Bishop Paul Bird of Ballarat welcomes the publication of the response of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference and Catholic Religious Australia to recommendations from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
The following notes refer to points that relate particularly to the diocese of Ballarat.
16.6 The bishop of Ballarat is in the process of forming a diocesan company to operate schools on behalf of parishes. In this new structure, school principals and teachers will be employed by this diocesan company rather than by parish priests.
16.7 The diocese of Ballarat already has in place a range of diocesan councils that include lay men and women. The diocese is reviewing management procedures and looks forward to advice from the Implementation Advisory Group about further developments in diocesan governance structures.
16.25 The diocese of Ballarat requires all people in ministry to complete an online training module on protecting children and vulnerable adults. The Diocesan Coordinator for Professional Standards gives presentations to people in ministry about diocesan policies and procedures and the legal obligations of individuals and church entities to protect children. In the light of proposals to be made by Catholic Professional Standards Ltd., the diocese will develop its practices of professional/pastoral supervision, ongoing education and appraisal of those in ministry.
16.31 The diocese of Ballarat has implemented (as required by law) the seven Victorian Government Child Safe Standards in its parishes and schools. The diocese will supplement current practices in whatever ways may be needed in the light of proposals from Catholic Professional Standards in fulfilment of the Royal Commission’s ten standards.
16.33 The diocese has applied the Victorian Child Safe Standards in a consistent manner throughout the diocese and will do the same with the Royal Commission standards. For example, each parish has the same or very similar Child Safety Policies and Child Safe Codes of Conduct. Each parish has a Parish Safeguarding Officer.
16.35 Catholic schools within the diocese comply with the Victorian Government Child Safe Standards. Compliance with these standards is a condition of registration by the Victorian Qualifications and Registration Authority. An independent reviewer conducts audits of the effectiveness of schools’ compliance against these standards and reports the findings to the Director of Catholic Education.
16.37 In 2013 Bishop Paul Bird established the Diocesan Professional Standards Consultative Panel. The panel has a responsibility to consider and formulate appropriate responses to complaints against clergy, staff and volunteers in the diocese and also to review current policies and develop and implement new policies and practices in relation to safe-guarding children and other vulnerable people in the diocese. The panel includes lay men and women with expertise in social welfare. The panel’s executive secretary is the Diocesan Coordinator for Professional Standards.
The duties of the Coordinator for Professional Standards include the following:
- Develop, facilitate and evaluate the implementation of policies and procedures in relation to all ministry activities with a particular focus on children, young people and vulnerable adults.
- Provide education to clergy, staff and volunteers to enhance their understanding of codes of conduct and professional standards policies.
- Ensure that parishes and other Church agencies have systems and processes in place to enable them to comply with the policies and code of conduct and the Victorian Child Safe Standards.
- Conduct and report on audits of child safe-guarding practices throughout the diocese.
16.38 Church organisations in the diocese, for example, Catholic schools and Centacare (which provides social services) are subject to civil law regarding Child Safe Standards and reporting obligations.
16.40 Catholic schools in the diocese of Ballarat provide children and young people with age-appropriate prevention education that strengthens their self-protective skills and educates them about how to seek help. These approaches are based on advice and resources developed by a cross-sectoral group, including Catholic, Independent and Government education bodies. The diocese of Ballarat will prepare guideline materials to assist parishes that engage in activities with children to address this recommendation further.
16.41 Parishes and the diocese publish their Child Safety Policy and Child Safety Code of Conduct on their websites.
16.45 The diocese offers professional supervision to clergy and employs a clergy health and wellbeing coordinator.
16.46 Clergy from overseas undergo a program of inculturation that covers the matters referred to in this recommendation.
16.48 Conducting the rite of confession in an open setting is already the policy in the diocese of Ballarat. In 2016, Bishop Paul Bird directed that “the sacrament should be celebrated in an open setting. Where there is a distinct confessional or reconciliation room, this should only be used if the room is open to view from outside, for example, through a glass door. Otherwise, the confession should be heard in an open area.”
16.49 Diocesan and parish codes of conduct apply to both clergy and lay persons.
16.51 School complaints handling processes in the diocese of Ballarat include undertaking an assessment to identify and reduce risk to children. This applies for all complaints and for allegations under the Reportable Conduct Scheme.
16.52 It is already the policy of the diocese of Ballarat that, if a complaint of child sexual abuse against a person in religious ministry is plausible, and there is a risk that person may come into contact with children in the course of their ministry, the person be stood down from ministry while the complaint is investigated.
16.53 The Briginshaw test is the balance of probabilities or “more likely than not”. The diocese applies this standard in reportable conduct investigations and, under the Evidence Act, is required to do so in any workplace investigations, whether concerning laity or clergy.
16.54 The diocese will apply the same standards, regardless of who is the subject of a complaint.
16.57 The diocese takes appropriate steps to manage the risk if it is aware that any person attending any of its religious services or activities is the subject of a substantiated complaint of child sexual abuse, or has been convicted of an offence relating to child sexual abuse.
6.21 Pre-service education is provided by tertiary institutions and in-service training is provided for school staff to support schools in creating safe online environments. The Office of the eSafety Commissioner provides resources to assist schools in online safety. The Catholic Education Office Ballarat is continuing to assist schools in making online environments safer for children and in being able to respond to potential risks when they are identified.
7.8 The diocesan reporting procedures are in the Diocesan Code of Conduct for Caring for Children. The Code will be reviewed to ensure protection for a person who makes a complaint or a report.
8.4 Catholic school record keeping practices in the diocese of Ballarat already adhere to the five principles proposed by the Royal Commission.
8.5 Catholic schools in the diocese of Ballarat already meet the same record keeping standards as Government schools.
13.1 Catholic schools in the diocese of Ballarat already meet the seven Victorian Government Child Safe Standards. They will supplement current practices in whatever ways may be needed in the light of proposals from Catholic Professional Standards in fulfilment of the Royal Commission’s ten standards.
13.2 The Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority is already responsible for monitoring and enforcing the Child Safe Standards. Catholic schools in the diocese of Ballarat are monitored for compliance by the Catholic Education Office Ballarat.
13.3 The Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority already monitors and provides support to the Catholic schools that offer boarding to ensure the safety of children and young people.
13.6 Catholic schools in the diocese of Ballarat observe policies and procedures in common with Catholic, Independent and Government schools in regard to complaints about children with harmful sexual behaviours. The Catholic Education Office Ballarat provides assistance to schools in dealing with these matters.
12.6 Catholic schools in the diocese of Ballarat participate in the Victorian Government Out-of-Home Care Education Commitment Partnering Agreement, to ensure the health and wellbeing of children and young people attending Catholic schools who are in out-of-home care
Bishop Paul Bird
5 Lyons Street South
Ballarat VIC 3350
P.O. Box 121
Ballarat VIC 3353
Phone: (03) 5337 7121
Fax: (03) 5332 1122