A guide to the Church’s response to child sexual abuse

The Catholic Church in Australia has taken a number of decisive steps in the prevention and fight against child sexual abuse with an emphasis on concrete actions, prevention, education and care for victims and survivors. Several entities are coordinating the Church's national response in different key areas.

In August 2018, the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference and Catholic Religious Australia provided the Church’s official response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, accepting more than 98 per cent of the recommendations that related to the Church.

The following is a summary of the Church in Australia’s work in these areas, including:

More information about each organisation and important links can be accessed below.

You can also find information on how to report abuse.

The Australian Catholic Centre for Professional Standards

The Australian Catholic Centre for Professional Standards (formerly known as the National Committee for Professional Standards) aims to reduce the opportunity for child and adult abuse within the Catholic Church in Australia by:

  • Providing national leadership to develop and promote strategies that provide an effective and efficient National Complaints Management Framework.
  • Ensuring the highest professional standards are applied to keep all safe and the response to reports of abuse is applied consistently across the Catholic Church in Australia.
  • Providing strategic direction, leadership and operational planning of current and future systemic trends related to professional standards to the Permanent Committee of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference and other senior leaders within the Catholic Church.
  • Ensuring that a trauma-informed approach is applied when dealing with those reporting abuse to ensure that pastoral care is provided consistently across the Catholic Church in Australia.
  • Working in partnership with internal and external agencies to reduce the risk of harm and respond appropriately in safeguarding and investigating allegations for those who are at risk of harm and those who have been subject to harm subject to investigative outcomes of outside agencies.

Read more here.

To contact the Australian Catholic Centre for Professional Standards call 02 6234 0904 or e-mail (preferred method of communication): professional.standards@catholic.org.au.

Australian Catholic Redress Limited

The National Redress Scheme was created by the Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments in response to recommendations from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. The Scheme is operated by the Commonwealth Government.

On October 19, 2018, Australian Catholic Redress Ltd was established to oversee Catholic dioceses’ engagement with the National Redress Scheme. Australian Catholic Redress Ltd provides a single access point for interaction between the Scheme and dioceses – and the approximately 5,000 Catholic sites for which they are (or have been) responsible.

Under the Scheme, applications for redress are considered by independent assessors who decide on the appropriate levels of financial and other support, such as counselling services. The Catholic Church, and other institutions participating in the Scheme, meet the costs of redress that the Scheme determines, as well as administration costs to support the Scheme’s operation.

Australian Catholic Redress is the formal representative of Church authorities in the Scheme. The company also helps ensure all diocesan obligations under the Scheme are met, including the delivery of a personal direct response (if requested).

As of September 1, 2019, 34 of the 35 Australian Catholic archdioceses, dioceses and eparchies are now participating institutions in the Scheme, under the purview of Australian Catholic Redress Ltd.

More than 99.8 per cent of the parishes, diocesan schools and diocesan agencies across the country are covered by those 34 dioceses. Many religious orders have also entered the Scheme, with more expected to join in the final few months of 2019.

To access the National Redress Scheme, call 1800 737 377 or visit www.nationalredress.gov.au

Catholic Professional Standards Limited (CPSL)

Catholic Professional Standards Limited is committed to fostering a culture of safety and care for children and vulnerable adults who come into contact with the Catholic Church.

CPSL was established in 2016 by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference and Catholic Religious Australia in response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. 

CPSL was established to: 

  • set safeguarding standards to ensure the safety of children and vulnerable adults who engage with the Church at any level anywhere in Australia;
  • provide training and support to enable church authorities, entities, organisations, ministries and anyone involved in the Church to create a culture of safety for everyone;
  • support the Church to build a culture of safeguarding;
  • audit the compliance of Catholic entities, organisations and ministries in accordance with the Standards; and
  • publicly report the results of those audits.

CPSL functions independently of the Church and fosters a culture of increasing transparency and accountability in the Church. 

The National Catholic Safeguarding Standards, adopted and published in May 2019, apply to bishops, leaders of religious institutes and other church authorities and to the services and ministries they oversee, including parishes, schools, social services, health and aged care services. 

CPSL acknowledges the lifelong trauma of abuse victims and survivors and their families; the failure of the Catholic Church to protect, believe and respond justly to children and vulnerable adults; and the consequent breaches of community trust. 

