As a community we have clear expectations in matters relating to
the protection of children, young people and vulnerable adults.
Within the Church environment it is a fundamental requirement
that all are protected from all forms of harm – sexual, physical,
psychological, ill treatment and neglect.

The Diocese of Armidale maintains total support for this requirement
and is committed to upholding the safety and protection of
children and the vulnerable. Parishes are exhorted to ensure that
all those in their care are protected from all forms of harm and

Pope Benedict XVI addressed the issue of child abuse when he
was in Australia for World Youth Day in 2008.

“Here I would like to pause to acknowledge the shame
which we have all felt as a result of the sexual abuse of
minors by some clergy and religious in this country.
Indeed I am deeply sorry for the pain and suffering the
victims have endured and I assure them that, as their
pastor, I too share in their suffering. These misdeeds,
which constitute so grave a betrayal of trust, deserve
unequivocal condemnation.
They have caused great pain and have damaged
the Church’s witness. I ask all of you to support and
assist your bishops, and to work together with them in
combating this evil.
Victims should receive compassion and care, and those
responsible for these evils must be brought to justice.
It is an urgent priority to promote a safer and more
wholesome environment, especially for young people.”

Pope Francis in Philadelphia in September 2015 said:

“I hold the stories and the suffering of children who
were sexually abused by priests deep in my heart. I
remain overwhelmed with shame that men entrusted
with the tender care of children violated these little ones and caused grievous harm. I am profoundly sorry.
God weeps. The crimes and sins of the sexual abuse of
children must no longer be held in secret. I pledge the
zealous vigilance of the church to protect children and
the promise of accountability for all.”

In Pastoral Statements in January and November 2013 Bishop
Michael Kennedy has stated that the Diocese must “maintain child
protection programmes to maximise the safety and wellbeing of
our children.”

This document outlines the basis on which parishes are to meet this

Creating a culture of safety

The following elements are key to creating a culture of safety in
our parishes

  • Understanding abuse: developing an aware culture
  • Developing child protection policies & a code of conduct
  • Managing risks to minimise abuse and harm
  • Supporting and supervising: being aware of the risks
  • Creating clear boundaries and standards
  • Including parishioners, volunteers; staff, clergy & religious
  • Induction, training and information
  • Empowering children and vulnerable people
  • Managing complaints


The following principles are to be the guide in developing best
practice child protection policies, procedures, protocols and in
handling complaints relating to children and vulnerable adults:

  • All people are created in the image and likeness of God and
    are endowed, in their nature, with certain inalienable rights for
    their own good and that of humanity.
  • Through the Scriptures along with the Tradition and Teaching
    Authority of the Church we are instructed to respect the dignity
    and instrinsic value of every human being.
  • All people have a right to be safe and to protected from any
    form of inappropriate behaviour, particularly children and
    vulnerable people
  • Children and young people grow to their full potential when
    they are provided with a spiritual, emotional and physical
    environment which is enriching and safe.
  • The Catholic Church shares the responsibility for the care,
    wellbeing and protection of the child, young person or
    vulnerable adult with their family and broader community.
  • Where reportable conduct is disclosed or suspected all persons
    involved should be treated with sensitivity, dignity and respect.
  • In any situation where preventive and/or protective action
    relating to child abuse is required, the total wellbeing of the
    child is to remain the primary concern. The value of the family
    unit is respected but cannot be so if this puts the wellbeing of
    a child at risk.
  • Those responsible for the administration and conduct of a
    parish must be informed promptly of suspected or disclosed
    incidents of reportable conduct and of any serious matters
    concerning the welfare of children who come under their
    sphere of responsibility if a child is at risk. This obligation is
    shared by all staff including volunteers.
  • Information regarding suspected or disclosed reportable
    conduct shall be made available only to those who have
    a genuine need to be informed. Those who have access to
    such information have the obligation to observe appropriate
    confidentiality in relation to this information.
  • We should avoid any false, exaggerated or unjustified
    assertions that may infringe the good name of another person.
  • We should be aware of, and sensitive to, children with culturally
    diverse or indigenous backgrounds and cultural practices
    without deviating from matters

Ten Things to Remember

Sexual molestation is about the victim.

