Bushwalking and hiking is an excellent activity for children, benefiting their health and mental well-being, and encouraging them to interact with, and care for, the natural environment. Bushwalking NSW encourages clubs to create a safe and welcoming environment for children and families.
Creating a child safe environment
- A child is a person under the age of 18 years of age. Clubs have a legal Duty of Care to protect children from mental, physical or sexual abuse while they are engaged in club activities. Every club that chooses to accept children on club activities should implement a Child Protection Policy. This does not need to be an onerous task. Bushwalking NSW has prepared practical guidelines to assist clubs create a culture of safety among their leaders and members.
- The guidelines detail procedures which should be carried out prior to accepting children on hikes and activities, and what to do if they suspect a child has suffered abuse during an activity, is in danger of abuse, or makes an allegation of abuse.
- The guidelines also include a checklist for suggested actions by club management committees, and online resources for further information.
- The club should appoint a Member Protection Information Officer (MPIO) to coordinate child protection activities and ensure that agreed procedures are carried out. They should also be informed of any incidents. The MPIO should not carry out any investigations concerning an alleged incident, but ensure police have been contacted in accordance with club policy and procedure and the law.
- Leaders should not be compelled to accept children on an activity if they feel uncomfortable or reluctant to do so, and parents should always ask the leader’s permission prior to bringing a child on an activity.
- Note that documentation concerning child protection, including all waiver forms, must be kept indefinitely.
- Find more information in the BNSW document Safeguarding Children and Young People and on the website of the Office of the Children’s Guardian
Bushwalking NSW recommends that club committees and leaders complete an online training course on Child Protection. An MPIO should attend and complete Member Protection Information Officer training.
- NSW State Government Office of Sport offers online child protection training courses.
- Play by the Rules is an interactive education and information website on discrimination, harassment and child protection in sport. It is a collaboration between Sport Integrity Australia, Sport Australia, Australian Human Rights Commission, all state and territory departments of sport and recreation, all state and territory anti-discrimination and human rights agencies, the Office of the Children’s Guardian (NSW) and the Anti-Discrimination Board of NSW. They offer cost-effective online and face-to-face training on child protection in sport.
- The Office of the Children’s Guardian also offer free online courses.