Media Releases

28 February 2024 - Audit shows key safeguarding requirements being met in Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle

A safeguarding audit report of the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle published today by Australian Catholic Safeguarding Ltd (ACSL) has found the Diocese is meeting key safeguarding requirements.

The audit assessed implementation of the National Catholic Safeguarding Standards (NCSS), covering measures in place to safeguard children and adults at risk from abuse.

The Diocese receive a compliance score of 98 per cent, meaning that all but 2 per cent of the safeguarding indicators applicable to its operations have either been fully embedded or substantially progressed at the time of the audit, which was completed between September and December 2023.

The Diocese was jointly audited by ACSL and Prolegis Lawyers, a specialist charity and not-for-profit law firm.

ACSL CEO Dr Ursula Stephens said that it is a pleasing result for the Diocese.

‘Our audit showed that the Diocese is committed to the safety of children and adults at risk throughout its leadership and in the ministries it provides.’

‘The history of abuse and cover up in the Newcastle region, which the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse shed light on, means that trauma very much exists in the community. Our audit processes, focused on what the Diocese is doing right now to create a safe community, showed that in 2024 there is a firm commitment to being trauma-informed in safeguarding.’

Bishop Michael Kennedy, leader of the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, also commented positively on the audit experience:

‘At the beginning of this process, I asked that the audit be particularly rigorous. I believed this was important given the history of our Diocese and those survivors who have, and continue to, deal with trauma. Extensive hours of work went into this process and I’m proud that the auditors found that we are successfully implementing and embedding a culture of safeguarding through our Diocese.

‘Our focus now is to maintain this momentum and continue improving our safeguarding structures, policies, practices and education so that the safeguarding of every child and vulnerable person is an intrinsic part of everything we do in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.’

Joint auditor, Mr Sam Burnett of Prolegis Lawyers said of the audit:

‘The Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle provides a range of services and activities to children and vulnerable people across different settings, including in parishes and schools. The safeguarding approach of the Diocese is sufficiently targeted and responsive to those different settings.’

Speaking further on the audit findings, ACSL CEO Dr Ursula Stephens said that several areas of good practice were observed during the audit.

‘The NCSS set best practice in key areas such as human resource management. One of the most impressive  strategies noted by the audit team was the Diocese’s centralised system for managing Working With Childrens Checks. Screening and checks of personnel working with vulnerable people (including children), while just one part of the safeguarding equation, are essential tools nonetheless.

  • CONTINUES NEXT PAGE –

‘Giving personnel the knowledge they need to recognise signs of abuse and take action to respond to risks is also essential. The Diocese has a well-structured and regularly reviewed safeguarding training program that is updated with feedback from participants to ensure it stays relevant to personnel.’

‘Through our audit we identified some areas for improvement, resulting in seven recommendations. We encourage stronger connection and engagement with adults at risk in the Diocesan community, so that more vulnerable groups can participate fully and safely in ministries and services. We have recommended that the Diocese support its ministries to develop strategies to better include adults at risk in discussions about safeguarding, including ways to provide feedback that are accessible for a variety of needs.’

All recommendations provided by the audit team have been accepted by the Diocese and will be implemented in the next 12 months.

View the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle’s audit report on ACSL’s website.

29 January 2024 - First gathering of new National Appeals and Review Panel leads to increased focus on trauma-informed review processes

Dr The Honourable Tricia Kavanagh, The Honourable Duncan Kerr (Chairperson), Greg Barns SC, Karen Robinson-Iles, Jeffrey Hack, Andrew Kitchin, Ken Moroney, Matt Casey

Not pictured: Tim Unsworth

A recent meeting of the National Appeals and Review Panel, facilitated by Australian Catholic Safeguarding Ltd (ACSL), has resulted in a greater focus on trauma-informed review processes.

To support the Catholic Church’s ongoing commitment to a fair and just complaints process, ACSL has established the National Appeals and Review Panel (NARP). NARP is the mechanism through which parties to a complaint relating to the abuse of minors or adults at risk within a Catholic entity can request a review of an investigation process or finding, and/or complaints process or outcome.

The 16 December 2023 meeting allowed the Panel to gather face to face for the first time since its formal inception under ACSL.

The Panel is Chaired by former Federal Court Judge The Honourable Duncan Kerr. The Panel comprises nine members experienced in law and investigations.

Speaking on the importance of the first in-person meeting of the Panel, The Hon Duncan Kerr said that a large focus of the discussion was on implementing a therapeutic jurisprudence approach, which involves considering mental health and wellbeing in conjunction with legal process and practice.

“To support this approach, the Panel discussed at length how in our role we can better consider the wellbeing of both complainants and respondents through our review processes. We agreed that part of this is allowing reviewers, should the circumstances support it, to gather additional information to finalise the review rather than setting aside investigation findings and recommending the appointment of a new investigation,” The Hon Kerr said.

“Historically reviews were conducted as a desk audit, and gathering further information was not considered to be part of the review process. With our newly agreed process we hope that this can assist to reduce the time and financial impacts of the complaint and review processes, supporting a more trauma-informed approach for those involved, ” The Hon Kerr said.

The December meeting was also an opportunity to review and outline the Panel’s governance structure and process of appointment to the Panel, and to provide feedback on a range of Panel policies and procedures.

More information on the role and scope of the National Appeals and Reviews Panel, including panel members biographies, are available on ACSL’s website.

21 December 2023 - Maronite Eparchy demonstrate commitment to safeguarding

Key safeguarding policies are in place within the Maronite Eparchy of Australia, New Zealand and Oceania, according to an audit focusing on the safeguarding of children released by Australian Catholic Safeguarding Ltd today.

The audit found that the Eparchy has either implemented or is substantially progressed in the
implementation of 100 per cent of the indicators relevant to them under the child-focused National Catholic Safeguarding Standards (NCSS).

The audit was undertaken at the invitation of Maronite Eparchy Bishop Antoine-Charbel Tarabay, and was completed in 2023 as the eparchy’s golden jubilee celebrations drew to an end.

ACSL CEO Dr Ursula Stephens said that NCSS safeguarding audits of Church entities across the country have been undertaken since 2019, and are part of building an organisation’s safeguarding capacity by checking that sound and robust processes are in place to keep children and adults at risk safe.

‘Our audit of the Maronite Eparchy of Australia is the first audit of an Eastern Rite church, and we were delighted to have the opportunity to spend time with the Maronite Community in Sydney to learn more about their safeguarding strategies in what is a very vibrant, youthful and active Catholic community.’

‘While safeguarding approaches will look different in each unique Church context, there are things we know every organisation needs to do to create safe communities for children.’

‘For instance, we look at how risks in the physical and online environments have been assessed and mitigated. In the case of the Maronites, we saw excellent work and attention to detail in their risk assessments for physical spaces, ministry programs, and approaches to responding to high-risk individuals.’

‘Our audits can help organisations work out where there are gaps, and how they can strengthen their existing processes. In our audit of the Eparchy, we did identify some areas that can be further systematised, such as bringing together their very detailed individual risk assessments for activities into an overarching Eparchy risk register.’

‘Our recommendations have been accepted by the Eparchy’s leadership and will be implemented in the following months. The Eparchy is now turning its focus to incorporating adults at risk into its safeguarding scope, in line with NCSS Edition 2.’

His Excellency Bishop Antoine-Charbel Tarabay, Bishop of the Maronite Eparchy of Australia, New Zealand and Oceania, said, ‘We are deeply committed to creating a safe and nurturing environment for all members of our community, especially children and vulnerable adults. The audit conducted by ACSL affirms our dedication to upholding the highest standards of safeguarding.

‘Our Eparchy remains steadfast in its mission to foster a community where every individual feels secure, respected, and cared for.’

View the Maronite Eparchy of Australia’s full audit report here.

20 December 2023 - Safeguarding audit of Sisters of St Joseph finds commitment to safeguarding embedded across Congregation’s leadership and ministries

A safeguarding audit report of the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart published this week by Australian Catholic Safeguarding Ltd (ACSL) has found safeguarding practices are understood and embedded across the Congregation’s members and key activities.

The audit assessed the Congregation’s implementation of the National Catholic Safeguarding Standards (NCSS), a framework to promote the safety of children in Catholic organisations.

The Sisters of St Joseph received a compliance score of 100 per cent against the NCSS, with all relevant NCSS indicators either fully or substantially progressed at the time of audit.

ACSL CEO Dr Ursula Stephens said that it was pleasing to see that efforts to ensure children who come in contact with the Congregation are safe have been prioritised.

