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National standards for safeguarding children, vulnerable adults open for comment

Sheree Limbrick

Protecting all: Catholic Professional Standards Ltd chief executive officer Sheree Limbrick.

DIOCESES, congregations and parishioners will all be able to have their say about the Catholic Church’s draft national standards to safeguard children and vulnerable adults.

Submissions are being sought about the draft standards that can be found on the new Catholic Professional Standards Ltd website launched this week.

CPSL chief executive officer Sheree Limbrick said broad consultation around the standards would be an important development in strengthening child and vulnerable adult protections in the Church.

“It is also a significant step in implementing one of the Royal Commission’s key recommendations,” Ms Limbrick said.

She said consultations with dioceses, religious orders and other Catholic organisations over the past six months had reinforced what the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse found.

“The levels of protections for children and vulnerable adults can vary widely from one Catholic diocese to another,” Ms Limbrick said.

“That is unsustainable and dangerous.

“This is the first time, anywhere in Australia and among just a handful of countries around the world, where the Catholic Church will be accountable for their adherence to consistent and measurable national standards for the protection of children and vulnerable adults.”

Ms Limbrick said the Royal Commission made a clear recommendation to all religious institutions to focus on the activities that were not regulated by Church bodies.

“So that’s the approach we’ve taken,” she said.

“The standards are written with a parish or congregation in mind, and we will engage in further discussions with education, health, disabilities, social services over the next few months.

“Every child and every vulnerable adult must be protected by the same standards regardless of where they live or what part of the Catholic Church they come in contact with.”

The National Catholic Safeguarding Standards set out 10 standards that provide the framework for Catholic Church entities to build child-safe cultures and to advance the safety of children across the Catholic Church in Australia.

The standards build on the guidance of the Royal Commission and the draft National Statement of Principles for Child Safe Organisations from the Australian Human Rights Commission.

Ms Limbrick said there were several topics not covered by the Royal Commission, but written into the draft standards.

These included standards to cover overseas immersions where schools, parish or diocese groups sent people overseas on short trips or social justice activities.

Standards to ensure the rights of adult survivors of institutional child sexual abuse were also included.

“The Church still has a duty of care to a population of adult survivors,” Ms Limbrick said.

“So we have put a couple of criteria in around that – but we will be interested to see what people think.”

CPSL is calling on anyone interested in the development of the standards to provide feedback.

Written submissions can be made through the CPSL website.

CPSL is a new independent company established by the Catholic Church in Australia in November 2016 to develop, audit and report on compliance with professional standards across Catholic entities.

CPSL is functionally independent from the Church leadership and is a significant development in the Church’s approach to protecting children and vulnerable adults.

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