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About the Office of Safeguarding

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The ecclesiastical office of Director of Safeguarding

The office of Director of Safeguarding Children and Vulnerable Adults (“Director of Safeguarding”) was established by the decree of William Wright, the Bishop of Maitland-Newcastle, on 24 May 2019.

Decree establishing the ecclesiastical office of Director of Safeguarding

Provision (mandate and powers) of the ecclesiastical office of Director of Safeguarding

Placement, reporting and oversight

The Office of Safeguarding was officially launched on 2 September 2019, as part of National Child Protection Week.

It is the logical evolution of Zimmerman Services with a significant increase in its resources to support the Director of Safeguarding in fulfilling the provisions of the Director’s decree.  The Office of Safeguarding is the structural expression of the Diocese’s commitment to demonstrate the highest standards of recognising and upholding the dignity and rights of all children.

The Office of Safeguarding is responsible for overseeing the safeguarding of all children and vulnerable adults who participate in the life of the Diocese as part of our faith communities in parishes, in our diocesan systemic schools and early education centres, as part of our welfare and community services through CatholicCare, out-of-school hours care, and other diocesan ministries. To reinforce the Office of Safeguarding’s autonomy, it is structurally placed outside other agencies and programs of the Diocese, whilst working closely with them to promote the precepts of safeguarding.

The following chart, showing the structure and reporting lines within the Diocesan Curia demonstrates the Office of Safeguarding’s autonomy from other operational services in the Diocese.

The Director of Safeguarding reports to the Vicar-General of Maitland-Newcastle, who is supported with independent advice from the Standing Committee for the Oversight of the Office of Safeguarding, (“Standing Committee”). The Standing Committee draws its mandate from the Diocesan Protection and Safety Council, which is a peak advisory body for the Diocese, providing guidance to the Bishop of Maitland-Newcastle on a broad range of issues relating to safeguarding and the Diocese.

For more information on the Diocesan Protection and Safety Council:

Internal structure

The OoSG consists of four component parts or services, designed to fulfil the provisions of the ecclesiastical decree:

The Director of Safeguarding is responsible for fulfilling the obligations and rights of the ecclesiastical office, copies of which are available at the top of this web page.

The Director has particular focus and ongoing personal responsibilities, including:

  • the recruitment, development and retention of high-quality, professional personnel in the Office of Safeguarding
  • the effective and efficient functioning of the Office of Safeguarding in its support for and leadership in the Diocese in relation to safeguarding issues
  • ensuring the costs of the Office of Safeguarding are within budget
  • strategic development of a safeguarding culture across the Diocese
  • overseeing diocesan compliance with state and federal statutory safeguarding obligations
  • leading diocesan-wide implementation of the National Catholic Safeguarding Standards
  • managing uninsured claims brought against the Diocese by persons alleging to have suffered harm as a consequence of being the victim of historic child sexual abuse committed in the Diocese
    Read More – Redress
  • managing the Diocese’s relationships with key statutory and church-based safeguarding authorities
  • managing complaints against Office of Safeguarding personnel (other than where a conflict of interest is identified).

Healing and Support (Zimmerman Services) is the operational expression of the diocese’s pastoral response to those who have been adversely affected by historic child sexual abuse.  Healing and Support is empowered to “provide personalised healing and support services to survivors of historic child sexual abuse, their partners, parents, children and siblings, in accordance with the standards of the Catholic Church and relevant diocesan policies and procedures”.

There is no “burden of proof” placed on people to access Healing and Support. A person will receive services on the strength of their word, that they or a loved one has been sexually abused as a child in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.

There is no limit to the length of time a person can continue to work with Healing and Support.  Survivors may choose to work with Healing and Support for a number of years, cease contact for some period and then resume; sometimes their involvement with Healing and Support is intensive, requiring the commitment of multiple work hours per week from Healing and Support personnel, other times intermittent or simply occasional phone contact and discussion on a survivor’s well-being.

Healing and Support strives to provide trauma-informed individualised support.

Types of support offered

Healing and Support works directly with individuals to support and promote their personal and unique journey towards healing, which may include a member of the team:

  • supporting the person, their family and friends through the criminal justice system
  • advocating to the Diocese or other church authorities on behalf of the person or groups of people who have been adversely affected
  • advocating to statutory authorities and non-Catholic community agencies on behalf of a Healing and Support client (for example, obtain priority housing or establish a repayment schedule for rental arrears)
  • supporting the person and their family through periods of distress caused by physical, emotional or spiritual crisis
  • being the voice of those persons who no longer have a voice.

Healing and Support also works with groups, conducting sessions with similar cohorts (for example, mothers of survivors) and building networks of support within the Diocese, the wider Catholic Church, other denominations and faith-based organisations, and the wider community.  It is particularly important for Healing and Support to build close, collaborative working relationships with victim advocacy groups and support groups.

Healing and Support has developed a network of independent (third-party) counsellors who have expertise in working with adult survivors of child sexual abuse. Healing and Support assists in establishing efficacious clinical relationships between those affected by abuse and clinicians.  Healing and Support is able to access diocesan funds to meet counselling costs.

If you want more information on the supports available through Healing and Support (Zimmerman Service):  Healing and Support in the Diocese

Oversight and governance of Healing and Support

The Manager, Healing and Support (Zimmerman Services) is responsible for effective and efficient operations including staff.

The Manager, Healing and Support reports to the Director of Safeguarding.  However, the Director of Safeguarding has responsibility for managing the Diocese’s portfolio of redress claims.  Consequently there is an inherent conflict of interest that must be addressed.

