Protecting and nurturing our children: National Child Protection Week 2023: “Where we start matters”.

By Jacob Gormley
Image:Diocese of Parramatta

Since the late 1980s, Australia has observed National Child Protection Week every September. The aim is to engage and educate all Australians to understand they have a part to play in keeping our children and young people safe.

This year’s event takes place from 3- 9 September, carrying the powerful message – ‘Every child in every community needs a fair go’.

2023 National Child Protection Week takes a step further by introducing the theme ‘Where we start matters’. In sync with the overarching message, this theme underscores the undeniable impact of a child’s early surroundings, resources, and opportunities on their lifelong journey. Whether it’s the neighbourhood they grow up in, the support services available to their families, or the policies designed to protect their rights, every facet influences the trajectory of their lives.

At the Diocese of Parramatta, the Parramatta Way of Safeguarding  has been instituted for several years now, and across our parishes and agencies, our people have committed to act with justice, love tenderly (Micah 6:8) and to acknowledge the traumas and failures of the past, and promote the principles of Catholic social teaching of dignity, respect, and support for children, young people and the vulnerable.

“The Diocese of Parramatta recognises that safeguarding is something we are all called to do – whether it be the parish priest, parish secretary, volunteer or parishioner,” said Tracy McLeod-Howe, Head of People and Culture at the Diocese of Parramatta.

“Building awareness and knowledge of how to prevent potentially abusive situations but also how to positively impact young lives from an early stage is a key part of how we are responding to Bishop Vincent’s commitment to safeguarding,” she said.

New Safeguarding Champions commissioned and program announced

Pictured Bishop Vincent with two new safeguarding Champions.

For the second year in a row, the Safeguarding Team hosted a special event during National Child Protection Week.  On Tuesday 5 September 2023 at St. Andrew the Apostle Parish, Marayong, Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta commissioned three new Safeguarding Champion Trainers for Granville, Marayong, and Penrith Parishes as part of a new initiative known as the “Train the Trainer Program.” He also commissioned 27 new and continuing Safeguarding Champions.

“It’s a joy for me to not only be present but commission and recommission you Champions for keeping our community safe and to promote this area which is core to our Christian Catholic faith,” said Bishop Vincent Long to our Safeguarding Champions.

“I thank you all for following Christ,” he said.

Our Safeguarding Champions have emerged as influential voices within their respective parishes, igniting awareness and motivating parishioners to actively participate in crucial training programs.

Pictured Bishop Vincent with Safeguarding champions.

“To be a safeguarding champion is a privilege, as we work with numerous communities alongside our parish priest and assistant parish priest,” said Joseph Fenech, Safeguarding Champion from Plumpton Parish.

“Education is a key factor [in rolling out new programs and standards], but we have the backing of our parishioners,” he said.

Joseph also commented on how this program empowers parishes to serve as centres for truth and accountability.

During the commissioning ceremony, each champion recommitted to building safe parish communities; embodying Christ in living the virtues of justice, mercy and compassion in committing to safe communities; and assisting the needs of different communities and persons they meet.

Pictured: Left, Tracey Mcleod Howe Head of People and culture Diocese of Parramatta, Vicar General Very Rev. Peter Williams, and two representatives from NSW Office of the Children’s Guardian.

This year, two representatives from the Office of the Children’s Guardian NSW were present. In May the Office approached the Diocese of Parramatta due to our recent independent audit and external accreditation with QIP (link to story on QiP) and to pilot their assessment tool with one of our parishes. St Bernadette’s Castle Hill Parish agreed and hosted the Office to test their tool against Standards 1,2 and 8. The team from Castle Hill were acknowledged for their proactive assistance and commitment to creating safe parishes.

Lead up to Safeguarding Sunday


National Child Protection Week will culminate with the Catholic Church’s Safeguarding Sunday on September 10. Safeguarding Sunday acknowledges the profound harm caused by the abuse of children and vulnerable adults, including by priests, religious, and lay people within Catholic contexts. It commits to practices and protocols aimed at creating and maintaining safe environments for all. It invites individuals to offer prayers for those directly and indirectly affected by abuse.

The Diocese of Parramatta remains steadfast in its commitment to being a community of safeguarding, actively promoting the dignity and rights of children and all vulnerable individuals.

For more information about Safeguarding, please click HERE. If you or someone you know needs to report an incident or issue, please click HERE.


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