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company standards

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The Company Standards sets out below are the rules, regulations, policies and procedures that govern our organisation. All members of our community (employees, participants, volunteers, contractors, suppliers, partners etc) are required to comply with these standards.

PRINCIPLE OF EQUALITY

AVT LIVE Entertainment Group is committed to providing equal opportunities and the principle of equality in accordance with relevant legislative provisions. We are confident that all members of our community share our commitment in implementing these policies. We will not tolerate any unlawful discriminatory act or attitude in dealings with our employees, participants, clients, suppliers, contractors, members of the public or fellow colleagues. Acts of unlawful discrimination, harassment or victimisation will result in disciplinary action for members of our community.

COMPANY STANDARDS

As a company that regularly deals with young and under-aged participants, our employees are all in heightened positions of trust and influence. Therefore, we expect our employees to ensure that they lead by example in always maintaining and ethical, respectful and harmonious work environment. In this community, we respect each other in all that we do, and we do our best at all times to uphold the reputation of the company and abide by the company standards. Our success depends on each of us accepting personal responsibility for always doing the right thing.

ABOUT US

AVT LIVE Entertainment Group is a not-for-profit arts organisation that seeks to provide audiences with unique, high-quality entertainment experiences and emerging artists with enriching opportunities to develop their creative skills.

 

AVT LIVE is the artistic umbrella under which a range of unique creative brands exist - from performance facilities to theatre companies to youth training providers and more – all working together to deliver on the company’s vision to provide engaging, enriching and entertaining creative experiences to the community.

Each brand in the AVT LIVE portfolio serves a distinct sector of the community as well as the entertainment industry:

 

ARENAVENT THEATRICAL presents major arena productions that tour the country, featuring professional artists performing alongside young performers from the community.

 

QUIDPRO CO develops boutique theatre productions and touring entertainment which create employment opportunities for emerging artists.

 

HAYWARD STREET THEATRE is the premier arts and entertainment venue on the northside of Brisbane, providing rehearsal, performance and training space for a range of arts organisations in South East Queensland.

 

AUSTRALIAN YOUTH TALENT ACADEMY offers weekly classes and school holiday workshops for kids and teens who are interested in developing their performance skills.

 

DARE ARTIST MANAGEMENT provides representation for emerging artists who are seeking to establish a career in the entertainment industry.

 

AUSTRALIAN ACADEMY FOR PERFORMING ARTISTS delivers post-secondary training and performance opportunities to emerging artists who want to strengthen their skills with a view to working in the arts.

 

YOUNGHARTS NETWORK provides support to financially disadvantaged young artists in need through the provision of scholarships, bursaries and development programs that assist them in pursuing their artistic endeavours

 

Imagine the possibilities at AVT LIVE. 

OUR VALUES

We care…

AVT LIVE Entertainment Group offers a creative community, and we care about all the individuals who make up our family of like-minded trainers and students. We care about creating a meaningful, memorable, enriching and edifying experience for every person who engages with our organisation.

  • We go the extra mile for our people.

  • We pay attention to their needs and try to meet everyone where they are at.

  • We listen to feedback.

  • We are always willing to grow and develop as the needs of our people evolve.

  • We put ourselves in our people's shoes.

  • We treat others the way we would like to be treated.

  • We are friendly and kind.

  • We want everyone who engages with us to feel welcome and accepted.

 

We empower and encourage…

We exist to help our people be the best that they can be. We always strive to see the potential in others, and help them to see it too. We understand that our words and actions are powerful, and we use them wisely to always empower and encourage.

Even when things are not going well, we are careful to address one another with kindness. We never raise our voice in anger, under any circumstance, and we are thoughtful about the words that we use. We always look for ways to build each other up, and we know that focussing on positive aspects diminishes the negatives.  

