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New model for child protection

National

As the inaugural chief executive officer of Catholic Professional Standards Limited, Sheree Limbrick says she will know she is doing her job when children and vulnerable people know where to go when something is not right.

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“My concern is not whether the bishops and religious leaders are happy with the job we’ve been doing, it’s about whether children and vulnerable people can get a message to me that says ‘yes I feel safe in our communities’,” Ms Limbrick told representatives of the Adelaide Archdiocese during a visit to South Australia recently.

Catholic Professional Standards Limited (CPSL) is a new independent company established by the Catholic Church in Australia in November 2016 to develop, audit and report on compliance with professional standards across Catholic entities.

Appointed CEO in July 2017, Ms Limbrick most recently worked with CatholicCare Melbourne as deputy CEO and has managed statewide programs for Berry Street, a service provider for vulnerable children and families across Victoria.

She said CPSL was “functionally independent” from the Church and as such was a new model. Its mission was to “promote the dignity and welfare of all persons who come into contact with the Church and its work, especially its young and vulnerable”.

The aim is to change culture through four key areas: awareness, accountability, consistency and compassion.

“Critical to the implementation of the CPSL Standards is that Church leaders should be accountable for the activities under their jurisdiction,” she told the diocesan gathering.

Ms Limbrick said she would spend the next three months on the road, consulting with groups and individuals about the 10 draft standards set down by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, in particular how these would work in the context of the Church.

She noted the Adelaide Archdiocese’s current practice of auditing parishes and communities to ensure child abuse prevention (or child protection) policies and procedures were being followed. CPSL would oversee audits of compliance in Catholic entities and would publicly report the findings.

Acknowledging the need for the voices of abuse survivors to continue to be heard, she said one area being considered was the establishment of mechanisms for the board to hear from survivors and professionals who work with them, to ensure they continue to inform CPSL about its work.

She stressed that the Royal Commission had identified ‘culture’ as more important than policies and procedures, as highlighted in case studies where there were serious failings despite child protection policies being in place.

There would also be a strong focus on sharing resources and collaboration to enable dioceses to concentrate on “actually working with young and vulnerable people and supporting them pastorally”.

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