Independent review to improve practice and response of ACFID members in the prevention of sexual misconduct

24 May, 2018

UPDATE - 9 AUGUST 2018: The independent review team at the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine has published its interim report. You can find it on their website here.

ACFID has commissioned an independent review to ensure members of ACFID understand and apply global best practice in the identification, response and prevention of sexual misconduct.

This is a quick explainer on the review and how you can report to the review.

Who will run the review?

The Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine (VIFM) will conduct the independent review. VIFM is a statutory authority. It operates under the auspices of the Victorian Department of Justice, reporting to Parliament through the Attorney-General.

Through its core work the VIFM has an innate awareness of the complexities involved in institutional sexual misconduct and the geo-political and cultural intricacies that are prevalent in the challenging environments in which many of ACFID’s members operate. It also understands the complexities to issues involving institutional sexual abuse and misconduct, particularly in relation to vulnerable persons in conflict and disaster settings.

VIFM will seek information from ACFID’s membership independently from ACFID and will publicly report on its findings.

What will the review cover?

The aim of the review is to ensure that ACFID’s member organisations:

  • Provide a safe and trusted environment which safeguards all who have contact with the organisation including staff, volunteers, partner organisations and beneficiary communities from sexual misconduct;
  • Set an organisational culture that prioritises safeguarding against sexual misconduct, so that it is safe for those affected to come forward and report incidents and concerns with the assurance they will be handled sensitively and appropriately; and
  • Have robust safeguarding policies, procedures and measures in place that are shared and understood.

The review’s remit will cover sexual misconduct between ACFID’s members and beneficiaries, ACFID’s members and delivery partners, and within ACFID’s membership between staff.

For the purposes of this review sexual misconduct will include the situations typically referred to by the following characterisations:

1. Sexual exploitation and abuse; 2. Sexual harassment; 3. Child sexual abuse and exploitation; and 4. Prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse (PSEA).

The VIFM review team will examine regulation and compliance with ACFID’s Code of Conduct; the culture of reporting issues of sexual misconduct; and the capability and organisational culture of ACFID’s members in relation to sexual misconduct.

How will the review work?

The methods of the independent review will include survey and data collection from ACFID’s members; a confidential reporting telephone line and email address; face-to-face interviews and focus groups with an agreed subset of ACFID member organisations (to be determined in consultation with the review team); and a critical analysis of ACFID and DFAT’s reporting and accreditation systems in relation to sexual misconduct. The review team will publish an interim report in July followed by a final report and recommendations which will be published in October 2018.

How can I contact the review team?

Staff within ACFID’s membership, and within members’ beneficiaries and partners, who have been affected by sexual misconduct and have experiences they wish to report into the review confidentially, can contact the review team at VIFM on 1800-00-PSEA (1800-00-7732) or contact the review team at [email protected]. This phoneline is available Monday to Friday from 9 – 5pm and will be answered by a senior forensic physician (on roster).

VIFM’s forensic practitioners provide acute sexual assault services to hundreds of women and men per year and are highly skilled at providing psycho-social support. The reports made to the review team will become part of VIFM’s analysis and findings but will be anonymised and de-identified and only used for the purposes of the review. 

However, if during the course of collecting information for the review VIFM form a reasonable view that a crime may have been committed, they will be obliged to report the matter to the relevant authority, which may be the Australian Federal Police, depending on where the alleged incident occurred.

Further support

A partnership with 1800RESPECT, the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence support service, has been established to provide support—including information, referrals and counselling—for anyone affected by sexual misconduct in relation to the review’s remit. If you have experienced violence as a result of this issue or know someone who has you can contact 1800RESPECT at any time of day to speak to a trained counsellor. You can call 1800-RESPECT on 1800 737 732.

You can also find further information online about understanding sexual assault, harassment and coercion (https://www.1800respect.org.au/violence-and-abuse/sexual-assault-and-violence/), including how to report to police, and how to support someone who has experienced sexual violence ((https://www.1800respect.org.au/violence-and-abuse/sexual-assault-and-violence/support) on the 1800 RESPECT website.

State based services with additional resources and support are available across Australia:

ACT – Canberra Rape Crisis Centre http://www.crcc.org.au/

NSW – NSW Rape Crisis http://www.nswrapecrisis.com.au/

NT - Sexual assault referral centres https://nt.gov.au/wellbeing/hospitals-health-services/sexual-assault-referral-centres

QLD – BRISSC - https://brissc.org.au/

SA - Yarrow Place Rape and Sexual Assault Service  http://www.sahealth.sa.gov.au/wps/wcm/connect/public+content/sa+health+internet/health+services/yarrow+place+services

TAS – Sexual Assault Support Service https://www.sass.org.au/

VIC – Sexual Assault Crisis Line https://www.sacl.com.au/

WA – Sexual Assault Resource Centre http://www.kemh.health.wa.gov.au/Our-services/Statewide-Services/SARC

Using the ACFID Code of Conduct Complaints Mechanism

ACFID’s Code of Conduct (the Code) offers an independent mechanism to address concerns relating to the conduct of ACFID’s members. Anyone can make a complaint against a specific member that is believed to have breached the Code.

Complaints should first be raised with the relevant ACFID member. All ACFID members have their own mechanisms to handle complaints and information can be found on their websites. If you are not satisfied with the response, you can then lodge a complaint with the Code of Conduct Committee who are responsible for investigating the complaint. For further information on complaints under the ACFID Code of Conduct visit ACFID’s website

Further Information

If you would like to speak to ACFID about the review, please contact [email protected].