 

We have fun while working hard…

We love to have fun, and we love to work hard, and we thinks it's best when we do both at the same time. We don't take ourselves too seriously, and are always looking for the joy in what we do. Getting the job done well is as important to us as smiling while we do it. Our passion is also our profession, so we don't mind working hard because we love it. We derive our fun from getting the job done.

 

We are respectful and gracious…

We know the value of providing an environment where everyone can expect to be treated with dignity and respect and seek to always create a harmonious environment that is free from harassment, bullying and discrimination. We respect the unique attributes and perspectives of our people, and we rely on these diverse perspectives to help us grow, evolve and strengthen our community.

We respect each other's differences, and know that not everybody works the same way. We embrace the diversity of our community, and we work hard to make sure everyone feels respected and welcome. We choose kindness, and we give better than we receive.

 

We are passionate…

Passion is the fuel that powers our organization.

Our people are committed, dedicated and excited about what they do.

We don't see our work as a job - we see it as an extension of who we are.

We know that passion breeds passion - when we feel excited and joyful about our work, it sparks the same kind of joy and excitement in others.

Passion is the common thread that binds our community together -we are passionate about the arts, about pursuing that passion and helping others to as well.

 

At AVT LIVE, we strive to be DARING, DILIGENT and INCLUSIVE, with INTEGRITY, PLAYFULNESS and PASSION.

BEHAVIOUR IN OUR COMMUNITY

You should behave with civility towards fellow members of our community. Rudeness will not be permitted. Objectionable or insulting behaviour or bad language may result in disciplinary action up to and including exclusion from community activities. Members of our community should use their best endeavours to promote the interests of the company while a member of this community.

APPROVED METHODS OF COMMUNICATION

Because community matters to us, the ways in which we communicate matter too. We communicate with our participants both in person and via email or via the discussion pages on the company websites. While we have a presence on social media, we do not view social media as an appropriate platform for personal communication with our participants. Our only endorsed methods of communication are in person or over the phone, via email or via the discussion pages on the company website. We do not endorse the creation of chat groups on social media or external platforms for the discussion of matters pertaining to our company or our community, and members of our community engaging in such chat groups is considered a breach of our company and community standards. 

DRESS AND APPEARANCE

Member of our community should wear clothes appropriate to the activity they are taking part in, and they should be kept clean and tidy at all times. Enclosed shoes are required at all times. 

DISCIPLINARY

This policy sets standards of performance and behaviour expected of all members of our community, together with the procedure to be followed in the event of disciplinary issues. The policy aims to help promote fairness and order in the treatment of individuals. It is our aim that the rules and procedures should emphasise and encourage improvement in the conduct of individuals where they are failing to meet the required standards, and not be seen merely as a means of punishment. We reserve the right to amend these rules and procedures where appropriate. Every effort will be made to ensure that any action taken under this procedure is fair, with opportunity for those being disciplined to state their case.

The following rules and procedures should ensure that:

  • the correct procedure is used when requiring attendance at a disciplinary hearing

  • all are fully aware of the standards of performance, action and behaviour required

  • disciplinary action, where necessary, is taken speedily and in a fair, uniform and consistent manner

  • discipline will only be administered after careful investigation of the facts 

  • at all disciplinary hearings, rather than investigatory meetings, parties have the right to be accompanied by a support person at all stages of the formal disciplinary process

  • there will be no dismissal for a first breach of discipline, except in the case of serious misconduct and

  • explanation will be provided for any penalty imposed.

 

On some occasions temporary suspension may be necessary in order that an uninterrupted investigation can take place. This should not be regarded as disciplinary action or a penalty of any kind.

DISCIPLINARY RULES

It is not practicable to specify all disciplinary rules or offences that may result in disciplinary action, as they may vary depending on the nature of the activity. In addition to the specific examples of unsatisfactory conduct, misconduct and serious misconduct shown in this policy, a breach of other specific conditions, procedures and practices set out elsewhere may apply.

