The Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne and St Fidelis Parish, Moreland holds the care, safety and wellbeing of children and young people as a central and fundamental responsibility of our organisation.
The Church’s social doctrine constantly points out the need to respect the dignity of children.
The purpose of this policy is to demonstrate the strong commitment of St Fidelis Parish to the care, safety and wellbeing of all children in our Church. It provides an outline of the policies, procedures and strategies developed to keep children safe from harm, including all forms of abuse in our organisation, whether that be on site, online or in other locations used by St Fidelis Parish.
This policy applies to all Parish personnel including employees, volunteers, contractors and clergy.
The Catholic Church has a moral, legal and mission-driven responsibility to create nurturing environments where children and young people are respected, their voices are heard and they are safe and feel safe.
The following principles underpin our commitment to child safety at St Fidelis Parish.
Child: A person below the age of 18 years unless, under the law applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier.
Child abuse includes:
Child safety encompasses matters related to protecting all children from child abuse, managing the risk of child abuse, providing support to a child at risk of child abuse, and responding to incidents or allegations of child abuse.
Child neglect: The failure by a parent or caregiver to provide a child (where they are in a position to do so) with the conditions that are culturally accepted as being essential for their physical and emotional development and wellbeing.
Child physical abuse: Generally, child physical abuse refers to the non-accidental use of physical force against a child that results in harm to the child. Physically abusive behaviours including shoving, hitting, slapping, shaking, throwing, punching, kicking, biting, burning, strangling and poisoning. The fabrication or induction of an illness by a parent or carer (previously known as Munchausen syndrome by proxy) is also included in this definition of “Child physical abuse”.
Child protection: Statutory services designed to protect children who are at risk of serious harm.
Child sexual abuse: Any sexual activity between a child under the age of consent (16) and an adult or older person (i.e. a person two or more years older than the victim) is child sexual abuse.
Child sexual abuse can also be:
Mandatory Reporting: The legal requirement to report suspected cases of child abuse and neglect to the Department of Health and Human Services is known as mandatory reporting. Mandated people include teachers, nurses, police and medical practitioners.
Reasonable Belief: When an adult is concerned about the safety and wellbeing of a child or young person, they must assess that concern to determine if a report should be made to the relevant agency. This process of considering all relevant information and observations is known as forming a ‘reasonable belief’. A ‘reasonable belief’ or a ‘belief on reasonable grounds’ is not the same as having proof but is more than mere rumour or speculation. A ‘reasonable belief’ is formed if a reasonable person in the same position would have formed the belief on the same grounds.
All children in St Fidelis Parish have the right to feel safe and be safe. The wellbeing of children in our care will always be our first priority and we do not and will not tolerate child abuse. We aim to create a child-safe and child-friendly environment where children are free to enjoy life to the full without any concern for their safety. There is particular attention paid to the most vulnerable children, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, children from culturally and/or linguistically diverse backgrounds, and children with a disability.
Our commitment to our children
Our commitment to parents and carers
Our commitment to our employees, volunteers and clergy (called “staff” for the purposes of this policy)
Everyone employed or volunteering at St Fidelis Parish has a responsibility to understand the important and significant role he/she plays individually and collectively to ensure that the wellbeing and safety of all children is at the forefront of all they do and every decision they make.
St Fidelis Parish has allocated roles and responsibilities for child safety as follows:
The Parish Priest of the St Fidelis Parish recognises his particular responsibilities to ensure the development of preventative and proactive strategies that promote a culture of openness, awareness of, and shared responsibility for child safety. Responsibilities include:
Responsibilities of Parish staff include:
At St Fidelis Parish, we expect staff to proactively ensure the safety of children at all times and to take appropriate action if there are concerns about the safety of any child in any Parish environment. All staff must remain familiar with the relevant laws, the Parish Employee Code of Conduct, and the policies and procedures in relation to child protection and comply with all requirements. We have developed a Child Safety code of conduct which recognises the critical role that staff plays in protecting the children in our care and establishes clear expectations of staff for appropriate behaviour with children in order to safeguard them against abuse and neglect.