Many people are affected when a priest or other person
working with children abuses a minor, but the individual most
impacted is the victim who has suffered a violation of trust that
can affect his or her entire life. The abuser, the family of the
abused, and the church community are all affected by this
sin and crime; but the primary person of concern must be the

Background checks, screening and protocols

If people wish to work or volunteer for the church (e.g., in
a parish or school) they must follow diocesan guidelines on
background checks, safe environment training, policies
and procedures, and codes of conduct. No one, no matter
who they are, has an automatic right to be around children
or young people who are in the care of the church without
proper screening and without following the rules.

Common sense is not always that common

It is naive to presume that people automatically know
boundaries and use common sense in their dealing with
children, young people and vulnerable adults, so organisations
and families have to spell them out. For example, no youth
minister, cleric or other adult leader should be in a child’s
bedroom, alone with the child.

Child sexual abuse can be prevented

Awareness that child sexual abuse exists, and that it can exist
anywhere, is a start. It is then critical to build safety barriers
for children and young people to keep them safe from harm.
These barriers come in the form of protective guardians,
codes of conduct, background evaluations, policies and
procedures, wholehearted commitment to safety as a priority
and safety training programs.

The residual effects of having been abused can last a lifetime

Those who have been abused seldom just get over it. The sense
of violation goes deep into a person’s psyche and feelings of
anger, shame, hurt and betrayal can build long after abuse
has taken place. Some have described the feeling as if it has
scarred their soul.

Feeling heard leads toward healing

Relief from hurt and anger often comes when one feels heard,
when one’s pain and concerns are taken seriously, and a
victim/survivor’s appropriate sense of rage and indignation
are acknowledged. Not being acknowledged contributes to
a victim’s sense of being invisible, unimportant and unworthy;
and so they are in some way re-victimised.

You cannot always predict who will be an abuser

Experience shows that most abuse is at the hands of someone
who has gained the trust of a victim/survivor and his/her family
and others around. While most abuse occurs in the family
setting, it also occurs in institutional settings. Sometimes the
nicest person in the world may be an abuser, and this niceness
enables a false sense of trust to be created between abuser
and abused.

There are behavioural warning signs of child abusers

Training and education help adults recognise grooming
techniques that are precursors to abuse. Some abusers isolate
a potential victim by giving him or her undue attention or
lavish gifts. Another common grooming technique is to allow young people to participate in activities which their parents or
guardians would not approve, such as: watching pornography;
drinking alcohol; using drugs; and excessive or inappropriate
touching, which includes wrestling and tickling. It is also critical
to be wary of the adult who is more comfortable with children
than with adults. It helps that church institutions, schools and
parishes set up rules to guide interaction between adults and

People can be taught to identify grooming behaviou

Those grooming behaviours are the actions which abusers
take to project the image that they are kind, generous,
caring people, while in fact they may be luring a minor into
an inappropriate relationship. An abuser may develop a
relationship with the family (and also an institution) to increase
his/her credibility and trusted access to the child/ren. Abusers
might show attention to the child by talking to him/her, being
friendly, sharing alcohol with a minor and giving the child status
by insinuating that the child is their favourite or special person.
Abusers might increasingly test the boundaries. Offenders can
be patient and may groom their victim, his or her family, or
community for years.

Background checks can work

Background checks in churches, schools and other
organisations help to keep predators away from children,
both because they scare off some predators and because
checks may uncover past actions which should ban an adult
from working or volunteering with children. If an adult has had
difficulty with some boundaries in the past, he or she may have
difficulties with other boundaries, such as not abusing a child’s
trust and hurting a child. Never forget that offenders lie. Do not
rely solely on background checks – do reference checking as
well on both staff and volunteers.


Child protection is a broad responsibility and involves more than
responding once an allegation has been made. Importantly it
involves minimising the possibility of inappropriate behaviours
occurring in the first place.