RULES COVERING UNSATISFACTORY CONDUCT AND MISCONDUCT

Members of our community will be liable to disciplinary action if they are found to have acted in any of the following ways:

  • failure to abide by the health and safety policies and procedures and general health and safety responsibilities

  • actions which could threaten the health and safety of others

  • persistent absenteeism and/or lateness

  • unsatisfactory standards or output of work or participation

  • rudeness, objectionable or insulting behaviour, harassment, bullying or bad language

  • failure to devote the whole of your time, attention and abilities during participation in company activities

  • unauthorised use of email, internet and/or social media

  • failure to carry out all reasonable instructions or follow our rules and procedures

  • unauthorised use or negligent damage or loss of our property and

  • failure to report immediately any damage to property or premises.

This list is not exhaustive.

 

SERIOUS MISCONDUCT

Occurrences of serious misconduct are significant because the penalty may be termination without notice, even without any previous warning being issued. It is not possible to provide an exhaustive list of examples of serious misconduct. However, any behaviour or negligence resulting in a fundamental breach of participation that irrevocably destroys the trust and confidence necessary to continue engagement in our community will constitute serious misconduct. Examples of offences that will normally be considered to be serious misconduct include serious instances of:

  • theft or fraud

  • any conduct that may constitute a criminal offence

  • physical violence or bullying

  • deliberate damage to property

  • deliberate acts of unlawful discrimination or harassment

  • possession, or being under the influence, of illegal drugs at work and

  • breach of health and safety policies and procedures or any actions that endangers the lives of, or may cause serious injury to, any other person.

 

DISCIPLINARY PROCEDURE

We retain discretion in respect of the disciplinary procedures to take account of your length of participation and the severity of the misconduct to vary the procedures accordingly.  If a disciplinary penalty is imposed, it may encompass a formal verbal warning, written warning, final written warning, or termination/exclusion. There may be occasions where the performance or conduct is serious enough to by-pass one of the above steps and move immediately to a first and final written warning but not a summary termination. In all cases, warnings will be issued for misconduct, irrespective of the precise matters concerned and any further breach of the rules in relation to similar or entirely independent matters of misconduct will be treated as further disciplinary matters and allow the continuation of the disciplinary process through to termination if the warnings do not change behaviour.

Serious misconduct offences will result in termination without notice.

BULLYING AND HARASSMENT

We are committed to the provision of a fair, healthy and safe working environment in which everyone is treated with dignity and respect and in which no individual or group feels bullied, threatened or intimidated. Bullying or harassment in any form is unacceptable behaviour and will not be permitted or condoned. We recognise that bullying and harassment can exist in the workplace, as well as outside, and that this can seriously affect participants' lives by detracting from a productive working environment and can impact on the health, confidence, morale and performance of those affected by it, including anyone who witnesses or has knowledge of the unwanted or unacceptable behaviour.

HARASSMENT

The intention of these procedures are to inform members of our community of the type of behaviour that is unacceptable and to provide procedural guidance. We recognise that we have a duty to implement this policy and all members of our community are expected to comply with it.

Harassment is any unwanted physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct based on grounds of age, disability, gender identity, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy or maternity, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation which affects the dignity of anyone at work or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment. A single incident of unwanted or offensive behaviour can amount to harassment. Harassment can take many forms and individuals may not always realise that their behaviour constitutes harassment. Examples of harassment include:

  • insensitive jokes and pranks

  • lewd or abusive comments about appearance

  • deliberate exclusion from conversations

  • displaying abusive or offensive writing or material

  • unwelcome touching and

  • abusive, threatening or insulting words or behaviour.

These examples are not exhaustive and disciplinary action at the appropriate level will be taken against members of our community committing any form of harassment. Appropriate action will include disciplinary action in accordance with the disciplinary and disciplinary termination procedure. 

