ChildFund Australia has welcomed the recommendations made by the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine (VIFM) on how the Australian international development sector can increase safeguarding systems and processes to prevent sexual exploitation and abuse.
The Australian Council for International Development made the decision to undertake an independent review of its members when reports of sexual misconduct in the aid sector came to light in the United Kingdom.
VIFM, selected for its expertise in sexual assault and child protection, was tasked with examining the current state of practice among ACFID’s membership base in Australia, and identifying areas for improvement in the prevention of sexual misconduct.
During the five month review process, VIFM provided an 1800 telephone service and email address for confidential reporting into the review.
Co-author of the review, Dr Maaike Moller, found that ACFID Member Organisations are committed to improving safeguarding for staff and program beneficiaries.
She said: “In many ways the Australian aid sector is well prepared because of the strong child protection framework imposed by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) on all international development and humanitarian response work it funds.”
However, the Review recommends that a statutory Reportable Conduct Scheme be established for all Australian charities undertaking international aid work, including the many thousands of organisations which are not currently members of ACFID.
VIFM suggests that this scheme be administered by the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission, with the de-identified data used to inform improved prevention and response measures.
Dr Moller noted: “It is important that sexual misconduct reporting is encouraged. It is only through receiving and responding to reports that organisations can support victim/survivors and ensure proper investigation processes and justice outcomes if the matter is substantiated.”
CEO of ChildFund Australia Nigel Spence said: “As one of 66 aid organisations which voluntarily took part in this important review, ChildFund is firmly committed to strengthening the safeguards for the children and families we support in developing communities, as well as the many individuals we work alongside, in Australia and overseas.”
Marc Purcell, CEO of ACFID, added: “We will build upon the existing safeguarding regime for our members, such as our Code of Conduct and DFAT’s mandatory reporting on child protection, and use the VIFM report as a new basis to drive a higher standard of practice.
“Any case of sexual misconduct is absolutely unacceptable. Our goal is to always keep people safe from risk and harm.”