‘Through our audit processes, including a desktop review of key safeguarding policies and site visits to centres in NSW and South Australia, as well as interviews with a sample of members across the Congregation, we identified solid practices in place’ Dr Stephens said.

‘For example, we saw great work by the Congregation in their implementation of a thorough safeguarding induction and ongoing training program. The Congregation’s Safeguarding Coordinator travels the country to provide training and support to members in different regions.’

‘Ongoing training for people who have contact with children is crucial. If personnel do not know what to do, they will not be able to prevent abuse, so it was great to see in our audit that the Sisters of St Joseph have a good program of ongoing safeguarding awareness training.’

‘As in any audit, we did identify some areas where the Congregation can tighten their existing processes and have provided two formal recommendations to the Congregation’s leadership. These have been accepted and will be implemented over the course of the next 12 months.’

The Sisters of St Joseph’s Congregational Leader Sr Monica Cavanagh said she was pleased to receive the outcome of this report:

‘The safeguarding of children has always had a unique place in our story and will continue to do so. We would like to acknowledge the commitment of the Sisters and staff for the way in which they have embraced the culture of safeguarding within their ministries. We also thank the professionalism of the ACSL auditors and the clarity of the audit process. The Congregation is committed to implementing Edition 2 of the National Catholic Safeguarding Standards.’

View the Sisters of St Joseph’s audit report on ACSL’s Publications and Reports page.

6 November 2023 - Diocese of Darwin leaders champion safeguarding culture

A safeguarding audit report of the Diocese of Darwin published this week by Australian Catholic Safeguarding Ltd (ACSL) has identified committed leadership and efforts to embrace diversity as key safeguarding strengths in the Diocese.

The audit, completed in September 2023, assessed the Diocese’s implementation of the National Catholic Safeguarding Standards (NCSS), a framework to promote the safety of children in Catholic organisations.

The Diocese undertook an NCSS Audit in 2019 and was assessed as having either fully implemented or substantially progressed in the implementation of 89 per cent of the indicators relevant to their ministries.

In the 2023 audit, which again concentrated on implementation of the child-focused NCSS, the Diocese has further progressed its implementation to reach a 100 per cent NCSS compliance rating.

ACSL CEO Dr Ursula Stephens said that in this second audit it was pleasing to see that the 13 recommendations from the 2019 audit had all been addressed and that safeguarding processes had overall been strengthened.

‘From our review and testing of policies and procedures, our audit site visits to parishes, ministries and the chancery office, and in our interviews with key leadership personnel as well as those working in parishes, we found that a safeguarding culture has been well-established across the Diocese,’ Dr Stephens said.

‘Of particular note is the strong framework around risk management the Diocese has put in place, with risk assessments now being completed by all parishes for their key activities, and a diocesan risk register which is regularly updated’.

‘We also observed good practice in efforts to make safeguarding materials accessible to the diverse range of communities who make up the Diocese. The Diocese is home to a number of multicultural communities, with several Masses being conducted in languages other than English.

‘We could see there was an active focus on diversity in all of the Diocese’s policies and practices, as well as a specific emphasis on engagement and collaboration with Indigenous communities. Safeguarding materials continue to be updated to be relevant to these communities, which will be important as the Diocese works towards embedding safeguarding policies and procedures that address adults at risk as well as children.’

‘We’ve provided five recommendations to the Diocese, which are a set of further practical safeguarding strategies and are intended to enhance and support existing practices,’ Dr Stephens said.

The Diocese of Darwin covers an area of 1.3 million square kilometres and encompasses almost all of the Northern Territory. The safeguarding policies, procedures and practices for ministry and pastoral work of the Diocese cover 20 parishes, 18 schools and a range of social welfare agencies.

View the Diocese of Darwin’s audit report on ACSL’s website.

2 November 2023 - Second safeguarding audit of Benedictine Community of New Norcia shows continued safeguarding awareness and strengthened culture of safety

Second safeguarding audit of Benedictine Community of New Norcia shows continued safeguarding awareness and strengthened culture of safety

A safeguarding audit report published this week by Australian Catholic Safeguarding Ltd (ACSL) has found an embedded culture of safeguarding evident throughout the Benedictine Community of New Norcia (the Community).

The Community of New Norcia is the only monastic town in Australia and is located 130 km north-east of Perth.

There are 10 monks associated with the monastery, of whom six reside at New Norcia. The Community also has lay personnel who work and volunteer in various capacities throughout the town. The Community runs guided tours for the public and there are several types of accommodation which can be hired for retreats or other occasions.

This is the second National Catholic Safeguarding Standards (NCSS) audit undertaken by the Community of New Norcia. The first audit in 2019 focused on NCSS Edition 1 and the child safety standards, while the second audit in 2023 assessed safeguarding practices for both children and adults at risk, in line with NCSS Edition 2.

ACSL CEO Dr Ursula Stephens said that through a review of the Community’s safeguarding documentation on the NCSS Self-Assessment Portal and subsequent audit fieldwork, it was plain to see that a culture of safeguarding is embedded in the life and activities of the New Norcia Community.

‘Our audit and visit to the Community this year was an affirming process, where we could see that work to respond to emerging and ongoing safeguarding risks has been made a priority by the Community.’

‘We were also impressed to see the emphasis on restorative justice and a trauma-informed approach evident throughout Community programs. For instance, there are numerous acknowledgements (for example, plaquettes) that individuals, families, and the community have been harmed and need restoration. These acknowledgements have been developed in close consultation with those affected, in keeping with the obligations held by the Benedictine Community to make things right as much as possible. All New Norcia staff have received training to manage unintended responses or reactions to their programs and displays (such as re-traumatisation) that may be triggered when visitors tour the Community.’

‘The 100 per cent compliance result of the 2023 NCSS audit is reflective of the safeguarding culture which is now firmly rooted in the Community. As a result of our audit, our team was pleased to offer some additional safeguarding recommendations to further enhance safeguarding capacity into the future, in line the Community’s commitment to continuous improvement,’ Dr Stephens said.

View the Benedictine Community of New Norcia’s audit report on ACSL’s website.

17 October 2023 - New Indigenous artwork helps tell story of ACSL and commitment to a safe Church

A new Indigenous artwork that helps tell the story of Australian Catholic Safeguarding Ltd (ACSL) and its commitment to creating safe spaces for everyone has this month been launched by ACSL.

Created by Aboriginal artist and Wiradjuri woman Lani Balzan, ‘The Path of Healing and Protection’ is a contemporary artwork that tells the story of ACSL’s mission: to create a culture of safety, care, and respect within the Catholic Church in Australia, especially for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

‘The artwork celebrates inclusion, restorative practice, and the concept of safe spaces while representing the transformative journey of healing and spirituality’, Ms Balzan said.

ACSL CEO Dr Ursula Stephens said that the artwork underscores ACSL’s recognition of Indigenous Australians as vital and valued members of the Catholic Church in Australia.

‘Injustices and abuse suffered by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders have been profound. Yet in spite of this painful history, our Church has been greatly enriched by Indigenous Spirituality and many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples retain their Catholic faith and are vital members of our Church.’

‘This artwork shows our determination to acknowledge the trauma that has been experienced by so many First Nations Australians within the Church, and at the same time, our resolution to pursue the path of healing and to ensure that our Church is safe for all people, through a shared commitment to safety and care,’ Dr Stephens said.

Speaking further to the artwork, creator Lani Balzan explained its key elements:

‘The central element of the artwork is the Gathering Symbol, representing Australian Catholic Safeguarding as an organisation. This symbol is adorned with a cross, embodying spirituality, faith, and guidance, which ACSL provides to those in need.’

‘Surrounding the central symbol are 12 smaller Gathering Symbols, symbolising safe spaces. These spaces are built upon strong foundations, denoted by their solidity and interconnectedness, emphasising the importance of community, and working together.’

‘The footprints leading along winding pathways represent the journeys that individuals have undertaken to overcome trauma. These paths symbolise the support and care provided by Australian Catholic Safeguarding, guiding them towards healing and restoration.’

‘The background of the artwork is filled with an array of dots, which symbolise the overshadowing effects of the past on the lives of survivors of child sexual abuse. These dots acknowledge the challenges that individuals have faced but also represent the enduring commitment to ensuring people are protected from abuse in the future. The dots are a lighter colour than the foreground, symbolising the diminishing influence of the past as we move towards a brighter and safer future.’

4 October 2023 - Australian Catholic Safeguarding Ltd supports Voice to Parliament

Australian Catholic Safeguarding Ltd joins its full support to the Yes campaign in the upcoming referendum.

