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Audits show safeguarding policies being followed across Brisbane archdiocese

Safeguarding: “Our audit procedures have indicated that the archdiocese has strong procedures in place for complaints handling, including formal risk management practices to address potential incidents or concerns.”

BRISBANE archdiocese has received a high rating – but still with room for improvement – in a landmark report on its safeguarding arrangements.

The report is the first conducted in an Australian archdiocese by Catholic Professional Standards Limited, set up by the Church leadership in response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

The National Catholic Safeguarding Standards came into effect on May 30. Brisbane was found to have implemented or made substantial progress towards 84 per cent of operational indicators covering mainly governance, management and training.

Fifteen per cent of indicators were deemed to be at an initial stage of implementation.

One indicator – cultural safety training – is yet to be started.

“This provides us with a baseline against the new National Catholic Safeguarding Standards and provides a blueprint for where we need to change and improve,” Brisbane’s Office for Safeguarding Services director Mark Eustance said.

The report is based on an audit of 26 of Brisbane’s 98 parishes and a number of archdiocesan offices.

CPSL chief executive officer Sheree Limbrick said the audit showed the archdiocese had comprehensive child safeguarding policies and procedures in place.

“Many of the recommendations we have given to the Archdiocese of Brisbane relate to streamlining processes, consolidating documentation and ensuring that the archdiocese maintains good oversight of the large number of parishes and ministries under its governance to ensure consistent safeguarding practices across the archdiocese,” Ms Limbrick said.

The report noted the presence of a Safeguarding Resource Hub that was easily accessed from the archdiocesan website home page.

“The Safeguarding Resource Hub houses all of the archdiocese’s safeguarding policies and procedures, including mechanisms to raise concerns or complaints as well as direct links to other government and community resources related to child safety,” the report said.

“All parishes reviewed as part of this audit were fully aware of the importance of safeguarding and had either appointed or were in the process of appointing a dedicated Parish Safeguarding Representative.”

The audit found a system of “Blue Cards” for employees and a large pool of more than 10,000 volunteers, augmented by a recently developed online volunteer portal to facilitate checks for new volunteers.

The audit also found the procedures for managing Blue Cards for clergy were in place, including strong processes to check credentialing for visiting clergy who request to minister in the archdiocese.

“However, improvements are required in relation to documentation maintained for temporary clergy and clerical religious (order priests) appointed to the archdiocese, specifically regarding formally linking Blue Cards for these individuals to the archdiocese,” the report found.

The report also found room for improvement in the handling of complaints.

“Our audit procedures have indicated that the archdiocese has strong procedures in place for complaints handling, including formal risk management practices to address potential incidents or concerns,” the report said.  

“However, concerns and complaints are handled by a variety of areas including the Queensland Professional Standards Office (external resourced outside of the archdiocese), Office of Safeguarding Services, Archbishop’s Office and the financial administration area.  

“These areas have their own list/register of complaints and the archdiocese could benefit from consolidating the records into one central database.”

The report also found Brisbane had a “robust and formal training program”, although training on cultural safety (creating culturally safe environments for all children) had not yet been addressed.

The report also found room to improve the way parishes manage contractors, and to create safe environments – both physical and online.

“Processes to manage third-party contractors as well as processes to conduct due diligence on third parties using parish facilities are informal and applied on a case-by-case basis,” the report said. “These processes need to be standardised across the parishes.

“Information technology devices within the archdiocesan office have appropriate web-filtering systems in place.  

“However, only nine parishes are networked with the archdiocesan office and active monitoring of Internet usage and web-browsing by personnel is yet to be implemented.”

Overall, the report found Brisbane met strict standards to support child safety through its safeguarding policies and procedures.

The archdiocese currently monitors parish compliance with the Archdiocese Safeguarding Policy through an external audit program conducted by a third-party auditing firm, as well as through internal “health checks” conducted by the archdiocese’s Office of Safeguarding Services,” the report said.

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