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Protective practices guidelines – information for parents and carers

The protective practices guidelines explain safe and respectful behaviour boundaries. They are for people who work or volunteer with children and young people. 

Why it’s important for parents and carers to know about protective practices 

As a parent you can help by acting if you hear about or see adult behaviours you think are inappropriate. The protective practices can help you understand what’s appropriate and what’s not. 

You might be the only adult to hear about or see inappropriate behaviour. So, it’s important you alert the principal or director as soon as possible. 

What are protective practices? 

They are standards of behaviour staff and volunteers must meet when they interact with a child or young person. They are a code of conduct that helps make schools and children’s services safer. 

Why the guidelines are needed 

Behaviour boundaries are important for everyone. In our schools and children’s services, we expect adults to behave in ways that always protect children and young people. 

The guidelines help remove confusion about behaviours. They explain what’s protective and what’s inappropriate. 

What the guidelines cover 

The guidelines cover:

  • appropriate physical contact 
  • acceptable ways to communicate and interact with a child or young person. 

The full guidelines have advice about different age groups, needs and circumstances. For example, working in a small or rural community. 

Examples of inappropriate behaviour 

It’s helpful to know about some of the inappropriate adult behaviours. 

Communication and personal disclosure 

Example of inappropriate behaviour

Inappropriate comments about a child or young person’s:
•    appearance
•    sexual orientation 
•    personal lifestyle choices.

Physical contact

Example of inappropriate behaviour

Unwarranted or unwanted touching of a child or young person personally or with objects (for example, pencil or ruler).


Example of inappropriate behaviour

Attending a child and young person’s home or social gathering without a principal or director’s authority.

Targeting individual children and young people

Example of inappropriate behaviour

Singling out the same child or young person for special duties or responsibilities.


Example of inappropriate behaviour

Using personal instead of school equipment for approved activities, without consent of the principal or director. For example, a mobile phone.


Example of inappropriate behaviour

Keeping still or moving images or audio recordings of children and young people on personal equipment in personal locations not approved by the site leader.


Example of inappropriate behaviour

Communicating personally online, including on social media.



Who the guidelines apply to 

They apply to anyone who works or volunteers in a school or children’s service provided by:

  • the Government of South Australia
  • Catholic Education SA
  • Association of Independent Schools of SA.

The guidelines apply in all places. For example, at a school or preschool, on a camp, or at a carnival.

How staff and volunteers learn about protective practices 

Staff and volunteers receive training or an induction about child protection. This includes the protective practices. 

Do protective practices ban adults from touching children and young people? 

No. They do not ban touching. 

They look at respectful and safe ways for adults to use touch. They explain when it’s appropriate to provide a child or young person with:

  • care
  • encouragement
  • congratulations 
  • protection. 

What should I do if I have concerns about an adult’s behaviour? 

Talk to the principal or director. 

Doing this lets the principal or director properly explore what happened. They can make sure the right response happens. 

If you feel uncomfortable doing this on your own, ask a trusted friend or staff member to go with you. 

It’s very important the principal or director hears from you direct so they can act quickly. 

What happens to the adult when a concern is raised 

It depends on what’s reported and investigated. It might mean:

  • the adult is given a formal documented instruction about expected conduct 
  • an employee is dismissed 
  • a volunteer’s service is discontinued.

The police investigate criminal matters. When this happens we follow the managing allegations of sexual misconduct guidelines. You can ask your school or children’s service for a print copy.

What if my concern is about the principal or director? 


If you are unhappy with the way the school or service has dealt with your concern 


About this information

Protective practices guidelines were first developed in 2005. They are regularly updated by:

  • the Government of South Australia
  • Catholic Education SA
  • Association of Independent Schools of SA.

This happens if legislation changes or new issues emerge. For example, the impact of social networks. 

Engagement and Wellbeing

Emaileducation.kcs [at] sa.gov.au