We endorse the Uluru Statement from the Heart and its calls for voice, treaty and truth-telling.

We stand behind First Nations groups and communities calling for Constitutional recognition and a Voice to Parliament in the October 14 referendum.

ACSL recognises that disadvantage, marginalisation and disempowerment put children and adults at greater risk of abuse and discourages victims, survivors and witnesses from seeking help or healing.

We believe that a Voice to Parliament and appropriate Constitutional recognition are just, and that when Indigenous Australians are listened to and empowered, Indigenous children and adults at risk will be safer.

It is also critical that these principles are lived out within Catholic organisations. ACSL recognises the need to ensure that First Nations Catholics, and all those First Nations peoples who engage with the Church, have their voices heard in decisions affecting them. Many groups within the Church provide ministries and services that touch the lives of First Nations Australians in ways big and small.

We also acknowledge that the Catholic Church has been responsible for a great deal of harm to First Nations people. Through actions and inaction Catholics have perpetrated, permitted or failed to prevent many injustices.

These injustices and crimes, as well as the  abuse of Indigenous children and adults by clergy, religious and lay Catholics, have contributed to immense trauma. These facts are undeniable and deeply shameful.

At the same time, there is a rich history of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Catholicism. Our Church has been enriched by Indigenous Spirituality and many Indigenous people have been and remain Catholics despite the sins of their non-Indigenous sisters and brothers. Many other First Nations people retain a connection to the Catholic faith and community in various ways.

For these reasons ACSL adds our voice to the chorus of Catholic organisations that have already pledged their support to the Yes campaign.

We acknowledge this is but one step in a path to the ongoing project of reconciliation but it is a meaningful and appropriate step which we encourage all Catholics to support.

6 September 2023 - Safeguarding review of Order of Discalced Carmelite Nuns Goonellabah marks first published self-report of a Catholic entity

Australian Catholic Safeguarding Ltd (ACSL) has this week published a safeguarding review for the Order of Discalced Carmelite Nuns Goonellabah.

The Order of Discalced Carmelite Sisters (OCD Sisters) Goonellabah are an enclosed, contemplative religious community based in country NSW. The OCD Sisters are not engaged in public ministry and have a low safeguarding risk.

ACSL CEO Ursula Stephens said that due to these factors, a self-report against the National Catholic Safeguarding Standards that could be validated by ACSL was the most appropriate approach.

‘Every Catholic organisation, no matter their size, has safeguarding responsibilities. Measuring progress in implementing safeguarding processes is a vital way we learn if we are on the right track.  However, we acknowledge that a one-size fits all approach to review won’t work for all Catholic organisations, given how much ministries and activities can vary from one organisation to another.’

‘For the OCD Sisters Goonellabah, who dedicate themselves to a life of prayer, theirs is a completely contemplative life, which is conducted with clear separation from the public. The sisters do however have women in formation and potential aspirants who may enter formation in coming years. There is limited engagement with the general public.’

‘Making sure that key principles of the NCSS are in place or in development are things that we will examine for each organisation we review, regardless of their size or the nature of the ministry. These include assessing whether human resources frameworks that check people are safe to perform ministry are in place, whether complaints processes are documented and workable, and if there is a safeguarding culture being established and emphasised throughout the organisation.’

‘Under ACSL’s risk-based review framework, we determined that the OCD Sisters could complete a self-report against the NCSS, using the self-assessment portal developed by ACSL. We then validated the information and documentation provided by the Sisters through our own desktop review. We also followed this up through interviews with key personnel involved in the safeguarding process within the Order. ‘

‘The Self-Report completed by the OCD Sisters and our subsequent report validation showed us that the Sisters have fully implemented and embedded the National Catholic Safeguarding Standards as they apply to their Congregation.’

‘This is a very impressive result and demonstrates the commitment of a small order who have nonetheless worked hard to establish processes that aim to make their community a safe community for everyone.’

We have made recommendations for further improvement. The Sisters will now have 12 months to work through the recommendations before we follow up with them to assess their progress,’ Dr Stephens said.

The self-report validation is available on ACSL’s website.

10 August 2023 - Safety of children and adults at risk in focus for Congregation of Mary Queen of Peace

A safeguarding audit of Canberra-based Congregation of Mary Queen of Peace has found policies and procedures to keep children and adults at risk safe are developed and in place throughout the entity’s Australian operations.

The audit report, prepared by Australian Catholic Safeguarding Ltd (ACSL) and published today, assessed the Congregation’s implementation of the National Catholic Safeguarding Standards (NCSS), a framework for the safety of children and adults in Catholic entities. The audit found that 100 per cent of the indicators relevant to the Congregation were either fully embedded or substantially implemented at the time of the NCSS audit.

ACSL CEO Dr Ursula Stephens said that while the Congregation’s work in Australia is administratively focused and involves only incidental contact with children and adults at risk, the Congregation still has significant safeguarding responsibilities throughout their presence in Australia.

‘The Congregation of Mary Queen of Peace’s primary mission is based in Vietnam, and their work is to carry out the Church’s mission amongst children with disabilities and with the ethnic minorities of the Highlands of Viet Nam.’

‘The Sisters have a presence in the Archdiocese of Canberra-Goulburn through their religious house that allows them to connect with the local community and also serves a place for the sisters from Vietnam to come to Canberra for a period of study or work experience, after which they return to work in the Diocese of Ban Me Thuot in Vietnam.’

‘To scope the audit of the Congregation we used ACSL’s risk-based framework to target our assessment. This enabled us to identify relevant current and emerging risks for the Sisters’ operations in Australia.’

‘The Congregation provided safeguarding documentation to us through the NCSS Self-Assessment Portal, which ACSL has developed. After reviewing their responses to the self-assessment we were able to conduct focused and relevant interviews and discussions with members.’

‘While we can confirm that the NCSS have been addressed within the Congregation’s own safeguarding framework, we identified several areas where there is more that can be done.‘

‘A total of five recommendations to enhance safeguarding practice have been provided to the Congregation. Each recommendation has been accepted by the Congregation, and they will now have a period of 12 months to implement the recommendations,’ Dr Stephens said.

The audit report of the Congregation is available through the Publications and Reports area of ACSL’s website.

 

 

ACSL’s risk-based audit and review framework works to assess practical safeguarding risks for individual entities. The framework, centred on the National Catholic Safeguarding Standards (NCSS), considers the mission activity of the entity, the context in which it operates, and its current membership. This means that entities who undergo a self-assessment, review or audit are assessed against the NCSS criteria and indicators that directly relate to them. Entities commit to a three-year cycle for review/audit to support continuous improvement and integrate new legislative requirements and emerging best practice.

 ACSL is working with Australian Catholic Church entities to reach the goal of having all Catholic entities audited or reviewed against the NCSS by 2025. Australian Catholic entities have the choice of engaging ACSL as an auditor or selecting from a range of audit providers on the newly established NCSS External Auditor Register.  

13 April 2023 - Full marks for Sisters of St. John of God and Sisters of Mercy Parramatta in first NCSS safeguarding audits for 2023

Australian Catholic Safeguarding Ltd (ACSL) has this week published safeguarding audit reports for two orders of religious women, the Sisters of St. John of God and Sisters of Mercy Parramatta.

The safeguarding audits, conducted by ACSL, assessed the progress of both entities in implementing the National Catholic Safeguarding Standards (NCSS), a framework for the safety and protection of children and adults at risk in Catholic organisations.

Sisters of St. John of God

The Sisters of St. John of God operate the Sisters of St. John of God Heritage Centre in Broome, WA; the St. John of God Retreat Centre in Safety Bay, WA; and The Open Door in Dandenong, VIC, all of which are primarily focused on adults and potentially adults at risk.

Speaking after the report’s publication, ACSL CEO Dr Ursula Stephens said that the audit of the Sisters of St. John of God is the first to be completed against NCSS Ed.2 which includes an assessment of the safeguarding policies, procedures and practices associated with adults at risk.

“In December last year ACSL launched NCSS Ed. 2 covering adults at risk as well as children, representing a major step forward in the Australian Catholic Church’s commitment to creating a safe Church for everyone. While Church Authorities will still be assessed on safeguarding children until July 2024 unless they request otherwise, the Sisters of St. John of God have little contact with children and wanted to have their safeguarding program for adults at risk assessed as their most urgent priority.”

“Given the Sisters’ ministries fall outside the scope of current statutory safeguarding frameworks, the NCSS audit was a real opportunity to holistically review the safeguarding operating practices across the congregation’s work,” Dr Stephens said.