The Diocese of Armidale is totally opposed to any form of
inappropriate behaviours and supports child protection and
prevention in the workplace and parish communities

Among the strategies to be utilised to prevent reportable conduct

  • Development and regular review of policies and procedures
  • Child protection induction sessions for all new employees
    and volunteers
  • Inclusion of child protection as a regular professional
    development subject for all workplaces and all employees
  • Requiring employees and volunteers to acknowledge in
    writing receipt of child protection policies and training
  • Having guidelines such as a code of conduct which define
    appropriate and inappropriate behaviour
  • Clear definitions of each person’s role in an organisation
  • Implementing protocols to identify people who are not
    suitable to work with children including reference checking,
    interview questions and the New Working with Children
  • Providing information to families and the community
    through parish and school channels

Code of Conduct

To have the opportunity to work with children, young people and
vulnerable adults is a privilege. This Code will assist to clarify the
parameters of appropriate conduct who work in child related roles.
It is anticipated that the general principles expressed in this Code
may be applied to circumstances not referred to in this document
when required.

This document is to be read in conjunction with Integrity in the
Service of the Church

Professional Responsibilities

In attending to compliance matters it is expected that you will:

  • Comply with lawful instructions and policies presented by
    your employer.
  • Comply with legislative and industrial requirements and any
    policies and procedures implemented by your employer
  • Demonstrate a duty of care to children and young people
  • by being punctual, diligent and sensitive to their needs

  • Take reasonable steps to protect children and young people
    from foreseeable risk of injury and to protect their own health
    and safety at all times
  • Take reasonable steps to ensure that the workplace is free of
    all forms of harassment and unlawful discrimination
  • Be aware of and apply the Privacy policies.
  • Complete your duties in accordance with the directions
  • Consider the risks of proposed activities and tasks and
    develop strategies to manage these risks

In matters relating to professional standards it is expected that you will:

  • Support the core values of the Diocese
  • Adhere to an appropriate standard of dress when at work
  • Use language that is appropriate and non-threatening
  • Be cautious about the responsible storage of medications
  • Respect the privacy and dignity of all personnel
  • Maintainthesecurityofallofficialandconfidential information
    relating to your work
  • Report to the appropriate contact person reportable
    conduct that is brought to your attention particularly:
  • Any sexual offence or sexual misconduct committed
    against, with or in the presence of a child (including child
  • Any physical assault, ill-treatment or neglect of a child
  • Any behaviour that causes psychological harm to a child
  • Misconduct that may involve reportable conduct as listed
    aboveAND any circumstances where you suspect that a person
    is currently at risk of harm

Professional Relationships with Children, Young people & Vulnerable

It is expected that you will:

  • Be caring, respectful compassionate and take an interest
    in the children, young people and vulnerable adults in your
  • Avoid as far as possible being alone with a child or young
    person and if required discuss strategies to allow for
    observation beforehand
  • Avoid favouring individuals and treat them all equally
  • Be equally available to all in your care
  • Avoid offering or receiving gifts to or from individuals
  • Remain removed from personal relationships with children
    and young people
  • Restrict the transportation of children and young people in
    your car to circumstances that are emergencies e.g. taking
    a child or young person to emergency medical help
  • Ensure that physical contact with children and young people
    is reasonable for the purpose of their management or care.
    Examples include:

    • assessing a child or young person who is injured or ill
    • comforting an upset child
    • guiding a child or young person in a non-threatening
    • protecting a child or young person from imminent danger
      to himself/herself or to others
    • demonstrating or guiding a particular action or skill as
      part of an activity such as a nativity play

      Acceptable physical contact with children and young people

      • Physical contact should be appropriate given the age,
        maturity, health or other characteristics of the individual
      • Physical contact should be consistent with any specific
        management plan for specific individuals
      • Physical intervention (including physical restraint, removals
        or escorts) should be avoided and used only as a last resort
        to ensure safety and protection of the individual and others.
        Physical intervention may be regarded as appropriate
        when a child or young person is causing, or at risk of causing
        injury or harm to self or others

      Inapropriate Practices

      The following practices are inconsistent with the values of the
      workplace you represent and are therefore not permitted:

      • the application of corporal punishment or physical force to
        punish or correct an individual
      • using an object, such as a book to gain an individual’s
        attention in a hostile or inappropriate physical manner
      • hitting, kicking, shaking, pulling, shoving, grabbing, pinching,
        poking or pushing an individual
      • holding or restraining an individual other than to prevent
        injury or harm to them or others
      • intimidating, humiliating or swearing at an individual
      • locking an individual in a confined space
      • refusing biological needs or basic necessities
      • using practices which instil fear or cause a to feel alienated
      • having in your possession or providing children, young
        people or vulnerable adults with alcohol or prohibited
      • Providing tobacco or tobacco-based products to children
        and young people
      • Engaging in conduct of a sexual nature that is improper
        including inappropriate touching, inappropriate
        conversations of a sexual nature, suggestive remarks or
        innuendo, obscene gestures, sexual exhibitionism, personal
        correspondence, exposure of children, young people or
        vulnerable adults to sexual behaviour
      • exposing children, young people or vulnerable adults
        to material that contains violent, inappropriate sexual
        messages or adult concepts and themes that are
      • inappropriate given their age and level of maturity.

          Note: Evidence supporting the use of inappropriate practices
          may result in the termination of your involvement in this and other
          work that involves children, young people and vulnerable adults

Checklist for Parishes

Employees and Volunteers

  • Have they completed Working With Children Checks?
  • Have you completed background and reference checks?
  • Do they have a copy of Child Safe Parish Communities
  • Have you conducted an induction process with them
    regarding child safe guidelines and acceptable behaviours?
  • Have you gone through the Code of Conduct with them
    and are confident that they understand the acceptable
    and unacceptable behaviours?
  • Do they have letters of appointment?

Altar servers

  • Do altar servers have an area separate from that of the priest
    vesting area to prepare for Mass?
  • Is there at least one adult (parent) present to supervise the
    altar servers?

Reconciliation for Children

  • Are there in place protocols for children’s reconciliation?
  • Is this conducted in an open environment?
  • Do you have teachers and/or parents supervising the
  • Do you ensure that there is appropriate physical separation
    between you and the child whose confession you are

Parental supervision

  • Are parents advised to supervise their own children at Mass
    and parish events?
  • Have parents been asked to accompany children to the

  • parish toilets and not allow them to go unsupervised?


  • Is a copy of the parish Child Safe Parish Communities
    guideline on public display in the parish?
  • Have parishioners been advised to not be alone with children
    (other than their own children)
  • Have parishioners been advised not to enter the altar server
    area unless they are supervising the children?

Definitions & Key Terms


Includes all children up to the age of 16 years

Child sexual assault

Child sexual assault is any sexual act or sexual threat imposed on a
child or carried out in the presence of a child.

Child Sexual Offences

These offences include acts of indecency, sexual intercourse,
indecent assault, filming or using a device to facilitate filming for
indecent purposes


An employee is any person who is employed by the parish, whether
or not they are employed to work directly with children. It also
includes anyone from outside the parish who is engaged to provide
services to children including contractors, volunteers, students on
placement, instructors of religion. Clergy (priests and deacons) are
regarded as employees for the purposes of this document.

Grooming behaviour

A form of sexual misconduct is grooming behaviour which may be
described as patterns of behaviour aimed at engaging a child or
young person as a precursor to inappropriate sexual activity. This
activity may also involve the establishment of strong relationships
with parents, guardians and family members to build up the
credibility of the person

Head of Agency

The Head of Agency under NSW Ombudsman legislation is the
Bishop of the Diocese.


Ill-treatment of a child or vulnerable adult includes excessive and
inappropriate punishment, discipline or correction which violates
community standards.

Examples of ill-treatment include:

  • restricting freedom
  • making excessive demands or unreasonable demands
  • inappropriate correction or chastisement of a child or
    young person disproportionateto the wrong-doing, existing
    community standards or reasonableness when considered
    in the circumstances.


An investigation of a matter includes any preliminary or other inquiry
into, or examination of, the matter. This involves a process where
the Diocese carries out an assessment of a reportable conduct
allegation against a subject person to:

  • gather all the relevant facts
  • make a decision as to whether the allegation is sustained
    or not
  • provide information to assist any relevant employment

Legislative requirements

The Diocese is required to meet the requirements of the following
NSW legislation:

  • Ombudsman Act
  • Commission for Children and Young People Act 1998
  • Child Protection (Prohibited Employment) Act
  • Children & Young Persons (Care & Protection) Act 1998

Mandatory reporting

Mandatory reporting to Community services is required by the
Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998 from
certain groups of people if they suspect (using their professional
judgement and training) on reasonable grounds, that a child or
young person is at risk of significant harm.

