Jackie Scott is the driving force behind the initiative Keep Kids Safe In Dance. She wants to see a change in the dance community by bringing people together and starting the conversation that most people fear to speak about—child abuse. One child is abused or neglected every 12 minutes in Australia, states Institute of Family Statistics. Last year, there were almost 70,000 substantiated cases of child abuse in this country. Australia’s dance industry is arguably depicted as one of the most unregulated industries involving children. Considering the volume of children in Australian dance, how can we work to improve child safety in dance?
Jackie and her daughter Livi. Photo: Sean Higgins Photography.
In 2001, Jackie Scott lived in London for six years as a senior dance and drama educator at a boys school. It was low socio-economic area and Jackie found it extremely difficult to cope with the types of behaviours she witnessed and experienced first hand by the boys. “I was balling my eyes out, I wanted to leave straight away,” Jackie told Dance Writer. “I called my mum, and she said that I wasn’t going to walk away.” She was thrown into a highly threatening environment, teaching students from broken families; associated with drugs, alcohol abuse, and physical violence. “For the first three months, I couldn’t get any student to listen to me. I was merely a person standing in a classroom…I certainly was not the teacher,” Jackie said. “I was the dance and drama teacher, so they hated me,” told Jackie. Seeing these children on their worst behaviour forced Jackie to change her teaching approach, despite the traumatic abuse she had received from them. It took Jackie years, but she left the school with a feeling of a positive breakthrough. She sat down with the older kids during lunch and talked about their home life. “I showed interest in them and built a relationship. By the end of my time there, the students were coming into my classes to see if I was okay,” Jackie smiled.
Ambassadors of Keep Kids Safe In Dance, including renowned choreographer Michael Ralph. Photo: Sean Higgins Photography.
Now Jackie has returned to Australia, launching an initiative to eventually combat unwarranted behaviours in the dancing space. Jackie’s Keep Kids Safe In Dance is a self-funded project that has been heavily researched and formatted to target the dance industry. Consulting with the Commission for Young People, Jackie’s aim is to ensure all dance schools in Australia adhere to the seven standards in child safety. These seven stages are: Standard 1: Governance and Leadership Standard 2: Clear commitment to child safety Standard 3: Code of conduct Standard 4: Human resource practices Standard 5: Responding and Reporting Standard 6: Risk management and mitigation Standard 7: Empowering children Under Victorian law, children have the right to feel safe and be safe all of the time. Jackie admitted she has seen negative practice in some dance schools in her 25 years of working as a dance educator. Emotional abuse is the most common form of abuse Jackie hears about on her helpline service. “Children are feeling unworthy, singled out and being unsupported in the dance space,” Jackie said. According to Leah Davies, “Emotional and psychological abuse is commonly defined as, “Systematic attacks on a child’s emotional well-being and sense of self-worth.” In a dance studio, we could see this in the form of: • Yelling in a demeaning manner • Teasing / humiliating / singling out / deliberately embarrassing • Rejecting • Ignoring • Isolating • Threatening • Allowing other students to yell at, bully or victimise other children • Attacking a child’s beliefs, morals and/or values • Unfair consequences and/or discipline • Extreme comparisons to other children Please aim to turn your school around and embrace safe dance procedures as stated by Victorian law. Keep Kids Safe In Dance offers five-hour workshops to dance studio owners and teachers. The training explains what child abuse is, how it can be reported, and what safety procedures should be implemented in the dance studio. For all students, please call the helpline number below. If you feel any of the above points, make sure you help make a change in our community by speaking to Jackie. She can assist you, empathise with you and offer you professional resources. To know more about Keep Kids Safe In Dance, please visit the website or you can anonymously on 1300 501 830. “I am hopeful that together we can do this and keep kids safe in dance.” —Jackie Scott.

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