The Sisters received a 100 per cent compliance rating, meaning that all NCSS indicators have been implemented or substantially progressed in their implementation throughout the Sisters’ ministries at the time of writing.

“What we found was that the Sisters take safeguarding seriously and had thoroughly prepared for the audit.”

“The Sisters were able to use the NCSS Self-Assessment Portal to self-rate their implementation of the NCSS in the months leading up to the audit and used the safeguarding work plan it generated to address the safeguarding gaps uncovered through the self-assessment.”

“By the time of their audit, we could see the results of this work. We were then able to add our own recommendations to further strengthen the congregation’s ability to provide a safe environment for adults at risk and have provided the congregation with five areas for improvement to which they have committed over the next 6-12 months.”

The Sisters of St. John of God’s audit report is available on ACSL’s website.

Sisters of Mercy Parramatta

The second audit report published by ACSL this week is Sisters of Mercy Parramatta’s audit report.

One of Sisters of Mercy Parramatta’s major ministries is an Art and Family Therapy Program which involves contact with children. An assessment of safeguarding practices in this ministry was included in the Sisters’ NCSS audit, which measured progress in implementing the child-focused components of the NCSS.

Dr Stephens said that the audit team found a deep commitment to child safeguarding evident in the Sisters’ child safeguarding framework. Sisters of Mercy Parramatta received a 100 per cent compliance score, with five recommendations for further improvement provided by ACSL’s audit team.

“Sisters of Mercy Parramatta have done an excellent job in ensuring that the children, families and carers who access their service are aware of their rights to feel safe and be safe. They’ve also put substantial work into their human resource practices to ensure they are stringent in their approach to child safety.”

“As with all audits we conduct, our audit process with the Sisters included a final meeting where we discussed areas for improvement and agreed on time frames for action, so over the next 12 months we will be able to check in with the Sisters to track their response to our recommendations,” Dr Stephens said.

Sisters of Mercy Parramatta’s audit report is available on ACSL’s website.

 

ACSL’s risk-based audit and review framework works to assess practical safeguarding risks for individual entities. The framework, centred on the National Catholic Safeguarding Standards (NCSS), considers the mission activity of the entity, the context in which it operates, and its current membership. This means that entities who undergo a self-assessment, review or audit are assessed against the NCSS criteria and indicators that directly relate to them. Entities commit to a three-year cycle for review/audit to support continuous improvement and integrate new legislative requirements and emerging best practice.

 ACSL is working with Australian Catholic Church entities to reach the goal of having all Catholic entities audited or reviewed against the NCSS by 2025. Australian Catholic entities have the choice of engaging ACSL as an auditor or selecting from a range of audit providers on the newly established NCSS External Auditor Register.  

20 December 2022 - Second safeguarding audit of Presentation Sisters Wagga Wagga shows Congregation fully committed to safety of children

Australian Catholic Safeguarding Ltd (ACSL) this week published its second safeguarding audit report for the Presentation Sisters Wagga Wagga (PSWW).

The audit, conducted by ACSL, assessed the Congregation’s progress in implementing the National Catholic Safeguarding Standards (NCSS), a framework for the safety and protection of children and adults at risk in Catholic organisations.

The audit commenced in October 2022 and focused on the measures in place to ensure the safety of children and young people in PSWW’s work.

The audit found that the religious congregation of Sisters were implementing 99 per cent of the NCSS indicators relevant to their Congregation.

ACSL CEO Dr Ursula Stephens said that this is an outstanding result for the Sisters.

‘PSWW have demonstrated, in this their second audit against the NCSS, their deeply embedded and genuine commitment to the safety of all those with whom they interact,’ Dr Stephens said.

‘After first being audited in 2019 and meeting compliance with 98 per cent of the indicators then, what we have witnessed in this second audit is an even deeper progression of safeguarding awareness.’

‘A number of changes within the Congregation, including a change of leadership and the planned transference of a key ministry hasn’t lessened their commitment to do all they can to provide a safe environment for children.’

‘The recommendations of the 2019 audit have been fully implemented, but the Sisters will take with them three new recommendations which they are committed to implementing in 2023. The recommendations concern their Code of Conduct, enhancing certain human resource processes to emphasise safeguarding, ensuring that personnel are fully empowered to implement best practice complaint handling processes, and upgrading IT practices,’ Dr Stephens said.

ACSL’s risk-based audit and review framework works to assess practical safeguarding risks for individual entities. The framework considers the mission activity of the entity, the context in which it operates, and its current membership. This means that entities who undergo a self-assessment, review or audit are assessed against the NCSS criteria and indicators that directly relate to them. Entities commit to a three-year cycle for review/audit to support continuous improvement and integrate new legislative requirements and emerging best practice.

ACSL is currently working with a range of other Catholic entities to assess their progress in implementing the NCSS.

The PSWW audit report is available on ACSL’s website.

 

7 December 2022 - Catholic Church makes safety of adults at risk key priority with adoption of new national safeguarding standards

Australian Catholic Safeguarding Ltd (ACSL) has today formally launched the second edition of the National Catholic Safeguarding Standards (NCSS) covering adults at risk as well as children.

ACSL has worked with the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC), Catholic Religious Australia (CRA) and the Association of Ministerial Public Juridic Persons (AMPJP) to develop the NCSS Edition 2.

The release of NCSS Edition 2 comes just one week before the five-year anniversary of the Royal Commission into Institutional Response to Child Sexual Abuse’s final report.

ACSL Board Chair the Hon. Michael Lavarch AO said that the adoption of the new Standards clearly demonstrates that the Church is vigilant of emerging safeguarding risks for everyone in Catholic communities, especially children and adults at risk.

‘The Standards address the safeguarding requirements of adults (with a focus on adults at risk) by both reflecting the duty of care owed to everyone, as well as recognising that there are particular risk-factors that cause some people to be more susceptible to abuse,’ Mr Lavarch said.

‘Including adults at risk within the safeguarding standards is a major milestone for the Church, as there are many groups running ministries with adults as well as children. The new Standards aim to address the power imbalances that can occur in a range of Church contexts, which can be a risk factor for abuse.’

‘Church organisations embraced Edition 1 of the Standards, and put measures in place to create safer environments for children, consistent with the National Child Safe Principles. They will now consider what they can do better to improve safety for adults at risk in our communities as well, ’Mr Lavarch said.

‘Importantly, these Standards have been developed in consultation with Church Authorities, safeguarding personnel, and those with a lived experience of abuse.’

‘Addressing safeguarding requirements for adults at risk is part of the Catholic Church’s ongoing response to the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. NCSS Edition 2 is one way in which the Church is being proactive in responding to the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety and Royal Commission into Violence, Abuse, Neglect and Exploitation of People with Disability,’ Mr Lavarch said.

Commenting on the launch of the Standards, Archbishop Timothy Costelloe, President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference said that collaboration had been a hallmark of the Standards development process.

‘The Bishops Conference is pleased to endorse this second edition of the National Catholic Safeguarding Standards, which is the result of significant energy, mutual collaboration and discernment. These Standards, broadening the scope to include adults at risk and refining our practices and procedures, are the latest milestone on the Church’s committed and ongoing journey of creating and maintaining safe environments for all people,’ Archbishop Costelloe said.

‘CRA supports every entity within the Church taking the necessary steps to make the Church a safe place for all, particularly children and adults at risk, in a manner consistent with the National Child Safe Principles. We continue to encourage all Catholic entities to take their responsibilities, legal and moral, very seriously in all their decision making,’ said Peter Jones OSA, CRA President.

ACSL will release guidance, learning materials and share resources and examples of good practice to address the new requirements of NCSS Edition 2.

View the NCSS Edition 2.

2 December 2022 — St Columbans Mission Society safeguarding audit report shows child safety taken seriously

A safeguarding audit report of the St Columbans Mission Society published today by Australian Catholic Safeguarding Ltd (ACSL) has found the Order is well progressed in its implementation of the National Catholic Safeguarding Standards.

The 10 National Catholic Safeguarding Standards (NCSS) create a framework for Catholic entities to promote the safety of children. The NCSS incorporate recommendations from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and also the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations, contextualising these requirements for the Catholic Church in Australia.

Commenting on the findings of the safeguarding audit, ACSL CEO Dr Ursula Stephens said that while the Society has little direct contact with children, it takes implementing a safeguarding culture very seriously, which is demonstrated through their proactive work over the last 10 years and their score of 96 per cent compliance with the NCSS.

