I WAS disturbed to read the article entitled ‘Start dealing with abuse in schools’ (CL 18/5/03) as the comments made conveyed the impression that nothing was happening in Catholic schools in relation to responding to sexual abuse matters.
While recognising that matters of sexual abuse have not always been appropriately handled in Catholic schools in the past, most if not all Catholic schools have in recent years gone to enormous lengths to ensure that there are appropriate proactive and responsive strategies to dealing with sexual abuse, whether in the out-of-school environment or within the school environment.
In the Archdiocese of Brisbane we have employed child protection officers since the late 1980s who have assisted in the development of guidelines for responding to sexual abuse, inservicing of staff and developing resources for students.
It should be noted, however that the vast majority of the time, energy and resources expended in relation to abuse matters relates to abuse within families and by those closely associated with students in their home environments. Nearly all child abuse incidents fall into this category.
Staff of Catholic schools have, for many years, been at the forefront of assisting students and families in these sensitive and difficult situations.
Only a very few cases in recent years have related to staff in Catholic schools. Any allegation against a current or past staff member, whether they be lay, religious or clergy, is dealt with under the Towards Healing protocol of the Australian bishops and religious leaders. Police are involved where any criminal offence is alleged.
Catholic school authorities have co-operated fully with state authorities in the development of legislation and protocols for responding to abuse allegations either by staff or from other sources. These agencies include the Board of Teacher Registration, the Commission for Children and Young People and the Non-State Schools Accreditation Board.
The Queensland Catholic Education Commission has produced a student protection resource for all Catholic schools in Queensland to respond to the range of matters in the area of harm to students. Last year in the Archdiocese of Brisbane all student protection strategies and resources were updated and revised. A proactive strategy for inservicing staff and students known as the ‘Feeling Safe’ strategy was implemented in all schools.
I can assure Ms Michelle Mulvihill that there is indeed extensive ‘conversation’ going on in Catholic schools in Queensland in relation to this matter with a view to ensuring that all that can be done is being done to combat harm to children.
The Catholic Leader is an Australian award-winning Catholic newspaper that has been published by the Archdiocese of Brisbane since 1929. Our journalism seeks to provide a full, accurate and balanced Catholic perspective of local, national and international news while upholding the dignity of the human person.
The Catholic Leader acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the First Peoples of this country and especially acknowledge the traditional owners on whose lands we live and work throughout the Catholic Archdiocese of Brisbane.