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
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
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
- 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
- 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
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
- 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
This document is to be read in conjunction with Integrity in the
Service of the Church.
In attending to compliance matters it is expected that you will:
- Comply with lawful instructions and policies presented by
- 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
- 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
by being punctual, diligent and sensitive to their needs
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
- 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.
- 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
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?
- 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
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
- Are parents advised to supervise their own children at Mass
and parish events?
- parish toilets and not allow them to go unsupervised?
Have parents been asked to accompany children to the
- 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
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.
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
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
- provide information to assist any relevant employment
The Diocese is required to meet the requirements of the following
- Ombudsman Act
- Commission for Children and Young People Act 1998
- Child Protection (Prohibited Employment) Act
- Children & Young Persons (Care & Protection) Act 1998
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 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.
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
- An alleged causal link between the behaviour and harm
disturbance, anxiety, physical symptoms, self harm;
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
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 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
- Exposure of children and young people to sexual behaviour
of others including exposure to pornography
- Watching children and young people undress when this is
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
A person who is aged at least 16 years but who is under 18 years.