Therefore, there are powerful firewalls in place to maintain strict confidentiality between Healing and Support, Director and other components of the Office of Safeguarding (OoSG).  The identity of Healing and Support clients are kept confidential from the Director of Safeguarding, as is the casework activity of Healing and Support.

The Manager, Healing and Support is:

  • an ex-officio member of the Diocesan Protection and Safety Council
  • convenor and secretary of one of the council’s standing committees whose mandate is to support and guide healing and support practices
  • afforded direct access to the Bishop of Maitland-Newcastle in relation to healing and support issues.

The Prevention and Response Service (PaRS) is the largest utility within the Office of Safeguarding and is the one with which diocesan workers will have the most interaction.

PaRS is empowered to:

  1. oversee and support the Diocese’s parishes, directorates and services compliance with:
    1. statutory obligations to safeguard children and vulnerable adults, and
    2. safeguarding standards, principles or guidelines promulgated by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference
    3. the Diocese’s codes of conduct, policies, procedures and protocols relevant to safeguarding children and vulnerable adults.
  2. conduct or oversee and assist in the investigation of diocesan personnel (inclusive of employed, contracted or voluntary laity, clerics incardinated to the Diocese and other clergy or religious acting as agents of the Diocese) who are alleged to have committed;
    1. criminal conduct against a child or vulnerable adult
    2. reportable conduct
    3. a breach of professional standards against a child or vulnerable adult
    4. oversee and support the management of individuals within the Diocese identified as posing an elevated risk to children or vulnerable adults.

The Manager, Prevention and Response is responsible for effective and efficient operations including Office of Safeguarding investigators.

The Manager, Prevention and Response reports to the Director of Safeguarding.

The core functions of PaRS

Intake involves the recording and analysis of concerns raised by members of the Diocese, ensuring statutory authorities are advised of these concerns (where appropriate) and providing advice and support to the member of the Diocese to manage their particular situations in accordance with statutory obligations and diocesan expectations.

If you want more information about identifying and reporting concerns for a child or vulnerable adult:
Reporting abuse

PaRS conducts inquiries into allegations of abusive conduct or breaches of professional standards against children by diocesan personnel at a standard commensurate with the seriousness of the allegations. Investigations conducted by PaRS are administrative “workplace” processes conducted at the civil standard.

If you want more information on investigations conducted by the Office of Safeguarding:

PaRS investigators assist the Director to ensure the various ministries and programs of the Diocese are compliant with their various safeguarding regulatory and contractual obligations and the globally applicable National Catholic Safeguarding Standards (“Standards”), which came into effect in May 2019. Catholic Professional Standards Ltd (CPSL) administers the Standards. The Diocese will be subject to a comprehensive compliance audit by CPSL within a three-year cycle.

PaRS investigators contribute to the development and present a range of safeguarding training to diocesan personnel. This includes provision of OoSG obligatory safeguarding training, which is provided throughout the year in an ongoing cycle offered in multiple sites across the Diocese.  PaRS investigators are also able to provide specialised or tailored training for particular programs or work sites within the Diocese.

If you want more information on the Diocese’s safeguarding training:    Safeguarding Training

Risk management:
PaRS will conduct risk assessments of potential and existing Diocesan personnel or children in receipt of a diocesan service (peer-on-peer abuse).  PaRS investigators will oversee and assist in the management of individuals identified as posing an elevated risk. PaRS investigators will conduct risk assessments and manage identified risks as part of their investigative process.

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is a collective term for processes in which a trained impartial person (ADR practitioner) assists those in dispute to resolve the issues between them. 

The Office of Safeguarding established this new ADR service, which will begin a staged rollout in 2020.

The ADR Coordinator is currently the sole employee stationed in the service.

The ADR Coordinator reports to the Director of Safeguarding.

Advantages of ADR compared to traditional investigations

The ADR service in the Office of Safeguarding is designed to address disputes between two or more adults where the damaged relationship is having an adverse impact on the participation of a child in the faith life of the Diocese or provision of diocesan services to a child. 

ADR may be an alternative to the Diocese conducting an investigation. Compared to an investigative process, ADR:

  • is more flexible and responsive to the needs of the individuals involved
  • provides an opportunity for concerns to be resolved more quickly than most investigations
  • is less formal, and an individual’s participation in the resolution process promotes commitment to the outcomes
  • is more likely to preserve goodwill between the individuals involved, or at least not escalate the conflict, which is especially important where the individuals have a commitment to a continuing relationship
  • has a restorative focus.

For detailed advice on ADR Service:   Alternative Dispute Resolution

The Director’s Office is a new service established in the Office of Safeguarding.  Equally, the Executive Coordinator, Safeguarding is a new position established in the Office of Safeguarding to provide senior-level, professional support for the Director of Safeguarding’s key responsibilities, including:

  • diocesan-wide implementation of National Catholic Safeguarding Standards
  • day-to-day management of the portfolio of unresolved claims and applications to the National Redress Scheme
    Read more: Redress
  • development and management of the Office of Safeguarding standardised training modules and packages
    Read more: Safeguarding Training
  • providing secretarial support for the Diocesan Protection and Safety Council
    Read more: Diocesan Protection and Safety Council.

The administrative support for Office of Safeguarding personnel (secretariat) is part of the Director’s Office.  Through a flexible array of supporting administrative roles, the secretariat ensures Office of Safeguarding services and individual personnel are able to function as efficiently as possible.

The Office of Safeguarding secretariat is usually the first point of contact with diocesan workers, statutory authorities and members of the community.

The Office of Safeguarding secretariat is an integral and indispensable part of the operation.

The Executive Coordinator, Safeguarding is responsible for the management of the secretariat, including personnel and provision of resources across other Office of Safeguarding services.

The Executive Coordinator, Safeguarding reports to the Director of Safeguarding.