BULLYING

Bullying is repeated, offensive, abusive, intimidating, insulting or unreasonable behaviour directed towards an individual or a group, which makes the recipient(s) feel threatened, humiliated or vulnerable. Note single incidents of bullying will not be tolerated. Bullying can occur in the workplace and outside of the workplace at events connected to the workplace, such as social functions or business trips. Bullying can be a form of harassment and can cause an individual to suffer negative physical and mental effects. Bullying can take the form of physical, verbal and non-verbal conduct. As with harassment, there are many examples of bullying, which can include:

  • abusive, insulting or offensive language or comments

  • unjustified criticism or complaints

  • physical or emotional threats

  • deliberate exclusion from workplace activities

  • the spreading of misinformation or malicious rumours and

  • the denial of access to information, supervision or resources such that it has a detrimental impact on the individual or group.

These examples are not exhaustive and disciplinary action at the appropriate level will be taken against members of our community committing any form of bullying. Appropriate action will include disciplinary action in accordance with the disciplinary and disciplinary termination procedure. 

REASONABLE MANAGEMENT ACTION TAKEN IN A REASONABLE WAY

It is reasonable for managers and supervisors to allocate work and to give fair and reasonable feedback on a worker or participant’s performance. These actions are not considered to be bullying or harassment if they are carried out lawfully and in a reasonable manner, taking the particular circumstances into account.

Examples of reasonable management action can include but are not limited to:

  • setting reasonable performance goals, standards and deadlines

  • rostering and allocating working hours where the requirements are reasonable

  • transferring a worker for operational reasons

  • deciding not to select a worker for promotion where a reasonable process is followed

  • informing a worker of their unsatisfactory work performance

  • meeting with a worker to discuss performance and/or conduct

  • informing a worker of their unreasonable or inappropriate behaviour in an objective and confidential way

  • implementing organisational changes or restructuring and

  • taking disciplinary action including suspension or termination.

BULLYING AND HARASSMENT COMPLAINT PROCEDURES

i) Informal complaint

We recognise that complaints of bullying, harassment, and particularly of sexual harassment, can sometimes be of a sensitive or intimate nature and that it may not be appropriate to raise the issue through our normal grievance procedure. In these circumstances members of our community encouraged to raise such issues with a senior staff member (whether or not that person has a direct supervisory responsibility) as a confidential helper.

If a member of our community is the victim of minor bullying or harassment they should make it clear to the alleged bully or harasser on an informal basis that their behaviour is unwelcome and ask the individual to stop. If they feel unable to do this verbally then they should hand a written request to the individual, and the confidential helper can assist in this.

ii) Formal complaint

Where the informal approach fails or if the bullying or harassment is more serious, the matter should be brought to the attention of management as a formal written complaint and again the confidential helper can assist in this. If possible, keep notes of the bullying or harassment so that the written complaint can include:

  • the name of the alleged bully or harasser

  • the nature of the alleged incident of bullying or harassment

  • the dates and times when the alleged incident of bullying or harassment occurred

  • the names of any witnesses and any action already taken by you to stop the alleged bullying or harassment.

On receipt of a formal complaint we will take action to enable an uninterrupted investigation to take place. This may involve a temporary transfer of the alleged bully or harasser to another work area until the matter has been resolved.

The person dealing with the complaint will call a meeting, at a reasonable time and location, to discuss the matter and carry out a thorough investigation. All present at the meeting have the right to be accompanied at such a meeting by a confidential helper. Those involved in the investigation will be expected to act in confidence and any breach of confidence will be a disciplinary matter.

On conclusion of the investigation which will normally be within ten working days of the meeting, a report of the findings and of the investigator's decision will be sent, in writing, to all parties involved.

GENERAL NOTES

If the report concludes that the allegation is well founded, appropriate action will be taken against the bully or harasser. If a complaint of bullying or harassment is brought, the member of the community who is bringing the complaint will not be victimised for having brought the complaint. However, if the report concludes that the complaint is both untrue and has been brought with malicious intent, appropriate action will be taken. Appropriate action will include disciplinary action in accordance with the disciplinary and disciplinary termination procedure. 

