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Safeguarding children is the responsibility of every business
2023 whitepaper prepared by Dr Joe Tucci and Janise Mitchell
Safeguarding Children Program

By Australian Childhood Foundation.


You can contact the On US team by contact us form or subscribe to stay updated. 

Unfortunately, yes. One child is reported abused or neglected every two minutes in Australia (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2023).

The Federal Police found that between 2019 and 2020, child abuse related offences grew by 310% across Australia in 2019-20 (Australian Federal Police, 2021), which is further backed by the WeProtect Global Alliance who noted in 2021 that Australia is one of the largest and fastest growing markets for child sexual abuse materials in the world, growing by 129% in 2019-20 (WeProtect Global Alliance, 2021). 

The recent Australian Maltreatment Study also noted that almost 3 in 10 (28.5%) Australians over the age of 16 years have suffered sexual abuse when they were children.

According to the Australian Institute of Family Studies, child abuse costs Australia faces $24.5+ billion in productivity losses and reduced quality of life (Australian Institute of Family Studies, 2018). 

Many businesses impact children and young people through their products and services, supply chains, marketing and distribution methods, and relationships with and investments in local communities. Every business has at the very least, an ethical obligation to keep children and young people safe. The risks differ across sectors, but the consequences are the same – children and young people feeling unsafe or at worst exposed to abuse and exploitation.

Inaction or poor management of children’s rights can result in harm to children and young people that causes a wide range of commercial, legal, operational and reputational risks. The human consequences can lead to significant commercial consequences, including market, regulatory and commercial costs.

Having this policy is a great first step in ensuring the safety of children and young people, however it is important to consider that each child and young persons’ experiences with each business are unique and therefore require a tailored approach to safeguarding. 

The approach taken in many of these policies, while well-intentioned, are often ill-defined, fragmented, and frequently reactive.  The focus on children for most business does not extend beyond child labour when the potential business impacts on children are broad and multi-faceted. This can be seen across not just a business’s human rights policy but also theirbusiness operations, and corporate reporting. 

To put it clearly, safeguarding children is a core element of ESG accountability. You can read more about why this is the case here.

All businesses are welcome to contact us or subscribe regardless of size.

The development of this initiative has been funded by Westpac through the Safer Children, Safer Communities program. In 2024, On Us – Australian Business Coalition for Safeguarding Children will become a membership-based initiative providing cross sector resource, information and knowledge sharing as well as specific customized training for business and industry development.

The safety and wellbeing of children should be a priority for all businesses. The children of today are consumers, family members of employees, young workers, and will become future consumers, employees and business leaders. There is a growing urgency and expectation for business leaders to put child safety and wellbeing at the forefront of their operations and decision-making, protecting one of their most important stakeholders.

Public expectations are shifting to all businesses needing to demonstrate that they are child safe businesses in light of recent royal commission findings. Businesses can and should act to protect our children from harm, they cannot rely solely on action from government bodies.

Child safeguarding is everyone’s issue with all business functions and roles playing a role in mitigating harm to children and young people. We view this as something each and every staff member has a responsibility for. 

The risk to children can be enabled at all levels of business. Decision makers and support staff should be aware of the risks and how best to mitigate them.

No. All businesses, regardless of whether they operate in an online, physical or hybrid environment should be aware of the risks and how best to mitigate them to ensure children and young people are effectively safeguarded.

The On Us; Australian Business Coalition for Safeguarding Children is a cross sector collaboration. Wherever there is access to children and young people there is a risk of harm to them. Therefore, we need business from all sectors to play their role to collectively understand the risk and take cross sector child safeguarding action.

Australian Childhood Foundation and as an extension, On Us; Australian Business Coalition for Safeguarding Children take data security seriously. You can view our privacy policy here.

In an emergency, where there are urgent concerns for the child’s health or life, call the police using the emergency line triple zero (000).

Any member of the community, including mandatory reporters, who suspect, on reasonable grounds, that a child or young person is at risk of significant harm should report their concerns to the Child Protection Helpline. Mandatory reporters and non-mandatory reporters, including the general public, should visit  for information on the state by state contact numbers.

To specifically report online exploitation of children and young people, please use the Australian Federal Police online child sex exploitation form. Do not use this reporting form to report emergencies or concerns which require a high priority response.

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acknowledgement of country and abuse victims
The On Us: Australian Business Coalition for Safeguarding Children acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the Traditional Custodians of the land and waters across Australia in which we share. We honour and pay our respects to Elders past and present and acknowledge the many thousands of years in which First Nations’ peoples have raised their children to be safe and strong. We also acknowledge the spirit and courage of victims and survivors of childhood abuse, exploitation and violence. Their efforts over many years have inspired our commitment to make changes at every level to better protect the children of today.