This year, Child Protection Week’s theme, ‘Putting children first’, is about bringing abuse and neglect out of the shadows and putting child wellbeing on the national agenda.
In the 30 years since Child Protection Week started, we have learned a lot about the invidious nature of child abuse. The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse compelled the Catholic Church to do better: to apologise and offer our commitment to safeguard into the future and to do whatever we can to prevent children from ever being harmed again.
In July 2014, after consulting with victims and communities, the Office of Safeguarding and Professional Standards was launched in the Diocese of Parramatta. Now called simply, the Office for Safeguarding, we respond to historic matters and provide therapeutic and pastoral support through the Healing and Support team.
We also look at ways to educate and prevent abuse across our parishes and communities. We realise that safeguarding is about all aspects of child abuse, safety and wellbeing. It is not confined to the experience of child sexual abuse in institutional settings. It is in this context that the Office is looking to where we need to focus our attention into the future.
The impact of domestic violence on children
Sadly, many children are caught up in domestic violence situations, where their safety and wellbeing are often significantly compromised. We’ve identified this as a critical area to focus on when working to protect children from abuse.
Since Rosie Batty OAM was honoured as Australian of the Year in 2015 because of her advocacy in relation to domestic violence, we have seen the issue elevated and better understood. Rosie’s son, Luke, was killed at the hands of his father, after years of domestic violence in the marriage. What Rosie accomplished was to emphasise the impact of family violence on not only adults but also children.
Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta, has spoken out about domestic and family violence, voicing his loving support to women and children.
In his position as the Australian Catholic Bishops Delegate for Social Justice, he has said:
“The Church response to victims of domestic violence is crucial in reaching justice. The first instinct of Christians must be a genuine compassion for those who are hurt in our communities. The church can support our communities to be safe havens for women and children. The vision and example of Jesus inspires us as we confront the manifestations and root causes of injustice and family violence and make a difference to the society in which we live today,” (ACBC Communications, 24 February 2016)
Playing Our Part
Our clergy, staff and volunteers throughout the Diocese can all play a part in supporting children who are living in violent homes, and will be encouraged to complete new online modules the Office of Safeguarding will be launching new online learning modules in November.
The Office will also be offering face to face training about childhood domestic violence in 2021.
I encourage you to view and share this video which raises awareness of the impact of domestic violence on young people. Becoming aware is the first step we can take to end childhood domestic violence.
The Office will also be speaking at the National Permanency Conference 2020, specifically about childhood domestic violence and how faith-based communities can support children and their families.
Register for ‘#Thrive Virtual National Permanency Conference 2020 on 12-13 October at https://www.eventsforchange.org.au/npc2020/600431
To find out more about safeguarding in the Diocese of Parramatta, visit safeguarding.org.au
Tracy McCleod Howe is the Head of Safeguarding for the Diocese of Parramatta.