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ACBC welcomes Turnbull Government’s response to Royal Commission

National

Measures to be taken by the Turnbull Government to standardise approaches to child safety and research to help prevent child sexual abuse in the future have been welcomed by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference.

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In releasing its response statement, the government said it had accepted 104 of the 122 recommendations directed wholly or in part at the Australian Government by the Royal Commission, and the other 18 had been noted or required further consideration.

One of the actions announced today includes the Prime Minister delivering a national apology to the victims and survivors of institutional child sexual abuse on October 22.

Another initiative will be the establishment next month of a National Office for Child Safety within the Department of Social Services. The office will work across government and sectors to develop and implement policies and strategies to enhance children’s safety and prevent future harm.

“Our expectation is that non-government institutions will respond to each of the Royal Commission’s recommendations, indicating what action they will take in response to them and will report on their implementation of relevant recommendations annually in December, along with all governments.

“Where institutions decide not to accept the Royal Commission’s recommendations they should state so and why,” the response statement said.

ACBC president Archbishop Mark Coleridge said the Catholic Church had already begun its work to respond to the recommendations, and some of those responses began during the course of the Royal Commission.

“Across the country, child safeguarding offices have been established or strengthened in dioceses, archdioceses and other Catholic organisations to streamline and centralise work on protecting children and young people in Church settings,” he said.

“At the national level, Catholic Professional Standards Ltd has been working with Church agencies, other non-government organisations and a number of government agencies to produce consistent national safeguarding standards for the Church.

“The Catholic Church was the first non-government institution to join the national redress scheme on the national level. The Church had called for such a scheme over recent years and is firmly committed to providing redress to survivors who were abused in Catholic settings.

“The Church also has established the Implementation Advisory Group, made up mostly of lay people, which is helping the bishops decide how to respond to the Royal Commission.”

Archbishop Coleridge said the ACBC was considering advice from internal and external stakeholders, including the Implementation Advisory Group, and the Federal Government’s response would also inform the bishops’ response in important ways.

“Regarding the issue of the seal of confession, the Catholic Church does not view the sacramental seal as incompatible with maintaining child safety,” he said.

“The Church wants measures that will genuinely make environments safer for children. There has been no compelling evidence to suggest that legal abolition of the seal of confession will help in that regard.

“Protecting children and upholding the integrity of Catholic sacraments are not mutually exclusive and the Church wants to continue to work with government to ensure both can be achieved and maintained.”

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