Contact:

You can find out more about CPSL at www.cpsltd.org.au

Subscribe here to CPSL’s newsletter for regular updates, training, safeguarding information and news

Or contact CPSL to speak with one of their team - info@cpsltd.org.au / 1300 603 411 

Key documents:

Implementation Advisory Group

The Implementation Advisory Group (IAG) was established by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference and Catholic Religious Australia in May 2018 to monitor the work done by the Church in Australia in response to the findings and recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Response to Child Sexual Abuse and the recommendations of the Truth, Justice and Healing Council.

Governance Review

As part of this monitoring, the IAG has convened a panel of experts to conduct a national review of the governance and management structures of Catholic dioceses and parishes, including in relation to issues of transparency, accountability, consultation and lay participation. The review was a recommendation of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse after the Commission concluded that the governance and management of dioceses and parishes contributed to the child sexual abuse crisis.

The panel will produce an interim report by the end of November 2019 and a final report to Catholic Religious Australia and the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference in the first half of 2020. The governance review project plan can be found here.

National Response Guidelines

The IAG has commissioned the development of new national response guidelines for Catholic Church authorities in responding to historical and contemporary concerns and allegations of abuse. The project reflects the understanding by the Catholic Church in Australia that it needs to take full responsibility and ownership of the harm caused and the loss of trust and faith in the Church by survivors, their families and the broader community because of the history of individual and systemic failings of the Catholic Church in response to abuse by Catholic Church personnel.

This initiative is also committed to ensuring that the approach of the Catholic Church in Australia, both at an individual and collective level, not only drives effective responses to specific concerns or allegations at a local level but also contributes to building a Church-wide culture that prioritises the protection of children and vulnerable people, and acknowledges the courage and strength of survivors.

While the new guidelines will consider Towards Healing and the Melbourne Response, there will be a change in focus, purpose and scope. Both Towards Healing and the Melbourne Response protocols were established primarily to respond pastorally to claims for redress made by survivors in the hope that it would provide support to those who had been harmed. While it is recognised that the need for a compassionate and just response to a survivor with respect to their claim is vital, it is only one component of various and complex issues addressed by the Royal Commission that arise when responding to concerns and allegations of child sexual abuse.

Report to the National Office for Child Safety

The IAG is responsible for the development of the annual report to be submitted by the Catholic Church in Australia to the National Office for Child Safety in November 2019, pursuant to recommendation 17.3 from the Royal Commission. The report will focus on the implementation of the Royal Commission recommendations by Catholic Church authorities in Australia.

The National Office for Child Safety was established to enhance children’s safety and reduce future harm to children and while it builds upon existing initiatives such as the National Redress Scheme and the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children, it is not responsible for administration of redress or support for adult survivors. Accordingly, the report will be limited to the prevention of and response to abuse of children today and in the future.

Steps for reporting abuse

Currently, when a person reports abuse, they are offered four options if the matter is suitable (has a sexual element and the person was under 18 at the time of offence) and occurred prior to July 1, 2018. The options are:

  1. They can report to the police in their state or territory (this is the preferred option).
  2. They can enter the Towards Healing process or access the Melbourne Response (within the Archdiocese of Melbourne).
  3. They may take civil action.
  4. They may make a claim via the National Redress Scheme.

For any incident involving abuse between adults (sexual or physical) prior to or after July 1, 2018, or any incident which involves a child which is not sexual in nature (physical, emotional or neglect only with no sexual element) and occurred prior to July 1, 2018, and any sexual or other abuse incident that occurred after July 1, 2018, involving a child.

Three options exist (subject to state legislation on reportable conduct and mandatory reporting):

  1. They can report to the police (this is the preferred option).
  2. They can enter the Towards Healing process or access the Melbourne Response (within the Archdiocese of Melbourne).
  3. They may take civil action.

The National Redress Scheme does not apply for any incidents that occurred after July 1, 2018, or involving adult victims or survivors.

Those who need immediate assistance can contact:
Lifeline 13 11 14
In an emergency, call 000


Online and off line payment options
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GPO Box 368
Canberra ACT 2601
Australia

1300 4FAITH (1300 432 484)
Catholic Enquiry Centre

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