Appropriate Relationships Between Employees and Children and Young People

The content on this webpage may be distressing for some people. Information on where to seek support is at the bottom of the page.

If you have information in relation to child sexual abuse, we strongly encourage you to contact Tasmania Police on 131 444.

Ensuring children and young people are known, safe, well and learning is our number one priority. If your child or your family needs support in relation to this matter, please contact your school or the Department for Education, Children and Young People by email at ServiceCentre@decyp.tas.gov.au.

Indicators of potential child sexual abuse

Behaviour that may suggest child sexual abuse is occurring or that a child or young person is at risk can be difficult to identify.

Offenders will try to mislead people who are close to the child and are likely to deny anything inappropriate has occurred when challenged about their behaviour.

To help keep children and young people safe, it is important that unusual or potentially suspicious behaviours are considered within the context of the situation.

There are three broad categories of conduct that have the potential to cause harm to children and young people. They are:

1. physical harm or touching (direct or indirect contact, intervention or restraint)

2. psychological harm by way of inappropriate verbal or unauthorised communication

3. sexualised harm by way of sexual abuse, including grooming

Behaviours to avoid in a professional relationship with a child or young person

Some behaviours that may appear innocent or are motivated by good intentions can raise suspicions and should, therefore, be avoided. These include:

  • attending parties or socialising with children or young people
  • inviting children or young people back to your home or attending theirs without an appropriate professional reason and without the consent of their parent/carer
  • transporting a child or young person in a car without prior approval from a supervisor and a parent/carer.

Behaviour that should never be tolerated

Behaviour that could be interpreted as grooming or an intention to groom is unacceptable and, in many cases, unlawful. Grooming is a process whereby a person ‘conditions’ and builds rapport with children and young people – and often their parents and carers – to reduce their resistance to, and increase compliance with, sexual abuse.

Grooming is an offence under the Tasmanian Criminal Code Amendment Act 2020. It can include:

  • inappropriate conversations of a sexual nature
  • behaving in a flirtatious manner towards a child or young person
  • comments that express a desire to act in a sexual manner
  • unwarranted and/or inappropriate touching of children or young people (e.g. kissing)
  • exposing students to sexual behaviour of others including display of pornographic and/or sexually explicit material
  • sexual exhibitionism
  • expressing romantic feelings towards a child or young person in any way
  • sexual acts including intercourse.

Grooming behaviour can also include misleading children and young people by singling them out for special treatment, for example by spending inappropriate time with them, inappropriately giving gifts, showing special favours to them but not others, and allowing them to overstep accepted rules.

Behaviour examples

Below are examples of behaviours that might raise suspicions in observers. They are provided as a guide only and do not cover the full range of behaviours.

Physical harm or touching

A Health and Physical Education teacher joining in a game of tag to model participation touches a student near their buttocks.

This behaviour could result in a student feeling uncomfortable or unsafe. The teacher should ensure students understand that inadvertent touching may result from their participation when introducing the activity and provide the opportunity to opt-out to any students who may feel uncomfortable.


To instruct a student in the proper use of a woodworking tool, an employee places their hands over a student’s hand while the student is using it after first asking the student for permission. The contact ceases after the demonstration is completed.

As a one-off occurrence in a school context, this behaviour is likely to be considered appropriate.


A six-year-old student falls over in the playground, skins their knee and starts to cry. An Education Facility Attendant working nearby stands the child back up and comforts them by placing their hands on the child’s shoulders and speaking to them until they stop crying. The employee then walks with the student to a first-aid station.

As a one-off occurrence in a school context, this behaviour is likely to be considered appropriate.


A teacher accidently bumps into a student in a narrow corridor and apologises to make sure she isn’t embarrassed or uncomfortable.

As a one-off occurrence in a school context, this behaviour is likely to be considered appropriate.


An employee strokes a student’s hair while speaking to them. 

This behaviour is inappropriate and may be considered as suspected grooming.


During quiet individual study time in class, a staff member moves close to a student who is seated at a desk. The staff member places their hand on the student’s leg and leaves it there while talking about what the student is reading.

This behaviour is inappropriate and may be considered as suspected grooming.

Psychological harm by way of inappropriate verbal or unauthorised communication

A 17-year-old female student advises her teacher that she is having problems at home and would like some advice. The teacher advises the student of the range of assistance available, requests permission to discuss it with the principal and guidance officer and invites the student to speak to them again if needed. The teacher discusses the issue with the principal and guidance officer before making a referral for the student to relevant assistance providers. 

This is a professional response to a complex situation that keeps the child at the centre of decisions that affect them.


A year six student is removing another student’s pens from the desk, putting them out of sight and refusing to give them back. A teacher approaches the offending student, makes eye contact, and says in a firm and controlled voice, “[Name] please give [other student’s name] pens back now.”

This response reinforces the authority of the teacher and shows respect for each child in the situation.


After a school play, the drama teacher approaches one of the student actors, saying, “I didn’t realise how grown up you were until I saw you in that outfit. The play went over really well. After we tidy up here, maybe you and I can celebrate?”

This communication is inappropriate and may be considered as suspected grooming.


An employee sends a private message to a student via social media which reads “Hi, hope you had a great weekend!”

This communication is inappropriate and may be considered as suspected grooming.

Sexualised harm by way of sexual abuse, including grooming

An employee walks around the playground with one arm around the waist of a student, leading to prolonged physical contact.

This behaviour is inappropriate and may be considered as suspected grooming.


A music teacher offers small gifts to a student as a reward for improved playing technique and arranges additional lessons outside school hours.

This behaviour is inappropriate and may be considered as suspected grooming.


An employee is aware that a student has advanced computer skills and invites the student to their house on the weekend to help with a computer problem. The employee regularly invites the student to their home to help with computer issues.

This behaviour is inappropriate and may be considered as suspected grooming.

Consequences

Under Tasmanian law anyone who fails to report an abuse offence can be found guilty of a crime. You can be found guilty if you reasonably believe that an abuse offence has occurred and fail, without reasonable excuse, to inform a police officer as soon as practicable. If it appears that an employee has breached a criminal law, the matter will be referred to Tasmania Police.

Where to seek support

If the information on this page causes you any distress or raises any questions or concerns for you, additional options for advice and support are listed below:

Beyond Blue – Call 1300 224 636 or visit the Beyond Blue website

  • Mental health and wellbeing organisation supporting those affected by anxiety, depression and suicide.   

1800 Respect – Call 1800 737 732 or visit the 1800 Respect website

  • Support and information for anyone affected by sexual assault, or domestic or family violence

Lifeline – Call 13 11 14 or visit the Lifeline website

  • 24-hour crisis support and suicide prevention.

Sexual Assault Support Service Inc (SASS) – Call 03 6231 1811 / 03 6231 0044 or visit the SASS website

  • Southern-based community service organisation providing support and information to survivors of sexual abuse.

Laurel House – Call 03 6334 2740 / 03 6431 9711 or visit the Laurel House website

  • Northern and north-western-based sexual abuse and sexual assault support service.

Knowmore – Call 1800 605 762 or visit the Knowmore website

  • Free legal advice for survivors of institutional child sexual abuse.