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In the continuing series on the Professional Standards Office, the pastoral response to historical complaints of abuse, known as Towards Healing, is explained.

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Towards Healing is a program of the Catholic Church of Australia that was developed by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference and Catholic Religious Australia for responding to historical complaints of sexual, physical or psychological abuse by clergy, Religious or other church personnel. Therefore the office works with adults who have been subjected to abuse within the Church when they were children.

Towards Healing is administered by the Professional Standards Offices (PSO) of each state or province and is designed to work in the place where the adult is currently living. For example any adults resident in the Archdiocese of Adelaide or the Dioceses of Port Pirie and Darwin should contact the SA & NT PSO regardless of where the abuse occurred.

Towards Healing is a protocol established to provide an avenue for engagement and restitution through a pastoral response from the Church. It acknowledges the impact of a history of abuse and trauma on people’s lives. For many, such a response can be a deeply healing process that allows them to progress in their journey of recovery.

It is the role of the PSO to determine whether a matter fits within the scope of Towards Healing. If it does, it may proceed through three phases: contact, assessment and facilitation.

In the contact phase the survivor’s account of the allegation is written up as a statement, called a contact report. For some people, this is the first time they have ever disclosed the abuse to anyone. We aim to support people with counselling and regular contact with the PSO to assist them from the beginning of this process and indeed the whole process of Towards Healing.

During the assessment phase, an investigation is conducted by an independent investigator to determine the facts as far as is possible to do so within the balance of probability. Most matters proceed to an assessment.

The facilitation phase involves a meeting between the adult and the relevant Church authority. It may consist of an apology, answering any questions and some form of reparation. The facilitation is conducted by an experienced facilitator, independent of the church, and is aimed to be a recognition of the impact the abuse has had on their life.

Towards Healing is currently the process used by many Church authorities across Australia. The Australian Catholic Church has, however, determined that the protocol requires a review and is in the process of developing a new process to provide a trauma-informed and compassionate response to adults who have been subjected to childhood abuse.

If you or an adult you know has experienced historial sexual abuse within the Church please contact SA & NT PSO on 8210 8275 or contact the National Redress Scheme on 1800 737 377.

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