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Metinaro, Dili, Timor-Leste: Zacarias is a farmer and the traditional owner of his ancestral land. His family is currently in dispute with national enterprise Timor Gap, who is planning to build a fuel storage centre on 86 hectares land where 34 households live. The company is insisting on taking the land despite protest from the community. They are currently being assisted by local partners Rede ba Rai and Juristas Advocasia. Photo: Patrick Moran/Oxfam

Keeping people safe at Oxfam — safeguarding

Keeping people safe is a vital part of our work worldwide. In recent years, Oxfam has made substantial changes to the way that we approach safeguarding. But we recognise that there is so much more that we need to do, and we are committed to continually learning in order to make Oxfam a safer place for all.

What is safeguarding in Oxfam

Safeguarding in Oxfam is a set of procedures, measures and practices to ensure that Oxfam upholds its commitment to prevent, respond to, and protect individuals from harm committed by staff and related personnel.  In Oxfam, we focus on sexual exploitation, sexual abuse, sexual harassment (SEAH) and child abuse.  We do this by:-

  1. Listening to those who are affected;
  2. Responding sensitively and safely when harm or allegations of harm occur; and
  3. Learning from every case.

How we are keeping people safe

We continually strengthen our approach to safeguarding by increasing the number of safeguarding specialist staff. We now have dedicated safeguarding focal points in every country where Oxfam is present, who work with staff and communities. We have been adapting to COVID-19 too – creating online safeguarding training tools to ensure that staff, volunteers, and partners are provided with effective support and training during this period.

We believe that only by being open and transparent about risks can we  then tackle them– no organisation can ever say it is free from the risk of abuse and harassment, but we will continue to be accountable in how we manage these risks and respond swiftly if incidents do occur; striving to provide survivors with the right support at every stage.

Child safeguarding

In the delivery of our work, we are committed to upholding the rights of children, and safeguarding them against actions that place them at risk of all forms of violence and harm, including child abuse, sexual exploitation, abuse and harassment. The responsibility for maintaining child safe environments is a shared responsibility of all staff and associated personnel (volunteers, Board members, contractor/consultants, partners, suppliers etc.), with the aim to translate policy into everyday culture and practice.

Oxfam Australia does everything it can within its control to safeguard children by creating awareness and accountability, putting in place preventative child safeguarding policies and procedures, supporting staff and partners to implement these and immediately responding to issues that pose a risk to the safety and/or wellbeing of a child.

In line with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 1, a child means every human being below the age of eighteen years. Oxfam applies this principle across all countries where we operate. You can access the Child Safeguarding Policy and Child Safeguarding Code of Conduct in the policy section of this page.

We know that living our values is every bit as important as what we achieve, and we must not lose sight of that.

Explore the sections below to see what we are doing differently

Creating a more survivor-centred approach

Ensuring survivors can report abuse in confidence – and that they get the support they need – is paramount. We want survivors, past and present, to continue to come forward and report allegations and we know this can be painful and traumatic. We’ve endeavoured to make the process more accessible and to be survivor-centred in our approach and will continue to seek improvements.

Specialist safeguarding staff are also working on the ground where they are most needed – for example, Oxfam has two safeguarding specialist humanitarian support personnel who, when travel is not restricted, are deployed into countries to provide additional safeguarding support. We also have at least one dedicated safeguarding focal point in place in every country where Oxfam works.

Developing safer programs and working in partnership with communities

We have improved our understanding and management of the risks posed by our work, to ensure that all those affected by our humanitarian and development programmes can participate more safely. The approach, known as Safe Programming, includes training and toolkits for staff and partners as well as conducting research within communities so that we are more accountable.

Adapting to COVID-19

COVID necessitated an urgent review of our existing plans. The risks related to sexual exploitation and abuse were heightened in the face of stress, fear, economic uncertainty, and chaotic environments. At the same time, the barriers to reporting and challenges also increased. Oxfam acted swiftly to adapt to this new context. In response to COVID restrictions, we created online safeguarding training tools to ensure that staff, volunteers, and partners were provided with effective support and training during this period.  We continue to provide flexible working arrangements to account for any outbreaks that may require our staff to work remotely, maintaining their access to be able to complete important Safeguarding training and workshops.

Thinking globally and working with others

Oxfam has established a Global Safeguarding Shared Service with all Oxfam affiliates – networking safeguarding specialists from across the Oxfam confederation. Oxfam Australia’s Safeguarding Manager is an active member of this shared service.

Oxfam has introduced a new electronic record-keeping system for all cases. This secure central database is used by all Oxfam affiliates to build information and evidence of potential crimes. We’re also working together to ensure everyone follows the same procedures.

Our policies in reporting potential crimes to police and local authorities are clearer and have been developed with guidance from survivors.

We are working with the wider aid sector to stop perpetrators from moving on unchecked to other roles and organisations. Oxfam is leading work with other agencies to better share information about offenders. Here at Oxfam Australia, we work within a referencing system that ensures only approved managers can provide job references for people leaving the organisation.

Safer recruitment, changing our culture and living our values

We know that tackling abuse and exploitation in our programs is not enough. We must live our values throughout the organisation by examining our own attitudes and behaviours and by changing power structures to prevent the abuse of power which is often at the heart of sexual exploitation and abuse cases.

As part of our commitment to improve our culture and ensure that all staff understand and share our values, we have safe recruitment practices in place that include integrity clauses in our job ads and position descriptions, we conduct criminal history checks, have mandatory safeguarding interview and reference check questions and all staff and associated personnel are required to sign the relevant behaviour based Code of Conduct and the Child Safeguarding Code of Conduct. 

Safeguarding training is mandatory for Oxfam staff around the world. 

Improving safeguarding & culture 12 monthly report

Oxfam is committed to providing updates on our progress to improve Safeguarding in Oxfam.  Follow the link to the Oxfam International website to find the latest report and previous reports.

Speak up

If you have experienced, witnessed or heard that misconduct has, or is about to occur, we encourage you to communicate suspicions without fear of reprisals and in the knowledge that you will be protected from victimisation and dismissal.
Safeguarding covers sexual exploitation, sexual abuse, sexual harassment and any form of child abuse or exploitation. You can make a report using the following options:

email icon – this email is received by the Oxfam Australia Safeguarding Manager.

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Report Misconduct – this online form is auto triaged to the Oxfam Australia Safeguarding Manager where cases of Safeguarding Misconduct are reported in Australia, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Fiji, Timor-Leste and Sri Lanka. Privacy Notice.

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Whistleblowing – you can make an anonymous report via Oxfam Australia’s Whispli portal that is reviewed and triaged to the relevant lead for action.

Free Call Australia – 1800 088 110Select Option 2 – Safeguarding to be transferred to the Safeguarding Manager. 

Oxfam Australia is committed to using your information responsibly. We are guided by the Australian Privacy Principles, as well as the codes that we adhere to.  For more information, please visit our Privacy page. 

Oxfam’s safeguarding policies

Oxfam Australia is covered by all the policies and codes of conduct listed below. 

One Oxfam Policies & Codes of Conduct

Oxfam Australia Policies & Code of Conduct