions concerning them. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Australia ratified in 1990, sets out children's rights in detail.
- 'child-related work' is defined as work which involves engagement with a child, including:
- physical contact
- face-to-face contact
- oral communication
- written communication
- electronic communication (for example, email, instant messaging, social media and video chats).
- an example of work that is not classed as child-related work is when employees or visitors bring children into the agency's workplace. In those cases it is expected that the employee/ visitor will supervise the children.
Interaction with children
Our staff and contractors do not engage in child-related work as part of their standard duties. We fund third parties to undertake health and medical research, some of which may be classified as child-related work.
Commonwealth Child Safe Framework
There are 4 core requirements under the Commonwealth Child Safe Framework (the Framework) that all Commonwealth non-corporate entities, including NHMRC, must meet. Our response to each requirement is outlined below.
- Undertake risk assessments annually in relation to activities of the entity, to identify the level of responsibility for, and contact with, children, evaluate risks to child safety, and put in place appropriate strategies to manage identified risks.
We are committed to undertaking annual risk assessments in line with this Requirement.
We publish our Annual Child Safety Statement, which includes an overview of our child safety risk assessment, in our Annual Report. The risks to child safety as a result of our activity have been assessed as LOW.
The key sources of risk identified were:
- Lack of awareness of child safety requirements by our staff, contractors or third parties
- Non-compliance by a funded third party with its child safety obligations.
Actions to mitigate against these risks are set out in this policy.
- Establish and maintain a system of training and compliance, to make staff aware of, and compliant with, the Framework and relevant legislation, including Working with Children Checks/ Working with Vulnerable People Checks and mandatory reporting requirements.
As our staff and contractors do not work directly with children, we do not have a Working with Children and/or Vulnerable People Check requirement prior to engagement. However, commencing in 2022, all staff are required to complete the Commonwealth Child Safe Framework eLearning module to raise staff awareness and ensure compliance with the Framework.
The training will be reviewed regularly to ensure relevance and our staff will be required to refresh their knowledge by completing the training every two years.
- Adopt and implement the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations.
We are committed to adopting and implementing the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations and will ensure relevant policies and procedures are developed with the National Principles in mind. In line with these principles, we will require all staff to undergo a police check on joining the organisation.
The National Principles are:
- Child safety and wellbeing is embedded in organisational leadership, governance and culture.
- Children and young people are informed about their rights, participate in decisions affecting them and are taken seriously.
- Families and communities are informed and involved in promoting child safety and wellbeing.
- Equity is upheld and diverse needs respected in policy and practice.
- People working with children and young people are suitable and supported to reflect child safety and wellbeing values in practice.
- Processes to respond to complaints and concerns are child focused.
- Staff and volunteers are equipped with the knowledge, skills and awareness to keep children and young people safe through ongoing education and training.
- Physical and online environments promote safety and wellbeing while minimising the opportunity for children and young people to be harmed.
- Implementation of the national child safe principles is regularly reviewed and improved.
- Policies and procedures document how the organisation is safe for children and young people.
- Publish an annual statement of compliance with the Framework including an overview of the entity's child safety risk assessment.
We commit to publishing an annual statement of compliance with the Commonwealth Child Safety Framework in our Annual Report. The statements of compliance inform the development and maintenance of this policy and actions to strengthen compliance. These are discussed in the sections that follow.
This policy will be updated as needed in line with statements of compliance and risk assessments.
Requirements for NHMRC-funded research
NHMRC-funded research is conducted by universities, medical research institutes (MRIs), hospitals and a range of other approved Administering Institutions. Under clauses 4.1, 4.2 and 24 of the NHMRC Funding Agreement, Administering Institutions must comply, and require their Participating Institutions, research activities and funding applications to comply, with any applicable Commonwealth, State, Territory or local government requirement. See applicable laws and obligations, specified under the Funding Agreement, including the requirement to implement the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations.
Compliance with the National Principles is monitored through our Annual Institutional Compliance Report process.
We enforce the requirements of the National Redress Scheme for Institutional Child Sexual Abuse. Institutions named in applications to the Redress Scheme, or to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse that have not joined the Redress Scheme or signified their intent to join within the required timeframes, are ineligible to access NHMRC grant funding.
In addition, all NHMRC-funded researchers are required to be aware of and conform to the requirements of the National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research 2007 (updated 2018), including the guidelines in Chapter 4.2 for research involving children and young people. These guidelines address ethical issues in research and focus on the imperative to show due respect to children and young people. They address issues such as children's decision-making capacity, consent, potential coercion by parents, peers and others and conflicting values and interests of parents and children. The guidelines apply to the recruitment into, and conduct of, research.