‘Our audit found that the Society has put the work into developing an appropriate safeguarding culture, and developing and implementing the policies and procedures which support a safe community. While there are fewer than 30 ordained Members of the Society in Australia, several of whom are in retirement, the Society is still engaged in ministry work throughout its religious communities, and through associates including students, lay missionaries, associate priests, paid employees, volunteers and contractors.’

‘Every Catholic entity, ministry and organisation needs to take deliberate steps to protect children from physical, sexual, emotional and psychological abuse. The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse showed us that all organisations need to take steps to invest in risk management, in people, management and culture, and continuous improvement.’

‘Our audit found good practices in the Society’s commitment to record keeping and regular risk assessments. The movement of ordained Members across religious communities is also well monitored, with all Members (except those in retirement) using the Australian Catholic Ministry Register.’

‘We were also able to identify some areas for improvement. We’ve provided five recommendations to the Society which will help to further embed their safeguarding policies and procedures, and ultimately, create a safe environment for people who interact with the community. These recommendations include tightening their Code of Conduct to reflect a zero tolerance to abuse, developing role descriptions for members of their safeguarding committee, ensuring leadership is regularly reviewing member appraisals in relation to safeguarding, providing plain language complaints handling information materials, and finalising a Privacy and Information Sharing Policy so it can be fully implemented,’ Dr Stephens said.

The audit report of the St Columbans Mission Society is available through the Publications and Reports area of ACSL’s website.

23 November 2022 — Former Federal Court Justice Duncan Kerr to chair Catholic Church National Appeals and Review Panel

Former justice of the Federal Court The Honourable Duncan Kerr has today been announced as the new Chair of the Catholic Church’s National Appeals and Review Panel.

The National Appeals and Review Panel, managed by Australian Catholic Safeguarding Ltd (ACSL), is an independent panel which facilitates reviews for complaints concerning abuse against children and vulnerable adults that have been managed by Australian Catholic Church Authorities.

Speaking shortly after the announcement, ACSL CEO Dr Ursula Stephens said that the appointment is very significant in the life of the Review Panel, given Mr Kerr’s substantial experience.

‘The National Appeals and Review Panel looks into the management of complaints to ensure there has been procedural fairness and a robust process. Reviews are taken incredibly seriously. For complainants, respondents or Church Authorities who feel their complaint has not been handled appropriately, the Panel is here to thoroughly and compassionately review the processes to determine whether the outcome of the complaint management has been procedurally fair,’ Dr Stephens said.

‘Mr Kerr taking leadership of the Panel means that there is deep experience and expertise at the highest review level to oversee the processes of the panel.’

In addition to his tenure as a former justice of the Federal Court from 2012 – February 2022, Mr Kerr is a barrister who has served as President of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal from 2012 to 2017, as a member of federal parliament from 1987-2010, and as Minister for Justice from 1993-1996.

The National Review and Appeals Panel can facilitate a review into a previous complaint that was made to and managed by a Church Authority under recognised Professional and Safeguarding Standards of the Catholic Church: the National Response Protocol, Towards Healing or the complaints management policy of an individual Catholic Church Authority, including dioceses and religious institutes.

A review can be requested by:

  1. the complainant, in relation to the process and/or findings of an investigation, or based on an objection to how a matter has been managed or the outcome of the complaint;
  2. the respondent, if they cooperated with the investigation process, in relation to the process and/or findings of an investigation, or based on an objection to how a matter has been managed or the outcome of the complaint; and
  3. the Responding Church Authority, in relation to the process and/or findings of an investigation.

The National Appeals and Review Panel has been managed by ACSL since 2021.

More information about the National Appeals and Review Panel is available on ACSL’s website.

13 September 2022 — WA’s Servite College – walking the talk on safeguarding its school community

The safeguarding audit of Servite College in Perth has found strong safeguarding practices in place throughout the College environment. The audit, undertaken by Australian Catholic Safeguarding Ltd (ACSL) assessed the College’s implementation of the National Catholic Safeguarding Standards (NCSS), a framework for Catholic entities to promote the safety of children and young people.

Servite College is a co-educational Catholic secondary college with over 1000 students. It operates under the governance of the Order of the Servants of Mary. The audit found that the College has a deep commitment to the National Child Safety Principles which are embedded in the National Catholic Safeguarding Standards, and demonstrate this through a culture of care, right across the school community.

ACSL CEO Dr Ursula Stephens said that the findings of the external safeguarding audit are encouraging for parents and families of students at the College, as they show the degree of care and attention the College has given to create and maintain a safe environment for students and staff.

Servite College also meets all the reporting and safeguarding requirements of Catholic Education WA and are committed to the charisms of the Order of the Servants of Mary.

‘Under the NCSS, our audit team considered not only regulatory compliance, but also how students concerns are being heard in safeguarding, how the community is engaged within the school, and how diversity and equity are being upheld across safeguarding practices,’ Dr Stephens said.

‘We found that across the board, there is a high degree of compliance with the NCSS. Particularly of note are the positive ways that children and families are engaged in providing feedback on safeguarding policies and practices.’

‘Many students, staff and families interviewed mentioned Servite Concern, an app available to all associated with the College (student, personnel and families) to report concerns anonymously, and to identify issues or situations where there are real or perceived safety issues. This is considered a very important asset to safeguarding and wellbeing within the College community.’

‘We also saw good work around developing resources to provide information to students and parents about safe and respectful peer relationships, including through social media, which is a growing area of concern for many schools,’ Dr Stephens said.

Servite College Principal Ms Silvana Vicoli described the audit process as positive and professional.

‘We were proud to be able to share our student experience and school community with ACSL,’ Ms Vicoli said.

‘Our focus on the individualised care, support and learning outcomes of each Servite student drives our progress and we are delighted the audit report recognised our contribution to system-wide knowledge and practice in safeguarding within Catholic Education in Western Australia,’ Ms Vicoli said.

ACSL has made 12 recommendations to the College to strengthen their child safeguarding practices and created a continuous improvement plan to guide their efforts.

A safeguarding audit of the Order of the Servants of Mary was also conducted by ACSL. The findings of the College audit are an annexure to the Servite Order report. Both reports are available through the Publications and Reports area of ACSL’s website.

13 September 2022 — Servite Order show their commitment to the safety of children through safeguarding audit, including school ministry

A safeguarding audit report of the Order of Servants of Mary (Servite Order) published today by Australian Catholic Safeguarding Ltd (ACSL) has identified a strong commitment to the safety of children throughout the Order’s operations.

A small community of religious men in Western Australia, comprising of nine friars, the Servite Order has taken up a variety of ministries including the administration of a local parish, school chaplaincy and governance of a secondary school (Servite College).

The audit found that the Servite Order has implemented or is substantially progressed in the implementation of 90 per cent of the indicators relevant to its operations under the National Catholic Safeguarding Standards (NCSS).

ACSL CEO Dr Ursula Stephens noted that the audit showed the Order has zero tolerance for child abuse, and is doing well overall in meeting their safeguarding commitments.

‘Our audit of the Order focused on examining leadership, governance and culture, human resource management, effective complaints management, training, and continuous improvement,’ Dr Stephens said.

‘These are all areas of focus borne out of recommendations from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. Having these key safeguarding capabilities in place can help to create a safe organisation for children.’

‘Our audit work showed that there is a strong level of safeguarding awareness across Order members, and the findings from the Royal Commission continue to be taken seriously.’

‘We can also see practical ways to enhance the safeguarding measures already in place within the Servite Order, which is the continuous improvement piece of the audit. For example, our report notes that the Order does not currently have terms of reference in place for their Safeguarding Committee. While the terms of reference have been drafted, not having these endorsed and in place at present is a gap, as the scope and accountability of the Committee have not been publicly communicated. Once these are endorsed and in place, the Committee will be in a good position to work through the other recommendations coming out of this audit,’ Dr Stephens said.

Servite Order Provincial Delegate Fra. Peter Porteous described the audit in positive terms, noting that the Order now has a clear plan and a timeline to address recommendations.

‘ACSL’s audit team identified a few areas we need to work on. In so doing, they have acknowledged our efforts so far and provided us with the confidence to continue improving our safeguarding processes,’ Fra. Peter said.

A safeguarding audit of the Servite College was also conducted by ACSL. The findings of the College audit are an annexure to the Servite Order report. Both reports are available through the Publications and Reports area of ACSL’s website.

8 September 2022 — Catholic agencies commit to giving every child a ‘fair go’ through their implementation of the National Catholic Safeguarding Standards

In National Child Protection Week the theme ‘Every child, in every community, needs a fair go’ is being endorsed by Catholic agencies across Australia.

