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Information for parents and children

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The Office of Safeguarding conducts investigations into alleged misconduct and abuse

The Diocese takes any allegation of misconduct or abusive conduct 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 investigation. 

The following information relates to OoSG investigations.

Parent and child choose to participate in the investigation

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

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

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 OoSG investigative 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 posted 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.

The child’s age affects the level of self-determination in the investigative process. 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.

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

Information given to the parent and child about the investigation

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

INFORMATION FOR ALLEGED VICTIMS

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

  • being informed of the investigation’s progress — the investigator will set up an agreed schedule of contact with the child’s parent
  • being advised of the investigation findings relating to the child — if there is more than one alleged victim in the investigation, the parent will only be given information relating to their own child
  • being advised, in general terms, of the outcomes of the investigation.

The term “findings” describes whether there is sufficient evidence to establish a particular allegation occurred — a “sustained” finding. 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 investigation is “sustained”. Outcomes can relate to the diocesan worker investigated, 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 investigation is complete. The child and parent will be advised when the investigation has been completed, but they will not be given information in relation to findings or outcomes.

A child is protected during and after the investigation

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 investigation are given particular care. Counselling and additional support may be arranged for a child if the process makes them anxious or distressed. Reasonable costs will be borne by OoSG.

Any allegation a diocesan worker is targeting or discriminating against a child because they reported allegations of misconduct, or because of their participation in an investigation, is taken very seriously and OoSG will investigate. If it is established a diocesan worker has been a party to such discrimination, they are at risk of serious disciplinary action.

OoSG will protect the identity of child witnesses and will only reveal them if legally compelled to do so. The diocesan worker under investigation has the right to know who he or she is alleged to have abused, but not the identity of child witnesses.