On 12thSeptember 2018, representatives from around 20 faith groups came together with prominent survivor advocates at Parliament House to form a joint standing committee to focus on what needs to be done to protect children from abuse within faith-based settings.

The intention was as for this multi-faith and survivor committee to provide a strong platform to identify what is required to meet the Royal Commission’s child-safe recommendations within faith-based communities around Australia.

Amongst those present were for the Minister for Family and Community Services, Minister for the Prevention of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault, NSW Ombudsman’s Office, NSW Children’s Guardian, Braveheart’s, Blue Knot Foundation, Survivors and Mates Support Network (SAMSN), Tzedek and the Clergy Abuse Network, former Royal Commissioner and Queensland Police Commissioner Bob Atkinson AO APM, and former NSW Police Commissioner Ken Moroney AO APM. Faith group representatives, including the Diocese of Parramatta, welcomed this opportunity.

‘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 OFM Conv, 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.’

Since then:

  • A number of stakeholders and working groups have initiated progress on 9 priorities areas identified at the gathering as needing a joint response;
  • NSW Ombudsman Office was commissioned by the National Office for Child Safety to develop a ‘Child Focused Complaint Handling Guide’ for use by organisations delivering services to children. The purpose of the Guide is to provide practitioners with practical advice on the core elements of effective complaint handling in the context of the provision of services to children, and key considerations when responding to allegations involving the mistreatment of children.
  • Best practice resources are being gathered to be available as a resource specific to faith bodies to build child safe environments
  • A round table meeting was arranged to examine the adequacy of the processes in place in NSW to ensure that, where relevant, information arising from the redress scheme is provided to the Police, Children’s Guardian and the Ombudsman’s office to assist them in the exercise of their respective functions, and ensure that any potential risks to children identified via the redress scheme are addressed

At the second gathering on 27thMarch 2019, the number of faith-based groups gathered had increased to 30. The gathering is building consistency in a “community of practice” for safeguarding our children and vulnerable people. Bishop Vincent, and the Office for Safeguarding & Professional Standards in Parramatta Diocese, continues to be a representative at this standing committee. Updates on outcomes will continue to be made available.