GRIEVANCE

It is important that if any member of our community feels dissatisfied with any matter relating to their participation they should have an effective means by which to raise such a grievance and, where appropriate, have it resolved. Nothing in this procedure is intended to prevent any member of our community from informally raising any matter they may wish to mention. Informal discussion can frequently solve problems without the need for a written record. However, if a member of our community wished to raise a formal grievance they should normally do so in writing from the outset. If a member of our community feels aggrieved at any matter relating to their participation (except harassment, for which there is a separate procedure), they should first raise the matter with their superior, explaining fully the nature and extent of their grievance. They will then be invited to a meeting at a reasonable time and location at which their grievance will be investigated fully. They must take all reasonable steps to attend this meeting. They will be notified of the decision, in writing, normally within ten working days of the meeting.

EQUAL OPPORTUNITIES AND ANTI-DISCRIMINATION

We recognise that discrimination is unacceptable and, although equality of opportunity has been a long standing feature of our practices and procedure, we have made the decision to adopt a formal equal opportunities policy. Breaches of the policy will lead to disciplinary proceedings and, if appropriate, disciplinary action. The aim of the policy is to ensure that no member of our commuinity is discriminated against either directly or indirectly on the grounds of age, disability, gender identity, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy or maternity, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation. The policy will be communicated to all private contractors reminding them of their responsibilities in respect of equality of opportunity. We will maintain a neutral workplace in which no participant feels under threat or intimidated.

RECRUITMENT AND SELECTION

The recruitment and selection process is crucially important to any equal opportunities policy. We will endeavour through appropriate training to ensure that employees making selection and recruitment decisions will not discriminate, whether consciously or subconsciously, in making these decisions. Promotion and advancement will be made on merit and all decisions relating to this will be made within the overall framework and principles of this policy.

We will adopt a consistent, non-discriminatory approach to the advertising of vacancies. We will not confine our recruitment to areas or media sources which provide only, or mainly, applicants of a particular group. All applicants who apply for jobs with us will receive fair treatment and will be considered solely on their ability to do the job. All employees involved in the recruitment process will periodically review their selection criteria to ensure that they are related to the job requirements and do not unlawfully discriminate. Short listing and interviewing will be carried out by more than one person where possible. Interview questions will be related to the requirements of the job and will not be of a discriminatory nature.

Selection decisions will not be influenced by any perceived prejudices of other staff. All promotions will be in line with this policy.

ILLICIT DRUGS AND ALCOHOL

The use of drugs or alcohol jeopardises a safe workplace. We recognise alcohol and other drug dependencies as treatable conditions, and encourages those persons who may be subject to such dependency to seek assistance from appropriate organisations or support groups. We have a zero tolerance approach towards the presence of illicit drugs within the workplace. This includes the discovery of a member of our community with possession of an illicit substance, and any testing which results in a non-negative reading of a substance within a participant's system above the detectable limit while engaged in company activities.

Members of our community are not permitted to work or participate in company activities while under the influence of alcohol and must conduct themselves responsibly at all times. For the purposes of this policy, if at any time a member of our community is required to operate vehicles, heavy or otherwise, machinery or other high risk work, the blood alcohol content limit is zero (0.00%).

Alcohol may be consumed at some company events. Where this is the case, we encourage responsible alcohol consumption and at no time should a member of our community be drunk or behave in a manner which is inappropriate.

Non-compliance with this policy and any associated procedure may result in disciplinary action up to and including termination.

PRESCRIBED/OVER-THE-COUNTER MEDICATION

Members of our community who are taking any prescribed/over-the-counter medication or drugs which may affect their ability to participate in company activities must notify management as soon as possible. They may be required to produce a medical certificate stating that they are fit to participate or specifying any restrictions.

SCREENING

We may require screening for alcohol and drugs. Testing may be conducted based on reasonable suspicion or following an incident or accident. We reserve the right to carry out random testing across all members of our community engaged in company activities.

