Meet our Safeguarding Council members: Paula Kerr

6 June 2024
Paula Kerr, Director of the Diocese of Parramatta Tribunal and member of the Diocesan Safeguarding Council. Image: Diocese of Parramatta


This week, the Diocese of Parramatta celebrates Safe Parishes Week, an initiative of the Office for Safeguarding to raise awareness of how everyone in our parish communities contributes to making a parish safe place for all, especially children and adults at risk.

The Diocesan Safeguarding Council provides strategic and skilled guidance and advice to the Bishop and other relevant leaders including the Head of People & Culture regarding safeguarding children and vulnerable people in the Diocese. It also monitors policies, procedures, and practices safeguarding in the Diocese.

As part of Safe Parishes Week, Catholic Outlook spoke to members of the Council about their role and how the culture of safeguarding has grown in the Diocese over its four years.


Paula Kerr, Director of the Diocesan Tribunal Office


Catholic Outlook: What attracted you in the first place to accepting the appointment to the Diocese of Parramatta’s Safeguarding Council?

Paula Kerr: When the first “hot line” was set up in the Diocese of Parramatta some years ago now, I was one of the people who was given the opportunity to listen to those needing to make their stories known to the Church. This was obviously a big responsibility and we heard some tragic stories. Not only did this give me the opportunity to extend my ministry but it reinforced in me the understanding that there was an obligation for the Church to build structures for assisting people in need. I continued to hear complaints after the New South Wales Office of Safeguarding was set up in Sydney and continued to work with those people and write up their statements. At times, also assisting them through the mediation process. Therefore, when I was asked to join the Council, I hoped my past experience would assist.


How do you see your role as a member of the Diocese’s Safeguarding Council?

Due to my long experience with the Diocese of Parramatta in Tribunal Ministry and given my previous Safeguarding experience, I was happy to be on the Safeguarding Council which gives advice to the Head of Safeguarding. Being on this Council, I hope that I am able to listen to what is said by the Head and the Members and offer suggestions that assist in this ministry. As with all Council members, I come from a different type of ministry which hopefully enhances the Council.


How have you observed the culture of safeguarding children and adults at risk grow across the Diocese in the last three years?

There have been significant changes in the culture of safeguarding of children and adults these past few years. The Head of Safeguarding has built on the past work of the previous Director and Safeguarding Team and put many other structures in place to enable the process to be started and followed through to conclusion for each complaint. There has also been an enormous amount of time and energy put into education – both face-to-face and online – of the clergy and laity in the Diocese in order to support them as they encounter the people who need this pastoral assistance and care.


What are your dreams for future safeguarding initiatives in the Diocese?

I hope that the enormous amount of work done by the Diocese in the area of Safeguarding will be extended to include any marginalised group that has as yet not felt confident enough to approach the Church. I understand there is outreach to indigenous and migrant groups from Safeguarding, I would like to see the LGBTQI+ groups approached to assist them as they struggle with many facets of their faith and acceptance by the Catholic Church.


Learn more about the role Safeguarding plays in the Diocese of Parramatta and how you can make your local community safe by visiting the Diocesan website.


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