Catholic Social Services Australia, Catholic Health Australia, the National Catholic Education Commission, Catholic Employment Relations and Caritas Australia are among those lending their support to National Child Protection Week in a very tangible way.

The National Catholic Safeguarding Standards, which incorporate the National Child Safe Principles, have been endorsed for all Catholic organisations who are engaged with children and young people. They underpin the Catholic Church’s commitment to working towards a common goal of every child, in every community being safe, cared for, having their needs met and being afforded the chance to realise their potential.

Chair of Australian Catholic Safeguarding Limited, Prof Michael Lavarch AO has invited Catholic organisations to sign up to show their commitment to the NCSS though the ACSL website and download the NCSS commitment badge for use on their websites and social media.

“ACSL acknowledges the lifelong harm and trauma that is experienced by children who are subjected to neglect, violence and abuse.  We are committed though the social mission of the Church, to help create communities that support families and children,’ Professor Lavarch said.

CEO of Catholic Social Services Australia (CSSA), Monique Earsman acknowledges the range of services provided by Catholic agencies to support families, and has called for stronger action for families, particularly those living in entrenched disadvantaged communities as highlighted by the 2020 CSSA Research “Mapping the Potential”.

“We know the communities where investment in services and early intervention will make a difference to the life trajectory of these children. We must address the cycle of intergenerational poverty and disadvantage to provide a better future for the children in our care,” Ms Earsman said.

Jacinta Collins, Executive Director of the National Catholic Education Commission says that building a strong school community that invests in supporting children so that they can focus on learning, development and wellbeing, is critical to having a productive and healthy community.

“Our Catholic schools are committed to ensuring the most supportive learning opportunities are provided to children and young people to nurture their future wellbeing. We want all our students to have a fair go.”

“The National Catholic Safeguarding Standards capture this culture of care and safety, and are wholly supported by the National Catholic Education Commission,” Ms Collins said.

Catholic Employment Relations CEO, Ian Yard-Smith has acknowledged how the stress of the past two years have impacted on work and family relationships, and through that the wellbeing of many children.

“By our work in supporting employers to support their employees navigate those pressures we hope to contribute to an environment of safety for children. The stress of finances, health, work or relationships can make it difficult for parents and carers to navigate life and provide the stability that is so important for children.”

Kirsty Robertson, CEO of Caritas Australia says that the National Catholic Safeguarding Standards support the social justice mission of the Church.

“As the international aid and development agency of the Catholic Church it is our mission to promote social justice and the dignity of every person, particularly those who are most vulnerable. Our unrelenting commitment to safeguarding and the implementation of these standards are paramount to our work and our mission,” Ms Robertson said.

ACSL CEO Dr Ursula Stephens says that Catholic communities are involved in many community events throughout National Child Protection Week, from art competitions, performances, parades and even kite flying.

“We encourage all Catholic organisations to demonstrate their commitment to National Child Protection Week and support our collective efforts to ensure every community across Australia has strong foundations for families and children.”

To sign up to the NCSS Commitment page and download the NCSS Commitment Badge, visit ACSL’s website.

4 August 2022 — New draft code of safety for the Catholic Church: ‘Our Common Mission’ launched for consultation

4 August 2022

Australian Catholic Safeguarding Ltd (ACSL) and Australia’s Catholic Bishops Conference have this week released the first draft of the Church’s new code of safety, entitled Our Common Mission.

Our Common Mission sets out the commitment of the Catholic Church in Australia to put safety at the centre of mission. It is a document intended to be adopted by all Church entities to inform ongoing formation in ministry and service for both people in religious ministry and lay people.

ACSL CEO and Advisory Group Member Dr Ursula Stephens said that in drafting Our Common Mission, the intention has been to create something that can speak directly and inclusively to diverse groups.

Our Common Mission is a short document and that’s something which is very intentional. It outlines foundational principles based on culture, relationships and formation that can guide each entity to develop their own organisational code of conducts that respond to their unique contexts, while still reflecting a cohesive national commitment to putting safety squarely at the centre of mission,’ Dr Stephens said.

‘We are now inviting all Church entities to consider how they would embed Our Common Mission in their organisation and provide us with feedback on the draft. This will inform a final version for approval in November 2022 and dissemination across all entities. To help prompt reflection on the document we’ve developed a Conversation Guide which accompanies Our Common Mission,’ Dr Stephens said.

Our Common Mission has been developed in response to Recommendation 16.49 of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse which states that ‘codes of conduct in religious institutions should explicitly and equally apply to people in religious ministry and to lay people’, a recommendation which was accepted by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference and Catholic Religious Australia.

In October 2021, ACSL established an advisory group to guide the writing of a national code for all Catholic ministries and services. Advisory group members (Sr Veronica Hoey SGS – Chair, Dr Jane Comensoli, Dr David Leary OFM, Sr Ailsa MacKinnon RSM, Rev Dr Jake Mudge, and Dr Ursula Stephens – CEO ACSL) provided input on the draft, which reflects current ecclesiology and safeguarding within an Australian and global context and recognises the imperative of each entity to develop their own codes of conduct.

Our Common Mission complements existing Church protocols and standards including the National Catholic Safeguarding Standards, the National Response Protocol, and the National Response Framework.

Other Church protocols such as Integrity in Ministry and Integrity in the Service of the Church which detail a range of specific behavioural standards can still be used, but some of these standards have been condensed and updated in Our Common Mission.

Read Our Common Mission

Read the Our Common Mission Conversation Guide

Provide your responses through the Consult


 ACSL works with Catholic entities to promote and oversee a nationally consistent, comprehensive and sustainable framework for the protection of children and adults at risk within the Church in Australia. 

Media contact: Kat Beavis  0400 825 954

ation Survey by 31 August 2022.


 

26 May 2022 — Collaboration key to safeguarding approach across Carmelite Fathers ministries 26 May 2022

26 May 2022

A safeguarding audit report of the Carmelite Fathers Australia & Timor-Leste published today by Australian Catholic Safeguarding Ltd (ACSL) has found strong commitment to child safety across the religious institute’s operations.

The audit assessed the Carmelite Fathers’ progress in implementing the National Catholic Safeguarding Standards (NCSS), a framework for the safety and protection of children in Catholic organisations.

The Carmelite Fathers’ work in Australia serves communities across a variety of operations, including administering three parishes in partnership with local dioceses, working as chaplains in hospitals and schools, and running a spirituality and retreat centre. Since 2001, the Carmelite Fathers have also provided ministries in Timor-Leste focused on forming young men as seminarians.

ACSL’s audit processes involved a thorough review of the Carmelite’s safeguarding processes and policies, interviews with key safeguarding personnel, members of the Carmelites in Australia and Timor-Leste, and a site visit to an Australian parish administered by the religious institute.

ACSL CEO Dr Ursula Stephens said that the Carmelite Fathers were able to demonstrate that 97 per cent of the NCSS criteria and indicators relevant to the institute were either fully implemented, or substantially progressed at the time of audit.

‘Through our audit we noted the great opportunities the Carmelite Fathers have for sharing safeguarding knowledge in the parishes; they have a presence which extends across two archdioceses and a diocese. Moreover, the parishes benefit from the support offered by Professional Standards Units within the dioceses, with the dioceses in turn benefiting from the resources the Carmelite Fathers have developed for their institute. Their willingness to work together is a critical component of creating a safe Church for everyone,” Dr Stephens said.

‘The same commitment to the safety of children, and seminarians, was apparent through the Carmelite Fathers work in Timor-Leste. The institute has engaged a local non-government agency to assist them in implementing effective safeguarding practices with culturally sensitivity. This strategy also includes ongoing training and safeguarding resources being translated in Tetum, the main language used in Timor-Leste.’

‘As with any audit, there are learnings and opportunities for improvement. We have provided six recommendations to the Carmelite Fathers that will further strengthen their ability to provide a safe environment for all people. These include formally appointing a dedicated safeguarding officer to the operations in Timor-Leste, updating core safeguarding policies to address children as well as adults at risk, creating detailed risk registers, and ensuring safeguarding materials are child-friendly and accessible for both children and adults at risk,’ Dr Stephens said.

The audit report of the Carmelite Fathers Australia and Timor-Leste is available through the Publications and Reports area of ACSL’s website.


 ACSL works with Catholic entities to promote and oversee a nationally consistent, comprehensive and sustainable framework for the protection of children and adults at risk within the Church in Australia. 