Mandatory reporters are those who deliver services to children
as part of their paid or professional work. Services covered by
this include health care, welfare, education, children’s services,
residential services and law enforcement.


Neglect is action or omission by a person who has carer
responsibilities for a child involving:

  • A failure to provide the child with the basic necessities of life,
    such as sustenance, care or protection; or
  • A significant careless action or inaction resulting in physical
    harm to the child

Neglect is characterised as a continuum of omissions in caregiving.

Physical Assault

Physical assault involves a hostile act by the employee towards
a child. The assault occurs regardless of the employee’s intention
to harm the child and regardless of the child’s consent. Assault
can include pushing, shoving, hitting, smacking or threatening
behaviour (verbal or actions) that cause the child to feel that an
assault is likely to occur.

Physical assault of a child under common law principles, must
include all three of the following elements:

  • It is an act committed on or towards a child; and
  • It involves either the application of force to a child or an
    act that causes a child to think that immediate force will be
    used on them; and
  • It is either hostile or reckless (a reckless act is one where
    a person would reasonably foresee the consequence of a
    likelihood of inflicting injury or fear, and ignores the risk).

Actual physical harm does not have to occur in order for assault
to have occurred. Physical conduct which is on an inevitable or
accepted part of everyday life does not amount to assault.

Psychological harm

Behaviour which results in significant harm or trauma to a child is
psychologically harmful behaviour. There needs to be a causal link
between the inappropriate behaviour and the harm.

Allegations of psychological harm must include the following three

  • A description of persistent and targeted behaviour e.g.
    scapegoating, humiliation or verbal abuse. Although in
    some cases the alleged behaviour may be a single incident
    which is extreme and harmful to a child;
  • Signs of harm e.g. displaying patterns of ‘out of character
    behaviour’ such as refusal to attend school, sleep
  • disturbance, anxiety, physical symptoms, self harm;

  • An alleged causal link between the behaviour and harm

Reportable Conduct

Reportable conduct is defined under legislation and involves
allegations which must be reported to the Office of the NSW
Ombudsman. It is defined as:

  • Any sexual offence, or sexual misconduct, committed
    against, with or in the presence of a child (including a child
    pornography offence) or
  • Any assault, ill treatment or neglect of a child or
  • Any behaviour that causes psychological harm to a child

Whether or not, in any case, with the consent of the child.

Reportable conduct includes child sexual offences, sexual
misconduct, grooming behaviour, child sexual assault, physical
assault, ill-treatment, neglect or psychological harm of a child or
young person.

Reportable conduct does not extend to:

  • conduct that is reasonable for the purposes of the discipline,
    management or care of children, having regard to the age,
    maturity, health or other characteristics of the children and
    to any relevant codes of conduct or professional standards, or
  • the use of physical force that in all the circumstances, is trivial
    and negligible but only if the matter is to be investigated
    and the result recorded, or

Risk of Significant Harm

Significant harm means to a significant extent and sufficiently
serious to warrant a response by a statutory authority irrespective
of a family’s consent. Significant harm is not minor or trivial and
may reasonably be expected to produce a substantial and
demonstrably adverse impact on safety, welfare or wellbeing.

Sexual misconduct

Sexual misconduct is a range of behaviours or a pattern of
behaviour aimed at the involvement of children and young people
in sexual acts. Some of these behaviours include:

  • Inappropriate conversations of a sexual nature
  • Comments that express a desire to act in a sexual manner
  • Sexual exhibitionism
  • Inappropriate personal correspondence (including
    electronic communications)
  • Exposure of children and young people to sexual behaviour
    of others including exposure to pornography
  • Watching children and young people undress when this is
    not required

Vulnerable adult

A vulnerable adult is someone who is over the age of 18 years but
who is or may be unable to protect themselves against significant
harm or exploitation. This may be because of advanced age,
mental health problems, disabilities, learning difficulties and / or
substance abuse.

Young person

A person who is aged at least 16 years but who is under 18 years.