Standard Six

Effective complaints management

Processes for raising concerns and complaints are responsive, understood, accessible and used by children, families, carers, communities and personnel

6.1 The entity has an effective Complaints Handling Policy and procedures which clearly outline the roles and responsibilities, approaches to dealing with different types of complaints, reporting obligations and record keeping requirements.

6.1.1 The entity’s policies, procedures and practices ensure that all mandatory reporting obligations are met.

6.1.2 There are clear procedures that provide step-by-step guidance on what action to take for different types of complaints, including breaches of Codes of Conduct, disclosures, allegations or concerns of abuse of a child, be they historic or current.

6.1.3 There are clear procedures for identifying and mitigating conflicts of interest in complaint management.

6.1.4 The entity works in cooperation with relevant organisations and seeks specialist advice from the statutory child protection services when necessary.

6.1.5 Key roles and responsibilities in relation to handling complaints are articulated within the Complaints Handling Policy and procedures.

6.1.6 The Complaints Handling Policy and procedures differentiate, where appropriate, between a child victim and an adult bringing forward a complaint of abuse suffered as a child.

6.1.7 A process is in place to record all child abuse complaints, incidents, allegations, disclosures, concerns and referrals. The system must be secure so that confidential information is stored, protected and retained for 50 years [refer to Indicator 1.6.2].

6.2 The entity has a child-focused complaints handling system that is understood by children, families, carers and personnel.

6.2.1 The complaints handling system prioritises the safety and well-being of children.

6.2.2 The Complaints Handling Policy and procedures are made publicly available in a variety of formats, including age and developmentally appropriate for children, enabling complaints processes to be easily understood.

6.3 Complaints are taken seriously, and responded to promptly and thoroughly.

6.3.1 The Complaints Handling Policy requires that, upon receiving a complaint of child abuse, an initial risk assessment is conducted to identify and minimise any risk to children. Ongoing risk assessments are conducted throughout all investigation processes.

6.3.2 The Complaints Handling Policy requires that at the completion of the initial risk assessment, where a complaint of child sexual abuse is plausible, and there is a risk that the person may come into contact with children, the person be stood down from their role and/or ministry while the complaint is investigated.

6.3.3 The Complaints Handling Policy is aligned, and operates in conjunction with the entity’s documented disciplinary and grievance policies and processes, in such a way that at the completion of the initial risk assessment, a breach or breaches of the Code of Conduct [refer to Criterion 1.4] in relation to inappropriate behaviour towards a child are effectively investigated and managed, and include provisions for personnel to be redeployed, stood down and/or dismissed [having due regard for Indicator 6.5.1].

6.3.4 Complainants are responded to promptly and kept informed as to the progress of dealing with their complaint.

6.3.5 Support and care are provided to a child who has experienced or is alleging abuse, and other affected parties.

6.3.6 Appropriate confidentiality is maintained with due regard for the Australian Privacy Principles and relevant legislation in relation to information sharing in the context of child safeguarding [refer to Indicator 1.6.2].

6.3.7 There are documented policies and processes implemented that empower and support personnel to raise, in good faith, concerns and allegations about unacceptable behaviour towards children by other personnel.

NOTE: Indicators 6.3.8 and 6.3.9 apply to Church Authorities and related entities with seminarians, clergy and those in formation with, or members of, religious institutes.

6.3.8 Where a complaint related to child sexual abuse against a seminarian, clergy or religious is substantiated on the balance of probabilities, with due respect to the rights of individuals, the Church Authority should remove that individual from ministry.

6.3.9 Where a seminarian, clergy or religious is convicted of an offence relating to child sexual abuse, that individual should be permanently removed from ministry. The Church Authority must take practicable steps to prohibit that individual from holding themselves out as being a person with religious authority and should present a case to the relevant dicastery for dismissal from the clerical state and/or dispensation from vows.

6.4 The entity has policies and procedures in place that address reporting of concerns and complaints to relevant authorities, whether or not the law requires reporting, and co-operates with law enforcement.

6.4.1 The Complaints Handling Policy requires that:

  • concerns and complaints of child abuse occurring within the entity be reported to the appropriate statutory authority/ies, regardless of whether the reporting is mandated; and
  • personnel cooperate with law enforcement procedures and directives.
6.5 Reporting, privacy and employment law obligations are met.

6.5.1 The Complaints Handling Policy requires that all relevant reporting, privacy and employment law obligations are met.

6.6 The Church Authority ensures mechanisms are in place to care for adult complainants.

6.6.1 The entity offers appropriate pastoral care to adult complainants, which recognises their unique needs. This includes an offer from the Church Authority to meet the complainant in person.

6.6.2 The Church Authority facilitates adult complaints’ access to appropriately trained personnel whose clearly defined roles are to listen to and represent the pastoral needs of the complainant. This is done in consultation with the complainant.

6.7 The Church Authority ensures mechanisms are in place to monitor and support respondents facing allegations.

6.7.1 The Church Authority has access to appropriately trained personnel – lay, religious or clergy – whose clearly defined roles are to listen to and represent the pastoral needs of the respondent. This is done in consultation with the respondent.

6.7.2 The Church Authority has suitable arrangements in place for the monitoring and support of a respondent, where there is a plausible complaint, until (and if) the Church Authority no longer has responsibility for monitoring the respondent.

Find definitions of key terms used throughout the Standards in our glossary