St John’s Uniting Church in Essendon has recently completed the VicTas synod Safe Church Recognition program. The program is part of a number of initiatives to continually review how the Church maintains safe and caring environments for everyone.
Chair of St John’s church council, Bruce Missen, said the program was a valuable part of the Church’s response to revelations of child abuse within church institutions.
“My view is that all churches must respond to the issue of child abuse as a direct response to the Victorian Government’s inquiry and with the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses still holding sessions,” Mr Missen said.
“We cannot ignore and say it cannot happen here. Victims have paid a heavy price for that sort of thinking. Undertaking the program is another way we can focus on our responsibilities.”
Mr Missen said the church community was pleasantly surprised to learn that they were already a long way to achieving official recognition before they even started the program. While reinforcing the positive practises within the church, the program also enabled them to identify areas where improvements could be made.
“It has made us take stock of who is doing what in the various activities around our church,” Mr Missen said.
“I think it has made us do some things better – things like writing job descriptions for all roles involving contact with children or vulnerable adults, and ensuring that everyone has some support network where they belong.”
Initially, some in the church were a little suspicious of why such a program was being undertaken, some even wondered whether the church was being investigated.
“I can assure them and the wider Church community that nothing like this is true and that we are using Safe Church Training and Recognition as a proactive response to the findings of the Parliamentary Inquiry and the Royal Commission.
“Sadly, some churches have lost the trust of large parts of the wider community. We all need to do what we can to try to win back that trust. That is where I see Safe Church training fitting in. Uniting Churches should use it to proactively respond to the dreadful consequences we have learnt about through the Royal Commission.
“I hope the community sees that the churches are taking action locally to minimise the risks of things like child abuse occurring into the future.”