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.

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 setions 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 involved with our humanitarian and development programs 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.
Despite making progress, we have identified gaps in our understanding that we must continue to proactively address. Over the last year, Oxfam has conducted research in three countries (Ghana, Iraq and Myanmar) to deepen our understanding of the common issues and barriers that prevent people from speaking out. This has helped us to understand how we can further improve our approach to keeping people safe.

Adapting to COVID-19

The coronavirus pandemic has necessitated an urgent review of our existing plans. The risks related to sexual exploitation and abuse are heightened in the face of stress, fear, economic uncertainty, and chaotic environments. At the same time, the barriers to reporting and challenges have also increased. Oxfam is acting fast to adapt to this new context. In response to COVID-19 restrictions, we created online safeguarding training tools to ensure that staff, volunteers, and partners are provided with effective support and training during this period.

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, our recruitment processes and interviews now include mandatory questions on values, safeguarding and feminist principles. We have also raised awareness and understanding among staff of how to challenge negative behaviours and misconduct, including concerns of bullying and harassment.
Safeguarding training is mandatory for Oxfam staff around the world, and all staff and volunteers sign a code of conduct when they start working with us.
We are committed to transparency and will continue to report regularly on our progress. A breakdown of completed Oxfam Australia safeguarding cases is provided in our annual report. Every six months, we contribute to a public report on all safeguarding cases across the Oxfam confederation.
We’re committed to sharing information openly, ensuring public reputation is never put before the safety of people we are responsible for.

Improving safeguarding & culture six 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. https://www.oxfam.org/en/what-we-do/about/safeguarding/improving-safeguarding-and-culture-oxfam

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:

  • keepingpeoplesafe@oxfam.org.au – this email is received by the Oxfam Australia Safeguarding Manager.
  • 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.
  • Whistleblowing – you can make an anonymous report via Oxfam Australia’s Whispli portal that is reviewed and triaged to the relevant lead for action. 
  • Call 1800 088 110 during office hours Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm to be transferred to the Safeguarding Manager or a Safeguarding Focal Point. 

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

  • Oxfam Australia Survivor Policy
  • Oxfam Australia Child Safeguarding Code of Conduct