The following provides examples of activities which may result in disciplinary procedures, up to and including termination. If a participant is:

  • removed from the workplace due to impairment or reasonable suspicion of impairment

  • return a positive result following testing

  • return a blood alcohol level of more than 0.00 or the equivalent in urine or breath samples

  • refuse reasonable direction to undertake drug and alcohol screening or

  • are in possession of illegal drugs for supply or consumption in the workplace.
     

This list is not exhaustive.

Where a member of our community is suspected of being affected by drugs or alcohol, they may be required to participate in appropriate testing. Positive readings at any time will result in disciplinary procedures up to and including termination. If they return a positive result or refuse to participate in testing, they will be required to cease work immediately and leave the workplace. They will not be able to return to the workplace until you return a negative result. If they are required to leave the workplace, they will be required to report to management on their return or when they are no longer under the influence of drugs or alcohol, to discuss the incident.

NO SMOKING POLICY

Smoking on the premises is not permitted. Members of our community are only permitted to smoke in designated areas and during breaks.

CODE OF CONDUCT

AVT LIVE Entertainment Group has developed a harmonious community environment which promotes positive interaction between staff/leaders/employees and participants. AVT LIVE aims to nurture responsible and well- mannered creatives who can be positive ambassadors for the organisation and its values, and also successful and active members of the entertainment industry, post training. The Code of Conduct Policy has been developed to provide a framework to support these aims. It enables knowledge and understanding of expectations for all parties, and also forms a framework to cater for any disciplinary action for breaches of the code.

 

CONFIDENTIALITY

Members of our community must adhere to our rules of confidentiality. Confidential information may include, but is not limited to, the following: trade secrets, proprietary information, customer information, customer lists, methods, plans, documents, data, drawings, manuals, notebooks, reports, models, inventions, formulas, processes, software, information systems, contracts, negotiations, strategic planning, proposals, business alliances and training materials. Members of our community agree that they will not at any time, both during and after their involvement with our company, communicate or disclose confidential information to any person, corporation, or entity in any way or form. They recognise and agree that while a part of our community, they may become aware of non-public information of a personal nature about employees or associates, including, without limitation, actions, omissions, statements, or personally identifiable medical, family, financial, social, behavioural, or other personal or private information. They agree not to disclose any such information to any other person or entity, unless required by applicable law or legal process.

 

PRIVACY

Administrative operations require the collection, use and retention of personal information about individual members of our community. We generally collect personal information held about an individual, by way of forms filled out (either printed or online), face to face meetings, telephone calls and emails. In some circumstances we may be provided with information  from a third party e.g. a report from a medical professional. We use personal information for the primary purpose of that collection and for any other purpose to which a member of our community has consented. There may be occasions in which it is necessary to disclose personal information to third parties. We may be required to do this by law, or it may be necessary to provide a service requested. We respect the confidentiality of personal information and the privacy of individuals.

 

PARTICIPATION EXPECTATIONS

Members of our community are expected to:

  • complete all tasks allocated in conjunction with their involvement

  • be prepared and on time

  • behave in a manner which does not interfere with the participation of others

  • seek help or guidance with any difficulties they may be experiencing by talking to their superiors

  • treat others with courtesy and sensitivity

  • be respectful of the diverse social, cultural and special learning needs of other members of our community

  • respect cultural, ethnic and religious differences

  • value and acknowledge the contributions made by others

  • promote an environment that is accepting of and tolerant of diversity, and is free from intimidation, threat, humiliation and harassment

  • refrain from conduct that could assault or harm another person

  • refrain from conduct that could cause psychological damage to another person

  • refrain from inappropriate sexual conduct with a fellow member of our community

  • refrain from harassing behaviour including sexual harassment

  • refrain from unlawfully discriminating against any person.

