This National Child Protection Week, we reflect on how we are creating a safe, engaging and respectful Church for all children, adults at risk, and the whole community in the Diocese of Parramatta.
While lots of work has already been done, we have been shown as a Church, the need to continue to find and close the gaps in our systems that allow abuse to occur. This takes ongoing listening, review, learning and innovation.
Tracy McLeod Howe, Head of Safeguarding, reminded us of how the gospel is the foundation for the work of Safeguarding, “protecting the vulnerable, the sick, the young and the old,” at the launch of the first Safe Parishes Week in June this year.
The week highlighted how important awareness and training are for parish staff. “Our Diocese knows that it must continue to actively encourage everyone who has a role in the Church to realise what they can do to eliminate abuse in parish life,” she said.
Training our parishes
Parish teams and Diocesan employees are rapidly signing up to do new Safeguarding online training which can be delivered online through the Pointsbuild platform or in person via Zoom by the new Community and Education Officer, Maria Kervin. The training, consisting of a series of mandatory modules was described by business manager, John Portelli at Holy Cross Parish, Granville, as his “ethical responsibility”.
“It is important to my role that I am aware of the legal and Church safeguarding standards to ensure that I have the required tools I need to guarantee I am doing everything I can to contribute to our parish being a safe parish,” he said.
Seeking guidance from experts
The Diocese of Parramatta understands that no one person has all the answers for keeping everyone safe and is fortunate to have a dedicated and skilled Safeguarding Council, chaired by the Diocese of Parramatta Safeguarding Champion, and former NSW Children’s Guardian Kerryn Boland. Other members include experts in trauma, education, policy, advocacy and leadership. The Council has helped to develop policy, resources, procedures and practices for the Diocese. At the same time, the Office of Safeguarding works with survivors of harm themselves. Their experience helps guide us as we review our practices, deal with complaints and allegations and look to research for best practice.
To demonstrate our commitment to transparency, the Diocese has opted to be externally accredited as a child-safe organisation. We are working in partnership with QIP (Quality Innovation Performance Ltd) to develop a process that meets auditing requirements.
Our Chancery will be a pilot project for QIP. This will lead to a broader audit across our parish community later in 2022.
Recognising domestic violence abuse
Recognising the impact of domestic violence on women and children, the Diocese launched the IRIS Woman App. Endorsed by 2015 Australian of the Year and domestic violence campaigner, Rosie Batty, and by the 2021 Local Australian of the Year Rosemary Kariuki, the app is available on our Safeguarding website. We have also been developing a framework in partnership with the NSW Police for working with survivors of domestic violence.
Resources coming soon
This Wednesday, the Dioceses of Parramatta and Broken Bay, and the Archdiocese of Sydney are co-launching a new resource Children and Young Persons Participation in Catholic Communities to assist leaders in the parish to engage in a meaningful way with children and young people.
On Safeguarding Sunday, 12 September we will launch our new community statement The Parramatta Way. The new Safeguarding Policy for the Diocese will also be launched later in the month.
We continue to work with an inter-diocesan group on the development of the Pastoral Accompaniment Policy for Priests as a direct response to the recommendation of the Royal Commission.
In National Child Protection Week, we recognise the significant changes already made to make organisations safe for all and understand that we must remain vigilant to any possible harm so that any person, or child can engage safely in their Catholic faith and become all they were meant to be.
A new schedule of Zoom sessions throughout September and October has been released and bookings are open. Everyone involved in volunteering or working for parishes in the Diocese can register. Details are at https://safeguarding.org.au/#events
National Child Protection Week 2021 takes place 5 to 11 September. Find information and additional resources at napcan.org.au
Cathy McClellan is the Professional Officer in the Office for Safeguarding in the Diocese of Parramatta.