My adjournment matter is for the Minister for Families and Children. The action I am seeking is that she remove the requirement for government school principals and school council presidents to sign statutory declarations as part of their child safe obligations, noting legal advice that it is unnecessary and unsuited to the purpose and noting that there are alternative instruments that would fulfil the same purpose.
As part of the rollout of child safe standards all school principals and school council presidents are required to sign statutory declarations confirming that the information they provide as part of their self-assessment is true and that they intend to comply with the child safe standards. Signing off on documentation and commitments is part of a principal's day-to-day role, but the instruction regarding statutory declarations is a completely new legal requirement. There is a huge amount of support for child safe standards within schools, particularly at principal level. Their support and a productive working relationship with other child safe stakeholders are fundamentally vital to creating child safe schools. However, significant numbers of principals question the need to sign a statutory declaration that they intend to do their job and are telling the truth. A legal commitment by government school principals to undertake their duties and comply with legislation already exists in their contracts with the Department of Education and Training.
Many principals have signed and submitted statutory declarations under duress. Some have refused to sign at all. Those refusing to sign have recently received letters from the regional offices of the Department of Education and Training stating that their school is at risk of being non-compliant with the standards and that non-compliant schools are liable to be deregistered. Principals have received legal advice that statutory declarations are unnecessary and indeed unsuitable for this purpose. This requirement is having unintended and negative consequences on the rollout of child safe standards, and it is undermining the process as a whole. I therefore call on the minister to urgently review and remove the requirement for statutory declarations in this instance.