After recently completing the very informative and at times confronting Child Safety Training from the Office of The Children’s Guardian (OCG) I am even more compelled to ensure child safety is put at the forefront of my dance school and encourage other dance school owners to do the same.
This free online training is well structured into easily digestible modules. The option to pause the module you are working on to attend to any business is great, not to mention you can move at your own pace, work from your own home and at a time that suits you. Cleverly, the OCG has removed many of the road blocks that busy dance school owners may have experienced even when they want to make child safety a priority their school.
One very interesting message that has made a strong impression on me after completing this training is how child safety isn’t the job of one person. While strong leadership in this area is vital, it takes a village to keep our children safe. An informed village is more likely to deter offenders, prevent harm, report assaults and secure convictions.
To achieve this, your dance village needs to be included in the initial planning and policy making. The Child Safety Risk Management Strategy (CSRMS) isn’t created by the dance school Principal alone and preserved in a filing cabinet like a museum artefact. Consulting staff, stakeholders and students is how you can create a CSRMS that is alive! By alive, I mean the CSRMS should be the foundation of your daily work, your compass for decision making and regularly reviewed as events occur and times change.
Personally, I find it a reassuring thought that my staff, dance parents and students will contribute to my CSRMS because then I know it will be a more valuable and ultimately more effective strategy.
More importantly, if my dance students are part of a village that is child safety aware, even our youngest dancers will be more empowered to speak up if they feel unsafe and know their rights.
Until a time when having a CSRMS is linked with a dance school’s insurance requirements not all schools will be informed or willing to put child safety procedures and policies at a high level priority and children may still be vulnerable in this industry. Since the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse the dance community has struggled to come to terms with some of the horrible events that were recounted in March 2016. The Findings from the Royal Commission have guided government, regulatory bodies and in particular the OCG to make so many positive changes towards prevention of harm and protect children better. Dance schools need a push to make the time and effort to create a CSRMS and regularly review it.
One incentive that may become the tipping point for a dance school to train, develop and implement better Child Safety protocol is the NSW Government Creative Kids Program. Introduced for 2019 this wonderful program recognises the value of the creative arts for young Australians and provides $100 vouchers to all school age children to participate not only in dance but also theatre, circus skills, singing and art. Similar in concept to the Active Kids Program, dance schools can apply to become an approved service provider. Wisely, the NSW Government has set a prerequisite for approval which includes submitting your Child Safety Policy or completing the OCG Child Safe training.
Now with a financial incentive, those dance schools slow on the up take to self educate and put into practice child safe protocol may be spurred into action. Here’s hoping that in 2019 every dancer will be safe amongst their more knowledgable dance village!
Happy dancing in the New Year everyone!
Photography credit: Dagmar Wilcox from Fabulous Photos
Dancer: S.Hams Garriga from Momentum Dance Studios (published with parent consent)