At Parliament House today, representatives from around 20 faith groups will come together with prominent survivor advocates to form a joint standing committee to focus on what needs to be done to protect children from abuse within faith based settings.
It is intended that this initial multi-faith and survivor committee will provide a strong platform to identify what is required to meet the Royal Commission’s child-safe recommendations.
The Honourable Pru Goward MP, Minister for Family and Community Services and Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, will open the event, which has been jointly conceived and delivered by the NSW Ombudsman’s Office and the Children’s Guardian.
In addition to the faith groups represented, the event will be attended by Bravehearts, Blue Knot Foundation, Survivors and Mates Support Network (SAMSN), Tzedek and the Clergy Abuse Network, along with state and national government agencies with leadership responsibility in this sphere.
Former Royal Commissioner and Queensland Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson AO APM, and former NSW Police Commissioner Ken Moroney AO APM are also lending their support to the committee. In noting his support, Mr Atkinson commented that “This is a positive development with significant potential that hopefully can be successfully progressed and expanded beyond NSW.”
As to why Bravehearts is backing the committee, CEO and Founder, Hetty Johnston said, “This broad gathering of faith leaders to work together with survivor advocates is an historic event. Bravehearts looks forward to working with faith leaders to take action together to keep children in our community safe.”
Faith group representatives have also welcomed the opportunity to not only join with other faiths, but to also learn from the wisdom of survivor representatives in this very challenging area.
“This is an important opportunity to work together across faith communities to affirm our commitment to survivors of abuse; to listen to and learn from them and make the essential changes needed within our faith communities to ensure the safety of children,” said Bishop Vincent Long, representing the Catholic Archdioceses and Dioceses in NSW and ACT. “We look forward to working with those gathered to continue to learn from each other and together make a difference.”
The Very Rev Fr Dr Shenouda Mansour, General Secretary of the NSW Ecumenical Council, commented “I believe that this multi-faith gathering provides a wonderful opportunity for us to join together to learn from each other. As leaders of our faiths, we must embrace a commitment to the highest quality child safe practice. In fact, our leadership will be judged by whether we meet our moral obligation to promote and safeguard the rights of children, for they are the future of our society.”
A key objective of the gathering is not only to listen and learn, but to also act on what needs to be done to protect children. In reflecting the Rabbinical Council’s support for the gathering, Rabbi Mendel Kastel OAM of Jewish House said, “All faiths must strive to make their religious settings child safe. It is very important for the community and survivors of child abuse to know that all faiths are doing their best to prevent the abuse of children.”
A key focus of the inaugural meeting will be identifying priority actions for survivor and faith groups to jointly progress.
With thanks to the NSW Ombudsman.