Representatives from 20 faith-based organisations and major survivor advocate groups in New South Wales and the ACT have formed a joint standing committee to tackle child abuse within religious settings.
A gathering was held earlier this month at New South Wales Parliament House with the view to establishing the committee, which was instigated by the NSW Ombudsman’s Office and the NSW Office of the Children’s Guardian.
“It is momentous for survivor advocate groups and faith based-organisations to join together to work to keep children safer in faith-based organisations and to respond more effectively and compassionately to survivors,” said Anne Walker, national executive director of Catholic Religious Australia.
In the lead up to this event, the NSW Ombudsman’s office undertook surveys and related research that enabled the group to identify nine key priorities that need to be addressed in order to safeguard children in religious settings and to work with survivors more responsively and compassionately.
On the day, specific strategies were also identified so that joint work could be taken on strengthening faith organisations’ child safeguarding frameworks and practices.
Representatives at the gathering also identified the need for action by the NSW Government.
In 2016, Catholic and Anglican dioceses across NSW called for an expansion of the NSW Ombudsman’s oversight of institutional abuse allegations to include all faith-based organisations.
This call was supported by the Royal Commission in its final report handed down last year.
In May of this year, survivor groups together with 35 faith-based organisations called upon the government to take steps to implement this recommendation.
In supporting this call, Hetty Johnson AM, founder and executive chair of Bravehearts said, “Let us hope that this will bring about the consistent and mandatory prioritisation of child safety that our children deserve”.
Parramatta Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Bishop of Parramatta and Chair of the NSW/ACT Catholic Bishops (Professional Standards) said, “The Reportable Conduct Scheme has been a most significant factor in changing our response to allegations of child abuse. Independent oversight assists us all with accountability and transparency.”
All Catholic and Anglican dioceses in NSW and ACT were represented at the meeting, as well as Catholic Professional Standards Limited and Catholic Religious Australia.
Joint statement regarding the NSW Reportable Conduct Scheme (Joint statement, courtesy Wollongong Professional Standards)
Faith groups unite with survivors of abuse to make institutions child-safe (Catholic Outlook)