 

OBLIGATIONS OF THOSE IN POSITIONS OF AUTHORITY

Members of our community in positions of authority are expected to:

  • engage participants in learning

  • work to achieve high level outcomes for all participants

  • exercise reasonable care and skill

  • treat participants and colleagues with courtesy and sensitivity

  • take account of the diverse social, cultural and special learning needs of participants

  • act against any form of harassment or unlawful discrimination 

  • respect cultural, ethnic and religious differences

  • value and acknowledge the contributions made by others

  • promote an environment that is accepting of and tolerant of diversity, and is free from intimidation, threat, humiliation and harassment

  • provide constructive feedback to students that is considered and helpful

  • report any reasonable suspicion of harm caused to participants

  • support participants who have been harmed

  • refrain from conduct that could assault or harm a participant

  • refrain from conduct that could cause psychological damage to a participant

  • refrain from sexual conduct with a participant

  • refrain from harassing behaviour including sexual harassment

  • refrain from unlawfully discriminating against any person

 

PROFESSIONAL BOUNDARIES

Those in positions of authority must act professionally at all times in their relationship with participants. Those in positions of authority are in a unique position of trust, care, authority and influence with participants, which means that there is always an inherent power imbalance between them and participants.

 

Professional boundaries are breached when a person in a position of authority misuses the power imbalance such that a participant’s welfare is compromised.

 

While there may be some ‘grey areas’ around professional boundaries, those in positions of authority must take responsibility for establishing and maintaining appropriate professional boundaries with participants. When interacting with participants, those in positions of authority must use good judgement and think very carefully of the implications and potential consequences of engaging in certain behaviours with participants.

 

When those in positions of authority become confidants, friends or counsellors of participants (where counselling is not a part of their legitimate role), a dual relationship is created which may create an ambiguity where the role becomes less defined. These interactions help to foster inappropriate relationships with participants.

 

For some, this ambiguity or blurring can sometimes be difficult to recognise. In some cases, a person in a position of authority may be just a few years older than participants and may mistakenly view them as peers. They may share common interests, the same musical tastes, and possibly even an overlapping circle of friends. Moreover, they may spend less time with their family and may begin to seek participants as a support system.

 

In addition, those in positions of authority also bring their own unique vulnerabilities to their work. Those who experience difficulties in their personal lives or are socially or emotionally immature may be particularly susceptible to engaging in ‘at risk’ conduct with participants. The attention, admiration and sometimes adoration bestowed by participants on a person in a position of authority can be overwhelming, particularly when they are emotionally vulnerable. Typical vulnerabilities may include viewing participants as peers, suffering from adult relationship issues, immaturity, need for attention, absence of a developed personal moral compass and lack of personal crisis management skills. Learning to recognise one’s own vulnerabilities is the first step in avoiding breaching professional boundaries with participants.

 

It can be easy for those in positions of authority in some cases to convince themselves that the participant wants or needs a close relationship or that a relationship apparently initiated by the participant is therefore acceptable. Those who find themselves in this position need to tactfully guide the participant toward more appropriate conduct.

 

Every decision made by a person in a position of authority with respect to participants should be prefaced with the question: Whose needs are being met by my course of action? There can only be one acceptable, honest answer to this question: the needs of the participant. Betraying the trust of participants, parents, the profession and the community is never acceptable and will have serious disciplinary repercussions and other potential legal repercussions for the person in the position of authority.

 

GROOMING BEHAVIOUR

Grooming’ of children (actions deliberately undertaken with the aim of befriending and establishing an emotional connection with a child, to lower the child’s inhibitions in order to sexually abuse the child) is a criminal offence. Some behaviour which may not amount to criminal behaviour may, however, be a ground for disciplinary action. Such behaviour may appear to constitute legitimate interactions with a student but may mask unacceptable behaviour. Grooming is a very deliberate and calculated process, although it can sometimes begin innocently enough if a person in a position of authority is conflicted about their role. They may develop a relationship with a participant with the best of intentions, yet they may become predatory and victimise the participant to meet their own needs. Once this stage is reached, the goal of the groomer is always very specific: to create a strong emotional connection with a participant as a way of gaining that participant’s trust prior to initiating an inappropriate relationship.