Media contact: Kat Beavis  0400 825 954

29 April 2022 — ACSL launches new safeguarding portal for Australian Church entities

29 April 2022

A new portal launched today by ACSL will help Catholic organisations measure their progress in applying the National Catholic Safeguarding Standards (NCSS).

Marking the launch of the portal, ACSL CEO Dr Ursula Stephens described it as a crucial resource for entities wanting to understand where their current safeguarding standards are in relation to best practice.

“It is intuitive, easy to navigate and use and will be invaluable to safeguarding personnel everywhere. The portal we have developed will help Catholic entities to meet their own legislative safeguarding requirements in a timely way,” Dr Stephens said.

The NCSS, against which entities using the portal will assess themselves, create a framework for Catholic entities to promote the safety of children and adults at risk. The Standards outline the policies and activities that will prevent, respond to, and support reporting of concerns of abuse.

“The Standards are mapped to the National Child Safe Principles and incorporate recommendations from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. Portal users will notice that the provisional text of the second edition of the Standards is used. This edition includes measures to support adults at risk who also engage with Church ministries, in response to issues raised in the Royal Commissions into Aged Care and Disability,” Dr Stephens said.

“Entities can work through the requirements of the Standards online and attach supporting documentation as evidence. The portal will generate a progress plan for organisations working towards accreditation and reporting. All the key documentation is in one place, so tasks can be allocated to staff, and progress recorded.”

“The portal allows users to monitor their progress in implementing the Standards. Those seeking accreditation against the NCSS will be able to use the portal in preparing for a review or audit.”

“Access to the portal will be free of charge for ACSL subscribers, which includes dioceses, religious institutes and MPJPs”.

“As more Church entities engage with the portal, it will provide a good overview of where the Church, as a whole, is doing well in safeguarding, and where there is still work to be done. This is an important evidence base for us to draw on, to report on the work that has been undertaken in the last five years to make the Church a safe place for all people.”

“We invite Church Authorities to register for the portal and start a self-assessment as soon as they are able. This is a great step forward for Catholic entities and we’re excited by the enthusiastic response we have received already from entities keen to use the portal,” Dr Stephens said.

For questions about the NCSS Accreditation Portal, please email Dr David Treanor, Manager of Audit and Review at assess@acsltd.org.au.


 ACSL works with Catholic entities to promote and oversee a nationally consistent, comprehensive and sustainable framework for the protection of children and adults at risk within the Church in Australia. 

Media contact: Kat Beavis  0400 825 954

23 March 2022 — Diocese of Toowoomba demonstrates strong safeguarding commitment and inclusive approach

23 March 2022

Australian Catholic Safeguarding Ltd (ACSL) has today published its safeguarding audit report on the Diocese of Toowoomba.

The audit, conducted by ACSL, assessed the Diocese’s progress in implementing the National Catholic Safeguarding Standards (NCSS), a framework for the safety and protection of children and adults at risk in Catholic organisations.

ACSL Chief Executive Officer Dr Ursula Stephens said that the Diocese has performed strongly, with 87 per cent of the NCSS criteria and indicators relevant to the Diocese either fully implemented, or substantially progressed.

The audit commenced in January 2022 and included a review of the Diocese’s safeguarding processes and policies, as well as site visits and interviews with key safeguarding personnel.  Site visits to a sample of parishes and ministries within the Toowoomba region took place in February 2022.

‘The Toowoomba Diocese demonstrates a strong commitment to the care and protection of children by the diocesan leadership, who have implemented thoughtful and effective safeguarding practices in place within their parishes and ministries. The Diocese highlighted their inclusive Aboriginal Apostolate and their Special Religious Education support ministry for adults with intellectual disability,’ Dr Stephens said

‘The proactive safeguarding work of the Executive Officer, who has a dedicated safeguarding role, through his regular visits to parishes and his availability to work closely with personnel, is testament to the investment in cultural change being achieved across the Diocese.’

‘It is clear that child safety is a significant priority for the Diocese, and they have done significant work to embed practices that place child safety at the fore of thinking, action, and practice throughout their operations. Yet nothing is ever static within a large diocese, and there is always room for improvement.’

‘We have provided seven recommendations to the Diocese that will further strengthen their ability to provide a safe environment for all people. These include updating core safeguarding policies to address children as well as adults at risk, creating detailed risk registers at the level of each parish and ministry, and ensuring safeguarding materials are accessible for children and the local CALD communities.’

‘We can also see great opportunities for sharing knowledge across the Diocese. For instance, many parishes already draw upon school-based materials regarding safe and respectful relationships, since many safeguarding representatives experience come from within schools. There is an opportunity to further this collaboration between parishes and schools by providing access to formation and training with Catholic schools, where there is specialised safeguarding knowledge, and bringing this learning into the parishes,” Dr Stephens said.

The audit of the Diocese of Toowoomba is the 27th child safety audit of a Catholic Church entity by ACSL.

ACSL is now finalising the second edition of the National Catholic Safeguarding Standards, which will address safeguarding requirements for adults at risk as well as children.

The full audit report can be found here.


 ACSL works with Catholic entities to promote and oversee a nationally consistent, comprehensive and sustainable framework for the protection of children and adults at risk within the Church in Australia. 

Media contact: Kat Beavis  0400 825 954

17 December 2021 — Sisters of the Good Shepherd safeguarding audit published

17 December 2021

Australian Catholic Safeguarding Ltd (ACSL) has today published the safeguarding audit report of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd (Australia and New Zealand). The report indicates that the Sisters of the Good Shepherd have fully implemented or are substantially progressed in the implementation of all 63 (100%) Indicators of the National Catholic Safeguarding Standards relevant to their operations.

The audit reports Church entities’ progress in implementing the National Catholic Safeguarding Standards. The Standards are a national framework for the protection and safety of children in Catholic organisations.

This is the final safeguarding audit report of Australian Catholic entities completed by ACSL for 2021. It demonstrates the strong commitment of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd to ensuring a safe Church for everyone.

ACSL’s Manager of Audit and Review, Dr David Treanor, said that safeguarding audits conducted by ACSL form part of the Catholic Church’s ongoing response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

“Through our audit program we help Church entities identify any risks in their safeguarding practices. We then provide practical recommendations to improve child safety within the organisation.”

“We undertake a detailed review of the policies and documentation and combine this with interviews with key personnel about safeguarding practices within the organisation.”

“We congratulate the Sisters for their work in committing to the Standards. They have demonstrated the cultural change that helps to create child safe organisations and are committed to continuous improvements in their safeguarding practices.”

Dr Treanor said that the development of ACSL’s new audit and review framework is also progressing, in line with ACSL’s commitment to continuous improvement. “Future audits will be very much risk-based and proportionate to the Church entities’ engagement in ministry and the safeguarding of children and adults at risk. This is in line with ACSL’s own commitment to continuous improvement and something we look forward to sharing more about in 2022.”

The full audit can be found here.


 ACSL works with Catholic entities to promote and oversee a nationally consistent, comprehensive and sustainable framework for the protection of children and adults at risk within the Church in Australia. 

Media contact: Dr. David Treanor 0439 974 470

16 September 2021 — Commitment to safeguarding in overseas ministries among significant findings of De La Salle Brothers safeguarding audit report

Thursday, 16 September 2021

Australian Catholic Safeguarding Ltd (ACSL) has today published the safeguarding audit report of the De La Salle Brothers District of Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan and Papua New Guinea.

The audit found that the De La Salle Brothers (DLSB) have implemented 91 per cent of the indicators relevant to their operations under the National Catholic Safeguarding Standards, a national framework for the protection and safety of children in Catholic organisations.

ACSL Chief Executive Officer Dr Ursula Stephens said that this is a particularly impressive result for a religious institute with complex and diverse ministries across Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan and Papua New Guinea.

“Through our audit procedures, which covered a sample of ministries across four countries and included interviews with 20 Brothers, we found a strong commitment to the safeguarding of children and adults at risk.”

“This was evident through the fact that key safeguarding documents have been distributed to all ministries, translated into local languages, and are required to be acknowledged and signed by all Brothers, staff and volunteers. Crucially, there is oversight of safeguarding activities across the four countries through the work of a dedicated safeguarding officer and safeguarding committee.”

“Within Australia, DLSB have governance over primary and secondary schools as well as the charity yourtown, which operates a range of services for children and young people, including Kids Helpline, Australia’s most prominent telephone and online counselling service for young people.”

“Given the Australian schools and yourtown are subject to existing regulation and external accreditation, we do not re-audit them under our framework. They were however required to provide declarations to us regarding the accreditation and audit processes that are in place, and were subject to extensive interview by our audit team.”

