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National body looks to Adelaide for safeguarding standards

National

The Adelaide Archdiocese has participated in a pilot audit of child protection policies and practices by the new national safeguarding body, Catholic Professional Standards Ltd (CPSL).

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The Archdiocese is well advanced in aligning its safeguarding practices with the Royal Commission’s Child Safe Standards as well as compliance with mandatory reporting laws and this was a key factor in the choice of Adelaide for the first pilot audit, according to Tania Stegemann, Director of Compliance, CPSL.

Speaking to The Southern Cross during her visit to Adelaide, Ms Stegemann said: “We wanted to see someone who has already been working in this space and dealing with the practical issues around compliance, so we’re not just starting with a blank page.”

“Adelaide Archdiocese has taken the initiative to engage and consult with its parishes, allowing it to establish good practices in key areas such as code of conduct, recruitment and induction and people management.”

CPSL has recently released draft national safeguarding standards and will be responsible for auditing Church entities to ensure compliance with the standards. CPSL is currently seeking feedback in relation to the draft standards (www.cpsltd.org.au) prior to publishing them later this year.

The Adelaide Archdiocese’s Child Protection Unit manager Sally Wellington said the Archdiocese had an established program for safeguarding children and young people through the Safe Environments for All (SEFA) program.

“The SEFA program provides a framework which not only implements policy and procedures but also addresses gaps in practice and aims to enhance child abuse prevention initiatives through monitoring compliance to strengthen a culture which prioritises child safety,” she said.

“The program also has a strong focus on embedding the rights of children young people and seeks to ensure that they are listened to, responded to and empowered to be part of decisions which affect them. As such, the SEFA program aligns well with the newly released national standards.”

There will be four pilot audits in total, with the remaining three being conducted in July. Ms Stegemann said given the Safeguarding Standards had only just been released, the pilots were not full audits but focused on identifying best practices, assessing any gaps in existing processes, as well as informing requirements for training and support.

The audit team comprised Ms Stegemann, Kate Eversteyn (Director of Safeguarding, CPSL) and three KPMG auditors who are assisting with the framework development.

They met with a number of key diocesan personnel including the Vicar General Father Philip Marshall, the Child Protection Unit as well as two parish priests and Child Safe Contact People.

Ms Stegemann said that during the interviews, Church personnel had described how safeguarding was now “part of parish life” and “another process that’s embedded in the parish”.

“They said it was ‘everyone’s business’ which is very much in line with the Safeguarding Standards we have drafted,” she said.

“One of the recommendations of the Royal Commission is that it doesn’t matter how many policies and programs there are, you need to develop the right culture.”

Similarly, she said she was impressed to hear Fr Marshall talk about the process of renewal in the diocese as this is closely related to culture and leadership.

“If you don’t have a strong foundation in place, nothing else is going to stand up,” she said.

“Fr Philip talked about the eight Gospel characteristics of a renewing parish and the process of getting people involved…if you can get people more passionate about their parish and embed safeguarding in the process, it means the culture and leadership in this area is going to be strong.”

Ms Wellington said parish audit reports were used as an informative resource for the Archbishop’s visitation program, enabling leadership to further integrate this work into the life of the Church.

Ms Stegemann said the visitation program showed that the Archdiocese leadership was “walking the talk, not just making a statement from above”.

“They are really getting in with a view to seeing the issues,” she said.

Releasing the draft national safeguarding standards last week, CPSL CEO Sheree Limbrick said the safeguarding standards were a significant step in implementing one of the Royal Commission’s key recommendations.

“This is the first time anywhere in Australia and among just a handful of countries around the world, where the Catholic Church will be accountable for their adherence to consistent and measurable national standards for the protection of children and vulnerable adults,” she said.

The standards range across areas such as leadership, governance and culture; human resource and complaints management; education and training; communication with children and working with families, carers and communities.

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