 

In addition to the behaviours identified above, often a variety of signals, patterns of behaviour and warning signs are present which may indicate the person in a position of authority has crossed professional boundaries and is grooming the participant. Such behaviours may include:

 

  • making the participant feel special – for example, spending extra time with the participant, arranging to drive the participant home, buying the participant lunch or asking the participant to be a special helper

  • targeting participants who are emotionally vulnerable – such as participants who are struggling or are having problems with their parents at home

  • using gifts to bribe the participant into silence about the employee’s inappropriate conduct

  • gaining the trust of the participant’s family and friends as a way of further integrating themselves into the participant’s life, such as accepting an invitation to dinner with a participant’s family or inviting the participant and their family to attend a employee’s holiday home

  • using social media without valid educational context to foster an inappropriate relationship with a participant.

 

CLOSE PERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS WITH PAST PARTICIPANTS

For those in positions of authority, close personal relationships with recent former participants may breach professional boundaries. Where there is a reasonable belief that the emotional intimacy of the relationship developed while the participant status existed, a judgement that the person in position of authority abused their position is likely.

 

A significant factor in these relationships is the difference in power and authority between the two parties and the usually high level of trust the participant and their family places in the person in position of authority. These differences do not suddenly disappear at a specific point in time. They linger as an imbalance between the two individuals and as a potential impediment to their capacity to make decisions in their own and others’ best interests.

 

Consequently, those in positions of authority cannot assume that they will be protected from disciplinary action by claiming a relationship began only after participation ended. They should be wary of entering such a relationship with any young adult who was formerly a participant, particularly in the first year or two after the cessation of the participation.

 

The length of time between the conclusion of participation and the beginning of an intimate relationship is only one of a number of critical factors that regulatory authorities will take into consideration when judging the appropriateness of conduct in these circumstances.

RECOGNISING POTENTIAL BREACHES

The following questions may assist those in positions of authority in recognising when professional and/or legal boundaries are at risk of being crossed:

 

  • Am I dealing with a particular participant differently from the way I deal with other participants under the same circumstances?

  • Am I behaving in a way that puts my own emotional needs above the participant’s needs or welfare?

  • Am I providing career/professional counselling or personal counselling?

  • Am I sharing information with a participant because I think it will help the participant or because I need to be liked?

  • Am I interacting with the participant in an ‘online environment’ consistently with how I would act with that participant in a work setting?

  • Am I engaging in behaviours and discussions either personally or ‘online’ that are beyond the realm of children or teenagers?

  • Is my dress, availability, language or demeanour different from the normal with a particular participant?

  • Would I modify my behaviour with another participant or colleague were present?

  • Would I judge my conduct negatively if I observed it in another employee?

  • Is it possible that the consequences of my actions will have negative outcomes for the participant?

  • Is it possible that the consequences of my actions will negatively affect people’s confidence in my suitability to work with children?

 

INTERACTIONS ON SOCIAL MEDIA

There needs to be a clear distinction between the professional and the private when using social media platforms as social media exposes users to fairly significant risk when it comes to respecting the boundaries between those in positions of authority and participants. The blurring of lines between one’s public and private lives has always been a key concern for professionals who are entrusted by the public to provide a service.

 

Facebook makes it much easier for dual relationships to thrive. Those in positions of authority who would never engage in potential boundaries violations like taking a participant to lunch or offering to drive a participant home may not even hesitate to add a participant as a ‘friend’ on Facebook, exposing the participant to personal information that the person in a position of authority would never consider sharing in a work setting.

 

Those in positions of authority should avoid making participants ‘friends’ online. They would not normally consider participants to be their friends in the real world and should not do so in the virtual world either. They should not engage in online discussions with participants that are not directly related to their professional duties, without the express permission of their supervisor. They should also avoid unauthorised contact with participants through other popular forms of social media such as Instagram, Snapchat and other applications.