“The recognition and community standing of these services is an indication of the commitment of DLSB to child safeguarding.  Feedback on safeguarding practices is encouraged, monitored and any issues addressed.”

“We’ve also identified areas of improvement for DLSB and have provided tailored recommendations to strengthen child safeguarding practices throughout their operations.”

“For instance, despite the number of areas where DLSB are already implementing the Safeguarding Standards, they are yet to develop a formal Safeguarding Implementation Plan that is documented and actionable. From here, DLSB have committed to using the findings and recommendations of the report to create a Safeguarding Implementation Plan, which will include monitoring and self-audit processes,” Dr Stephens said.

The full safeguarding audit report of the De La Salle Brothers is available on the Church Reports page of ACSL’s website.


ACSL works with Catholic entities to promote and oversee a nationally consistent, comprehensive and sustainable framework for the protection of children and adults at risk within the Church in Australia. 

Media contact: Kat Beavis  0400 825 954

13 August 2021 — Australian Catholic Safeguarding Ltd publishes 20th and 21st Safeguarding Audit Reports of Australian Church entities

Friday, 13 August 2021

Australian Catholic Safeguarding Ltd (ACSL) has today published safeguarding audit reports of the Marist Sisters Australian Unit (MSAU) and the Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of Australia and Papua New Guinea (ISMAPNG).

The audit reports on Church entities’ progress in implementing the National Catholic Safeguarding Standards, a national framework for the protection and safety of children in Catholic organisations.

These are the 20th and 21st safeguarding audit reports of Australian Catholic entities completed by ACSL and demonstrate the commitment of these religious institutions to ensuring a safe church for everyone.

ACSL CEO Dr Ursula Stephens said that safeguarding audits conducted by ACSL form part of the Catholic Church’s ongoing response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

“The aim of our audit program is to help Church entities identify any risks in their safeguarding practices and then provide practical recommendations to improve child safety within the organisation.”

“Our audit process involves a detailed review of the policies and documentation of entities as well as interviews with key staff about safeguarding practices within the organisation.”

“We are delighted that the audit of the MSAU found that 99 per cent of the safeguarding requirements relevant to their activities under the National Catholic Safeguarding Standards have already been implemented or substantially progressed and congratulate the Sisters for their work in committing to the Standards.”

“The Institute of the Sisters of Mercy of Australia and Papua New Guinea (ISMAPNG) achieved a 92 per cent rating for their progress in implementing their requirements under the Standards. Again, this is a very pleasing result, given that the Institute provides a diverse range of services, both here in Australia and in overseas missions.”

Dr Stephens said that these strong results are evidence of the commitment of both organisations to embedding child safe practices within their organisations.

“They have done a lot of work towards creating child safe organisations and are committed to continuous improvements in their safeguarding practices.”

“After almost three years of audits, and with findings of the Royal Commissions in Aged Care, and Disability Care, ACSL is reviewing its own audit framework to ensure it is risk-based and proportionate to Church entities’ engagement in ministry and the safeguarding of children and vulnerable people. This is in line with our own commitment to continuous improvement,” Dr Stephens said.

The audit reports for MSAU and ISMAPNG are available on ACSL’s website.

ACSL CEO Dr Ursula Stephens is available for interview.


ACSL works with Catholic entities to promote and oversee a nationally consistent, comprehensive and sustainable framework for the protection of children and adults at risk within the Church in Australia. 

Media contact: Katherine Beavis  0400 825 954

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

30 April 2021 — Australian Catholic Safeguarding Ltd welcomes Dr Ursula Stephens as new CEO

Friday, 30 April 2021

Australian Catholic Safeguarding Ltd (ACSL) has today announced the appointment of Dr Ursula Stephens as its new Chief Executive Officer.

Dr Stephens, who is currently CEO of Catholic Social Services Australia, replaces outgoing ACSL CEO Ms Sheree Limbrick.

Dr Stephens has previously worked as an educator, a senior NSW public servant, an Australian senator and been involved in numerous community-led initiatives to support community engagement and inclusion.  She brings with her a wealth of experience in advocacy, policy development and relationship building, alongside a depth of experience gained from being part of and working within numerous Catholic organisations.

Chair of ACSL’s Board Professor The Hon. Michael Lavarch said the appointment of Dr Stephens followed a thorough executive search process and was approved by representatives of the company’s members – the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, Catholic Religious Australia and the Association of Ministerial Public Juridic Persons.

“The search process attracted a number of well qualified candidates from inside and outside Catholic organisations and ACSL is grateful for the interest and the support demonstrated for the company’s work. We believe Dr Stephen’s experience in public life, her extensive work on social justice issues and her good grounding in safeguarding will equip her well to lead ACSL,” Professor Lavarch said.

He said Dr Stephens joins ACSL at an important juncture as the company continues to reshape its focus on how to best assist the Church to ensure it provides a safe and nurturing environment for children and adults at risk.

“The Board is developing the company’s strategic plan and seeks to work with the diverse organisations within the Church to strengthen a culture of safeguarding that always has the interests of children and vulnerable people at the centre of Church activities. Dr Stephens has a strong track record of working across the Church and this skill will greatly assist ACSL.”

Professor Lavarch also paid tribute to outgoing CEO Sheree Limbrick.

“Ms Limbrick has done a wonderful job in establishing the company and having the National Catholic Safeguarding Standards accepted as the benchmark for good practice across the Church.  Sheree has put tremendous energy into equipping the Church to be a more capable and more transparent community when it comes to protecting children. The Board is enormously grateful for her leadership.”

 

Australian Catholic Safeguarding Ltd (ACSL) was established in December 2020 and is a company limited by guarantee, owned by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, Catholic Religious Australia and the Association of Ministerial Public Juridic Persons.  ACSL has responsibilities at a national level and brings together the work of two previous entities, Catholic Professional Standards Ltd (CPSL) and the Australian Catholic Centre for Professional Standards (ACCPS).

ACSL works with the Catholic Church in Australia to support and foster a nationally consistent culture of safety and care throughout the Church.  ACSL provides a range of services to the Church to support their implementation of the National Catholic Safeguarding Standards, a framework for the protection and care of adults at risk and children.


Media contact : Katherine Beavis  0400 825 954

3 December 2020 — New national body to unify and strengthen safeguarding work of the Church

Thursday, 03 December 2020

‘Australian Catholic Safeguarding Ltd’ (ACSL) has today been launched as the Australian Catholic Church’s new national body for safeguarding, which will streamline and coordinate the Church’s work to create safe environments for children and adults at risk.  The announcement was made at the Annual General Meeting of Catholic Professional Standards Ltd (CPSL) earlier today.

Australian Catholic Safeguarding Ltd merges existing entities CPSL, the Australian Catholic Centre for Professional Standards and the Australian Catholic Ministry Register, bringing together national responsibilities for safeguarding into one entity.

ACSL is led by Board Chair Professor the Honourable Michael Lavarch AO, who previously served on the CPSL Board.

“’I am honoured to become the Chair of ACSL which will bring together critical work that assists the Church to be a safe and nurturing environment for all, particularly children and adults at risk,” Professor Lavarch said.

“I’m also pleased to announce ACSL’s Board, whose experience and credentials in child and adult safeguarding, professional standards, law, governance, Church administration, finance and management will be vital in guiding ACSL. I am pleased to welcome to the ACSL Board Dr Robyn Miller (who previously served on the CPSL Board), Mrs Mary McComish, Sr Kath Tierney RSM AO, Mr David Penny and Mr Julian Widdup.” (More information on Board Directors can be found here.)

“Supporting the Church to ensure the safety of children and adults at risk is the Board’s utmost priority. Over the coming months the Board will work swiftly to oversee the transition of the previous bodies into ACSL. During this period, the critical safeguarding work already being performed by the previous bodies, will continue as planned.”

“On behalf of the Board I would like to thank CPSL’s outgoing Board Chair The Hon. Geoff Giudice AO and outgoing board members Patricia Faulkner AO, Dr Ruth Shean, Dr Kerrie Tuite and the Hon. John Watkins AM for their dedicated service during their term as CPSL directors,” Professor Lavarch said.

The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, Catholic Religious Australia and the Association of Ministerial Public Juridic Persons are members of ACSL.

Media contact: Katherine Beavis 0400 825 954 / 1300 603 411 / katherine@cpsltd.org.au


Catholic Professional Standards Ltd is transitioning to the newly established Australian Catholic Safeguarding Ltd.

The former CPSL continues providing services and support to Catholic entities during this transition period.

For updates on the transition, please visit the CPSL website here.