The VicTas synod has today launched its Keeping Children Safe policy in Melbourne.
More than 50 people attended the launch, including Georgie Crozier, member for South Metropolitan region and chair of the Victorian Inquiry into the Handling of Child Abuse by Religious and Other Institutions. Bronwyn Halfpenny, member for Thomastown and committee member of the inquiry, was also in attendance.
The Keeping Children Safe policy is an overarching policy that represents the Uniting Church’s binding and public commitment to the provision of safety for children. The policy incorporates and builds on existing policies and covers instruction on recruitment, codes of conduct, risk assessment and clear guidelines for reporting a concern.
The policy was launched ahead of National Child Protection Week (6-12 September).
Deb Tsorbaris, CEO of the Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare, officially launched the policy.
“When I am invited to speak at launches such as this, I am encouraged that historical prevailing attitudes are changing. I am encouraged that we are listening,” she said.
“We must make it our responsibility to educate and be educated in identifying behaviours that lead to abuse.
“We must be vigilant. The consequences, as you know, are devastating.”
Ms Tsobaris said it was pleasing to see organisations such as the Uniting Church develop strong policies for detecting, preventing and responding to child abuse allegations.
“We must listen to children. They are great judges of character; they will tell you if they are not comfortable.”
Moderator Dan Wootton said the policy reflects the Church’s commitment to be a child-safe organisation at all levels.
“Whilst we operate with many policies relating to the safety of children across our church entities, the Keeping Children Safe policy becomes an overarching whole-of-church policy and builds on the work we already do to develop our Church communities as safe places for children,” he said.
“The work of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and the findings of the 2013 Betrayal of Trust report have highlighted the need for any institution to continually review how it cares for children responsibly.”
Charles Gibson, executive officer of the Royal Commission Task Group, said the next stage will be for the Church to monitor and support those involved in implementing the policy.
“Many of those who have suffered abuse as a child have personally spoken to us or to the various Inquiries and to the Royal Commission, or have written books about their experiences of abuse,” he said.
“They have consistently stated that their greatest wish is that all possible steps be taken to ensure that what they experienced is not experienced by children today or into the future.”
A Tasmanian launch is scheduled to take place later this year.
The Keeping Children Safe policy provides template procedures and guidelines to assist congregations, volunteers, staff and anyone involved with the Uniting Church with creating a safe environment for children. You can read the policy and download the templates here.
If you have questions about the Keeping Children Safe Policy, contact the synod’s Safe Church Educator at firstname.lastname@example.org or 03 9340 8810.