Our Code also protects our staff through clarification of acceptable and unacceptable behaviour.
Within St Fidelis Parish we actively encourage all children to openly express their views and feel comfortable about giving voice to the things that are important to them.
We encourage our parish members to discuss with their children what they can do if they feel unsafe and we enable our parish members to understand, identify, discuss and report on child safety. We listen to and act on any concerns our parish members, their children or their parents or carers raise with us.
The Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne and St Fidelis Parish record any child safety complaints, disclosures or breaches of the Child Safety Code of Conduct, and store the records in accordance with security and privacy requirements. Our organisation complies with legal obligations that relate to managing the risk of child abuse and mandatory reporting under the Children, Youth and Families Act 2005 (Vic.), the Crimes Act 1958 (Vic.) and the recommendations of the Betrayal of Trust report.
Our organisation’s Child Protection reporting procedures contained in Code of Conduct for Caring for Children, “May our children flourish” sets out the actions required under the
relevant legislation when there is a reasonable belief that a child in our organisation is in need of protection or a criminal offence has been committed, and provides guidance and procedures on how to make a report.
We work to ensure all children, families and staff know what to do and who to tell if they observe abuse of a victim or if they notice inappropriate behaviour.
Our organisation has also established internal processes to ensure that appropriate action is taken to respond to concerns about the wellbeing and/or safety of a child. Any concerns should in the first instance be raised with the Parish Priest. If the complaint involves the Parish Priest the matter should be referred to the Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Melbourne. Where a report is made against a member of the Parish community they will be suspended from their role in the parish until an investigation has been completed. They will continue to receive salary and benefits, if applicable, during the period of their suspension."
Any concerns about the safety or well-being of a child in a parish or agency that are reported to the Office of Professional Standards and Ethics are notified to the Vicar General. Details of the concern raised, the advice provided and any further action required are dated, signed and filed in the corresponding file of St Fidelis Parish or the Parish Priest.
Our complaints and disclosure processes are further outlined and detailed in the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne’s Code of Conduct for Caring for Children, “May our children flourish”, particularly in relation to children in the parish setting.
St Fidelis Parish will apply thorough and rigorous screening processes in the recruitment of employees and volunteers involved in child-connected work. Our commitment to child safety and our screening requirements are included in all advertisements for such employee, contractor and volunteer positions, and all applicants are provided with copies of the Child Safety Code of Conduct and the Child Safety Policy.
When recruiting and selecting employees, contractors and volunteers involved in child connected work, we make all reasonable efforts to:
We have processes for monitoring and assessing the continuing suitability of staff to work with children, including regular reviews of the status of Working with Children Checks. Monitoring and assessing the continuing suitability of staff to work with children, including regular reviews of the status of Working with Children Checks will be done by the Parish Priest.
St Fidelis Parish provides staff with regular and appropriate opportunities to develop their knowledge of, openness to and ability to, address child safety matters. This includes induction, ongoing training and professional learning to ensure that everyone understands their professional and legal obligations and responsibilities, and the procedures for reporting suspicion of child abuse and neglect.
At St Fidelis we are committed to proactively and systematically identifying and assessing risks to child safety across our whole environment (physical and online) and reducing or eliminating (where possible) all potential sources of harm. We document, implement, monitor and periodically review our risk management strategies for child safety and ensure that the strategies change as needed and as new risks arise.
Where an employee is suspected of breaching any obligation, duty or responsibility within this Policy this may result in disciplinary consequences.
If there is any reasonable belief that a criminal act has been committed, the concerned party is advised to contact Victoria Police.
At St Fidelis we are committed to continuous improvement of our child safety systems and practices. We intend this policy to be a dynamic document that will be regularly reviewed to ensure it is working in practice and updated to accommodate changes in legislation or circumstance.
We will maintain a history of updates to the policy.
History of Updates to Policy
Comment (e.g. major review, minor review)
We will ensure that families and children have the opportunity to contribute. Where possible we do our best to work with local Aboriginal communities, culturally and / or linguistically diverse communities and people with a disability.