International safeguarding expert Fr Hans Zollner SJ says his latest visit to Australia has been an encouraging opportunity to strengthen the global network of individuals committed to safeguarding children and vulnerable people from abuse.
Fr Zollner is the director of the Institute of Anthropology, Interdisciplinary Studies on Human Dignity and Care (IADC) at Pontifical Gregorian University. His 10-day trip to Australia concluded on Saturday.
“During this visit I’ve been meeting with several leaders across various sectors to promote discussion about how the Church and community together can address the issues of child abuse and protect those most vulnerable,” Fr Zollner said.
“The upcoming start of the school year has renewed discussions about what needs to be done to safeguard children in the community.
“These discussions are important in order to go beyond acknowledging what has happened, and take concrete steps to prevent further abuse, intervene, and talk about how we all can address this critical issue.”
With his time split across Melbourne and Sydney, Father Zollner met with Julie Inman Grant (e-safety commissioner), Lianna Buchanan (Victorian commissioner for children and young people), Chiara Porro (Australian Ambassador to the Holy See), Steve Kinmond (children’s guardian, NSW Office of the Children’s Guardian), Professor Daryl Higgins (director of the Institute of Child Protection Studies, Australian Catholic University) and additional support and survival advocacy groups.
“Collaboration involves sharing information on good practice and mutual learning among experts and practitioners,” Fr Zollner said.
“My meetings across those in e-safety, children’s wellbeing and academia is part of this interdisciplinary approach so we can continue learning from each other.
“We must also not forget encounters and meetings with victims and survivors are vital to what we do at the IADC. Our work is informed by their voices.”