Information for parents and children

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The Office of Safeguarding conducts inquiries into alleged misconduct and abuse

The Diocese takes any allegation of abuse or misconduct towards a child as unacceptable.

If the Diocese receives an allegation that a diocesan worker has acted inappropriately towards a child, it will conduct an inquiry to assess whether there is sufficient evidence to sustain the allegation and to assess the seriousness of the conduct.

The Diocese will conduct inquiries at a level commensurate with the seriousness of the alleged conduct.

Local leadership may address allegations of relatively minor misconduct. For example, if there is a minor allegation made against a teacher in a diocesan school, the school’s principal or assistant principal may undertake an inquiry.  Office of Safeguarding (OoSG) staff will oversee and support the local leadership conducting the inquiry.  For more serious allegations, an OoSG investigator is appointed to conduct the inquiry.

The following information relates to administrative inquiries conducted by the OoSG.

Parent and child choose to participate in the inquiry

The investigator will contact the parent or responsible adult of a child who is:

  • the victim of alleged inappropriate conduct by a diocesan worker, or
  • a witness to alleged inappropriate conduct.

The investigator will:

  • inform the parent or carer of OoSG’s role in conducting an administrative inquiry and provide a general descriptor of the alleged conduct under inquiry
  • advise the parent or carer of the child’s possible role in the inquiry (as alleged victim or witness)
  • advise the parent that the inquiry is strictly confidential and it should only be discussed with the parent’s partner or trusted confidant, and cannot be discussed with the child
  • ask for the parent and the child’s agreement to participate in the inquiry.

If parent and child agree to participate in the administrative inquiry, the investigator will make arrangements to interview the child.

There are rare occasions where the OoSG will not contact the parents, e.g. one or both of the child’s parents’ are alleged abusers.

Also, the child’s age affects the level of self-determination in the inquiry.  By 16 years of age, the child’s wishes will primarily direct the OoSG, although the child’s parent will remain informed and be consulted, unless otherwise indicated.

The child needs to feel as safe and supported as possible. The child’s interview must be witnessed.  One or more of the child’s parents, or another trusted adult, needs to attend the child’s interview.  The OoSG investigator will negotiate a mutually agreeable time and place to conduct the interview.  Wherever possible, evidentiary interviews do not occur in the place where the alleged conduct occurred (for example, the school where alleged abuse occurred).

With the parent and the child’s consent, the interview will be audio recorded.  The audio recording will be transcribed into a written record of interview, a copy of which will be sent to the child (c/o their parent).  The child has an opportunity to review the record of interview and submit any corrections, clarifications and further written comments they believe appropriate.  The child and parent are asked to sign the record of interview before sending it back to OoSG.  In absence of a response, the OoSG investigator will take the record of interview to be accurate.

If parent or child chooses not to participate in the inquiry, the parent will be asked to put their decision in writing to the investigator.  The choice not to participate will likely affect the administrative inquiry.

Information given to the parent and child about the administrative inquiry

Administrative inquiries may be relatively straightforward and resolved within a few weeks.  Other inquiries extend over months, sometimes years.  Some of the more serious inquiries involve statutory authorities conducting their own inquiries.  Statutory authorities’ investigations take precedence — police investigations are paramount, and then other statutory authorities such as the Department of Community and Justice.

Information for Alleged Victims

The alleged victim and their parent or carer are given particular consideration during an administrative inquiry, including being:

  • informed of the respondent’s identity (alleged abuser), if not already known to the parents or carers (unless there is a credible concern against disclosing the respondent’s name)
  • informed of the inquiry’s progress — the investigator will set up an agreed schedule of contact with the child’s parent
  • advised of the inquiry’s findings relating to the child — if there is more than one alleged victim in the inquiry, the parent will only be given information relating to their own child
  • advised, in general terms, of the outcomes of the inquiry.

The term “sustained findings” describes that there is sufficient evidence to establish that a particular allegation occurred, on the balance of probabilities.  If there is insufficient evidence, the finding is “not sustained”.

The term ‘outcomes’ describes key decisions the diocesan leadership makes when one or more allegation in an administrative inquiry is ‘sustained’.  Outcomes can relate to the respondent and operational or systemic issues.

Information for Witnesses

Once an investigator has interviewed a witness and their evidence has been finalised, the child witness’s role in the administrative inquiry is complete.  The child and parent will be advised when the inquiry has been completed, but they will not be given information in relation to findings or outcomes.

A child is protected during and after an administrative inquiry

The Diocese is committed to promoting the safety, welfare and wellbeing of children.

The local leadership of diocesan entities has an obligation to ensure children involved in an administrative inquiry conducted by the Diocese, are given particular care.  Counselling and additional support may be arranged for a child if the process makes them anxious or distressed.  Reasonable costs for this support will be met by the OoSG.

Procedural fairness requires that the respondent is given sufficient information with which to respond to the allegations made against them, this includes the identity of the child or children he or she is alleged to have abused.  This does not extend to the identity of child witnesses.  The OoSG will protect the identity of child witnesses and will only reveal them if legally compelled to do so.

Any allegation that a diocesan worker is targeting or discriminating against a child because the child reported allegations of misconduct, or because of their participation in an inquiry, is taken very seriously and the OoSG will investigate the complaint.

Supports provided you during an inquiry

The primary concern for the Office of Safeguarding and the entire Diocese is to ensure that your child feels safe and listened to when participating in an inquiry, whether as the complainant or a witness.

Office of Safeguarding investigators will take a trauma-informed approach to their interactions with you and your child.

If you or your child has special needs the investigator will undertake all reasonable adjustments to assist you or your child to be able to participate in the inquiry on your terms and with dignity.

Being involved in an administrative inquiry may cause stress, feelings of uncertainty, confusion and fear.  If you believe that you require some additional support, the Diocese will provide you with up to ten (10) counselling sessions, paid for by the Diocese.  To access this support we ask the following:

  • that your choice of counsellor is a registered psychologist or eligible for membership of the AASW (Australian Association of Social Workers) or other recognised professional counselling body
  • that you agree for us to arrange payment of the sessions directly with the counsellor.

Also, we will not pay more than the counselling rates recommended by the APS or AASW.

There may be other supports that we can offer you, but that is best discussed directly between you and the investigator.