Administering Institutions' awareness of obligations
We have taken additional steps to ensure Administering Institutions are aware of their obligations under their funding agreement with NHMRC. These include:
- The addition of a requirement on NHMRC's Funding Agreement
- Listing of The National Principles for Child Safe Organisations on NHMRC's Laws and Obligations
- Our Grant Guidelines include the following references to laws and obligations.
NHMRC-funded grant activities must comply with applicable guidelines, laws and approval requirements. For further information see NHMRC's Laws and Obligations.
Institutions applying for NHMRC funding (both Administering and Participating Institutions) must also be aware of their obligations under the National Redress Scheme for Institutional Child Sexual Abuse – Grant Connected Policy. Relevant institutions which have been named in an application for the Redress Scheme or named in the Royal Commission, and which have not joined the Redress Scheme, will be ineligible to access NHMRC funding.
Additional actions that are undertaken to further raise awareness about the Commonwealth Child Safe Framework include the following:
- Inclusion of question/s in our Institutional Annual Compliance Report (IACR). The IACR forms the basis for monitoring the compliance of Administering Institutions with their obligations under the NHMRC Funding Agreement and informs subsequent risk assessments of Administering Institutions, including remediation where required.
- Inclusion of a clear statement on the Administering Institutions webpage and a declaration on the NHMRC Administering Institution Status Application Form to explain these obligations at the point an organisation commences the application process to become an NHMRC-approved Administering Institution.
- Publication of NHMRC's Child Safe Policy on the NHMRC website. Notification of its publication will be provided through NHMRC's regular communication channels with the research sector, such as through Research Administration Officer (RAO) Alerts and NHMRC Tracker.
Child safe professional behaviours
Staff working with children, or who come in contact with children in the workplace or at a work function, must adhere to child safe professional behaviours, which are listed at Appendix 1.
Our staff and contractors do not interact with children as part of NHMRC's standard work. However, staff are required to treat all children with respect and act in accordance with the APS Code of Conduct and APS Values. Our Social Media Policy contains NHMRC's expectations and obligations of its staff when using social media both professionally and as private citizens. We have reviewed and updated our Social Media Policy to include clear direction about child safe behaviours when using social media and digital images of children.
Legislative and agency context and requirements
All employees have a responsibility to ensure they adhere to Commonwealth and applicable state and territory legislative requirements when working with children.
Relevant Commonwealth legislation includes, but is not limited to, Crimes Act 1914, Privacy Act 1988 and the Public Service Act 1999. National and international standards, as well as several relevant NHMRC policies also apply. The table provided below is not exhaustive and other legislation or standards may apply.
|Jurisdiction||Name of legislation/ standard|
Pre-employment screening of adults and volunteers who come in contact with children in the course of their duties is mandatory and legislated across all states and territories in Australia. As our staff and contractors do not work directly with children, we do not require Working with Children and/or Vulnerable People Checks. Should a position be created at NHMRC that will include interaction with or direct access to children, the recruiting manager should contact Human Resources for advice on adhering to this requirement.
Printed copy of the Child Safe Policy
If you would like a printed copy of this Policy, contact us using one of the following avenues:
- (02) 6217 9000
GPO Box 1421
CANBERRA ACT 2601
- This policy is subject to annual review.
Appendix 1 – Child Safe Professional Behaviours
Call 000 if a child is in immediate danger.
People working with children in the agency will ensure they adhere to the following behaviours when performing work that involves children
- Professionally introduce yourself and show your ID to children and their parent/ guardian.
- Do not use language or behaviour towards children that is inappropriate, harassing, abusive, sexually provocative, demeaning or culturally inappropriate.
- Wherever possible, ensure that another adult is present when working with or near children.
- Where required to have contact with children in the course of your duties, do not have contact with these children outside of the work environment.
- Do not use physical or emotional punishment on children.
- Comply with all relevant Australian legislation including Working with Children Checks and mandatory reporting requirements.
- Never access or use child-related data maintained by the Commonwealth to exploit or harass children.
- Never use any computers, mobile phones, video cameras, cameras or social media to exploit or harass children, or access child exploitation material through any medium.
- Immediately disclose to the NHMRC all charges, convictions and other outcomes of an offence that relates to child exploitation and abuse, including those that occurred before or during association with the agency.
- Immediately report to your manager concerns or allegations of child exploitation and abuse and failure to comply with this policy in accordance with appropriate procedures.
- Before photographing or filming a child or using (non-stock) children's images for work related purposes always obtain informed consent from the child and parent or guardian of the child. An explanation of how the photograph or film will be used must be provided. A Consent to use image form can be obtained by contacting the NHMRC Communications team.
- Ensure photographs, films, videos and DVDs present children in a dignified and respectful manner and not in a vulnerable, suggestive or submissive manner. Do not reveal identifying information about a child when sending images electronically or publishing images in any form.