School operations

International Student Program (ISP)

6. Supporting students — Safety 

This section covers: child safe, raising student safety awareness (Sun Smart, water safety, online safety, travel safety, mental health), critical incidents.


All international students have the right to be safe.

The ISP has zero tolerance for child abuse.

DET is committed to providing an environment where international students are safe and feel safe, and their voices are heard about decisions that affect their lives.

Victorian government schools must adhere to minimum child safety standards for all children enrolled as students in schools, as per the Ministerial Order 870 — Child Safe Standards (PDF). As Victorian government schools must already adhere to these minimum requirements, schools accredited to deliver an ISP are not expected to add this ISP policy to their existing obligations. The Ministerial Order requires registered schools to take action for the purposes of embedding a culture in Victoria's schools of 'no tolerance' for child abuse; and complying with the prescribed minimum standards for the registration of schools in section 4.3.1(6)(d) of the Education and Training Reform Act 2006 (ETR Act). In addition to these minimum standards, schools face obligations which arise as part of participating in the ISP and which are expressed in ISP policies and procedures.

In addition to the child safety standards schools must ensure that all students are made aware of how to stay safe on campus, online and general safety relevant to life in Australia.

All staff must know how to respond to a critical incident involving an international student. This includes incidents that may occur onshore in Australia, and overseas events that could adversely impact the wellbeing of an international student in Australia. The Schools Incident Management System (SIMS) Policy and Guidelines (PDF) (staff login required) set out how schools must respond to international student critical incidents.

Important requirements

Child safe

  • Child safe policies and procedures in schools must integrate the safety needs of international students, recognising the specific vulnerabilities of international students that arise for students from culturally or linguistically diverse backgrounds.
  • Schools are required by law to provide additional care and support to international students under 18 years of age where DET has accepted responsibility for the student’s accommodation and welfare by issuing a Confirmation of Appropriate Accommodation and Welfare (CAAW) letter.
  • Schools must acknowledge that international students may face heightened vulnerabilities as they have reduced access to their usual and familiar support networks, such as family and friends, and may face language and cultural barriers.
  • International students may not have the language skills or cultural understanding to identify and respond to safety risks in Australia. Schools must ensure students understand safety risks and have strategies in place to help all international students to have the courage to voice their safety or welfare concerns.

Additional ESOS safety requirements

  • Schools must take all reasonable steps to provide a safe school environment.
  • Students and staff must be provided with advice about actions they can take to improve their personal security and safety both on campus and in the broader community, for example, how to be sun smart, beach safety, safety on public transport, etc.

Critical incidents

  • All school staff must understand and know how to respond to a critical incident involving an international student (refer to SIMS Policy and Guidelines (PDF) (staff login required)).
  • Schools must include international students in the following sections of the Online Emergency Management Planning portal (login required): Risk assessment, and Emergency and Critical Incident Response Procedures.
  • Ambulance costs are covered under international students’ mandatory health insurance. 
  • The same ‘critical incident’ may have a different impact on each international student depending on their circumstances, for example, their available support networks in Australia and cultural background. As an example, one international student who is subject to severe verbal aggression may quickly recover following the incident with the support of their family and friends, while another international student may experience long-term mental health issues as a result of the critical incident. Principals and ISP staff should ensure that each student’s individual circumstances are taken into account when considering an appropriate response to a critical incident.

School responsibilities and guidance

Child safe

  1. Ensure the needs of international students are specified in the school’s child safe policies and procedures, recognising the particular vulnerabilities of all international students and paying particular attention to the needs of CAAW students.
  2. Ensure school staff are aware of their obligations to respond to reports of alleged or suspected child abuse.

Additional ESOS safety requirements

  1. Provide international students with age and culturally appropriate information about safety both at school and in the broader community.
  2. Follow DET International Education Division (IED) requirements for extra-curricular and non-school travel arrangements.
  3. Ensure staff engaged with international students are fully aware of their obligations towards international students as specified in the National Code of Practice for Providers of Education and Training to Overseas Students 2018 (Cth) (the National Code).

Critical incidents

  1. Provide international students and homestay providers with information (particularly during orientation) on how to respond to an incident and ensure they remain clear on how to respond to incidents for the duration of the student’s enrolment and stay.
  2. As set out in SIMS, school staff respond immediately to a critical incident involving an international student.
  3. As set out in SIMS, school staff escalate the critical incident to the principal (or their delegate) as soon as possible.
  4. As set out in SIMS, Principals (or their delegate) manage critical incidents involving an international student according to SIMS procedures by:
    • ensuring the safety of all people involved
    • reporting the incident to the Incident Support and Operations Centre (ISOC) on 1800 126 126 and rating the severity of the incident
    • maintaining complete and accurate records.
  5. Complete the Initial Action Potential Missing Student checklist if the incident involves a missing student.
  6. Record each critical incident and the school’s response using the ISP Critical Incident Checklist (Word) and keep a copy in the student’s file.

Compliance evidence

Schools must ensure the following evidence is available for audit: 

  1. school based child safe policies and procedures which address the vulnerabilities of international students, including at a minimum:
    • child safety risk register with specific reference to international student risk, such as homestay arrangements and heightened vulnerabilities
    • reference to international students, or children from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, in the school’s child safe commitment statement, child safe policy and child safe code of conduct
    • raising child safety awareness with international students and their parents/carers by providing information related to child abuse and reportable conduct in an age and culturally appropriate manner
    • providing homestay providers with information and training in relation to their obligations under the school’s child safety and critical incident policies. This includes information on reportable conduct, identifying and responding to child abuse and the Victorian Child Safe Standards
  2. describe how your school gives an international student a voice with respect to child safety
  3. retain evidence of follow-up actions and critical incident records as set out in SIMS
  4. evidence that staff involved within international students engage in regular training about their ESOS obligations
  5. ISP Initial Action Potential Missing Student Checklist (Word)
  6. ISP Critical Incident Checklist (Word).


Section 6 of the ISP School Toolkit on child safety, raising student safety awareness (including sunsmart protection, water safety, online safety, travel safety and mental health), critical incidents

Reviewed 07 September 2021

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