‘Protecting Children is Everybody’s Business – Play your Part’


Child Protection Sunday – 14 September 2014

Catholic Outlook September 2014: Child Protection Sunday 2014
All communities and organisations within the Church must be safe and enriching environments for people of all ages, especially children, young people and vulnerable adults.

Originally published in Catholic Outlook September 2014

‘Play your part’ is the theme for Child Protection Sunday on 14 September 2014 when each person in every Catholic Church community is asked to play their part in making our church a safe community for all by working to prevent abuse.

Our aim is to ensure that all communities and organisations within the Church are safe and enriching environments for people of all ages, with special concern for children, young people and vulnerable adults.

The Church's National Committee for Professional Standards has prepared resources, including Prayers of the Faithful and speaking notes, to help parish communities get involved with National Child Protection Week (7-13 September 2014).

As part of a suite of measures the Diocese of Parramatta has put in place to protect children and vulnerable people in its care, Bishop Anthony Fisher OP has established the Office for Safeguarding and Professional Standards.

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has published its interim report. “It makes harrowing reading,” Bishop Anthony said.

“Throughout this process the Catholic Church in Australia has been experiencing a period of painful scrutiny, but I hope also of purification and, ultimately, of renewal.

“To be abused by ministers of God’s truth and mercy is to be profoundly damaged spiritually and psychologically. The perpetrators betrayed Jesus Christ, His Church and those entrusted to their care; the leaders who failed to deal appropriately with this compounded that betrayal.

“In all humility the Church in Parramatta acknowledges the suffering this has caused and declares itself determined to do better in the future.”

Mr Paul Davis is the Director of the Office for Safeguarding and Professional Standards. Ms Tamena Yarak has been appointed Manager.

The new office will build on the work of the former Professional Standards Office in developing policies and procedures that will address issues related to the care and safety of children and young people.

To support youth leaders and people working with children and young people, the Office has launched a Youth Safety Manual entitled, ‘Keeping our Young People Safe’.

On 16 August 2014, more than 130 young adults involved in ministry to youth gathered at the Novotel in Parramatta to be informed by, discuss, workshop and give feedback on the new resource.

Together, with the guidance of Catholic Youth Parramatta (CYP), the group listened to the emerging and developing realities of ‘child-safe’ organisations.

Paul Davis explained that the opportunity to train current youth leaders and emerging youth leaders for a whole day had never been achieved in the past.

“We have a real chance to make it clear on this occasion that we want to enable innovation in youth ministry rather than say, ‘No we can't do that!’”

As part of the program, CYP made 10 significant commitments to support local youth ministry in terms of strategies that address the safety of young people and young adults.

James Camden, Director of Catholic Youth Parramatta, said young adults can be exposed to a lot of challenging content that can seem quite foreign and overwhelming, “particularly for those who are predominantly volunteering and time poor”.

“Safety must be at the heart of ministry otherwise we can’t call it that. CYP listened throughout the day and we felt that an honest and practical response was needed instantly to support all of the attendees.”

  • The commitments made by CYP included:
  • A monthly, weeknight formation program that moves around the Diocese dealing with specific skills and training. The first program will engage trained professionals in mental health first aid;
  • A regular and formal diocesan program for ‘induction to youth ministry’;
  • The fast tracking of a Diocesan Youth Council that collaboratively develops policy, voice and support materials to the 90 youth groups and ministries in the Diocese; and

The confirmed availability of staff from the CYP Office to sit on any interview panels for ‘youth leadership’ roles in parishes.

Jeremiah Wilkes is one of only a handful of paid Parish Youth Ministers in the Diocese and works from St Michael’s Parish, Baulkham Hills. “Sharing some solid strategies immediately was a good move and was reassuring,” he said.

The program was particularly crucial because the community expects the Diocese to take child safety very seriously and to demonstrate what proactive and preventative work is going on to make sure that youth ministry exceeds community standards in terms of risk management, policy and compliance, education, supervision and the availability of advisory and support services.

Paul Davis emphasised that change is necessary and we must ensure that we are building trust and confidence in those we serve.

“Those who put their hand up to serve must be prepared to engage in training, adhere to policies and procedures, and meet standards,” he said.

Copies of the Youth Safety Manual can be ordered from the Office for Safeguarding and Professional Standards, tel (02) 8838 3400 or the CYP Office: JCamden@parra.catholic.org.au

For more information about the work of the Office for Safeguarding and Professional Standards and to download the diocesan Child Protection Policy click here

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