Diocesan worker means any person engaged by or acting on behalf of the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, including those:
Diocesan workers are required to conduct themselves to the highest standards of behaviour. There are a number of statutory, church-wide and diocesan codes and standards that describe unacceptable conduct. More serious conduct involves statutory authorities involved.
Unacceptable conduct is considered along a spectrum, from least to most severe:
In addition, a current Working with Children Check is mandatory. It is unacceptable conduct and a minor criminal offence to be without one and work with children.
If you have information that a diocesan worker has committed any unacceptable conduct involving a child or vulnerable adult (breach of professional standards, reportable conduct, ROSH or criminal conduct), it must be reported to the Office of Safeguarding:
P: 02 4979 1390 (Mon-Fri 8.30am-5pm)
Reporting a breach of professional standards
It is most effective to address alleged breaches of professional standards directly with the diocesan worker and attempt to resolve the situation on an individual basis.
If you are unable to resolve the issue with the relevant worker, there are particular complaints procedures you can follow.
Breaches in professional standards capture a broad spectrum of conduct. For those more serious matters, other processes take precedence.
Professional standards are not identical for all diocesan workers. The following table sets out the different sources of professional standards for the various classes of diocesan workers:
St Nicholas Early Education Centre
Catholic Schools Office and diocesan systemic schools
Parishes, Diocesan Curia*, CatholicCare Social Services, Development and Relief Agency (DARA), and related welfare services
Clergy and religious appointed to roles in the Diocese
Code of Canon Law
Integrity in Ministry
Reportable Conduct is a class of proscribed behaviour for people who work with children, set out in s.25A Ombudsman Act as:
However, reportable conduct does not extend to conduct that is reasonable for the purposes of discipline, management or care of a child, among other particular exemptions.
If a diocesan worker is alleged to have committed reportable conduct against a child, whether at work or in their private life, the Diocese must conduct an investigation into the allegations and report the allegations and subsequent investigation to the NSW Ombudsman.
If a diocesan worker has been convicted of any reportable conduct, that constitutes a reportable conviction and the Diocese must advise the NSW Ombudsman.
Reporting Reportable Conduct
If you receive information that alleges a diocesan worker has committed reportable conduct you must advise the worker’s supervisor as a matter of urgency. If you do not know who the diocesan worker’s supervisor is or you are unable to contact them, contact the Office of Safeguarding.
If you believe the Diocese has failed to respond to your allegation of reportable conduct, you are able to complain to the Office of the NSW Ombudsman.
P: 02 9286 1000 (9am–4pm Mon-Fri)
DETAILED DEFINITION OF “REPORTABLE CONDUCT”
What is a sexual offence?
The term “sexual offence” encompasses all criminal offences involving a sexual element that are “committed against, with or in the presence of a child”.
These offences include (but are not limited to) the following:
What is sexual misconduct?
For sexual misconduct to constitute reportable conduct, the alleged conduct must have been committed against, with or in the presence of a child.
There are various types of sexual misconduct including (but not limited to):
Crossing professional boundaries
Sexual misconduct includes behaviour that can reasonably be construed as involving an inappropriate and overly personal or intimate:
a child or young person, or a group of children or young persons.
In the area of “crossing professional boundaries”, particular care should be exercised before making a finding of sexual misconduct. For example, an employee who, on an isolated occasion, “crosses professional boundaries” in a manner that involves little more than poor judgment could not be said to have engaged in sexual misconduct. Also, in cases where an employee has “crossed boundaries” in terms of their relationship with a child, if there is evidence that clearly shows the employee did not seek to establish an improper relationship with the involved child, then this does not constitute sexual misconduct.
However, persistent less serious breaches of professional conduct in this area, or a single serious “crossing of the boundaries” by an employee, may constitute sexual misconduct, particularly if the employee either knew, or ought to have known, that their behaviour was unacceptable.
Codes of conduct outlining the nature of the professional boundaries that should exist between employees and children/young people can be particularly useful. For employees who either intentionally breach such codes or have demonstrated an inability to apply them appropriately, it may be necessary to provide more detailed written advice about what constitutes appropriate behaviour.
Sexually explicit comments and other overtly sexual behaviour
Sexual misconduct includes a broad range of sexualised behaviour with or towards children. While it is not possible to provide a complete and definitive list of unacceptable sexual conduct involving children, the following types of behaviour give strong guidance:
Grooming or procuring a child under the age of 16 years for unlawful sexual activity is a sexual offence. However, Schedule 1(2) of the Child Protection (Working With Children) Act also recognises grooming as a form of sexual misconduct. As grooming is a sexual offence if the alleged victim is under 16 years, caution should be exercised before reaching a grooming finding (particularly in cases where the behaviour is directed towards a child under 16 years). As an alternative to grooming, in many cases it will be more appropriate to consider whether there has been a “crossing of professional boundaries” (see above) and/or other more overt sexual behaviour.
Furthermore, behaviour should only be seen as “grooming” where there is evidence of a pattern of conduct that is consistent with grooming the alleged victim for sexual activity, and that there is no other reasonable explanation for it. The types of behaviours that may lead to such a conclusion include (but are not limited to) the following:
An adult requesting that a child keep any aspect of their relationship secret or using tactics to keep any aspect of the relationship secret, would generally increase the likelihood that grooming is occurring.
What is an assault?
An assault can occur when a person intentionally or recklessly applies physical force against a child without their consent (actual physical force), or intentionally or recklessly causes a child to apprehend the imminent use of physical force against them without their consent (apprehension of physical force).
Actual physical force can comprise conduct such as hitting, pushing, shoving or throwing objects. Apprehended physical force can comprise words and/or gestures that lead the child to apprehend the imminent application of physical force, regardless of whether the person actually intends to apply any force.
The element of intention or recklessness relates only to the application of physical force or the creation of the apprehension. The person must either intend to apply physical force or to create the apprehension, or know that it is possible this will happen, but ignore the risk. The person’s intent does not have to be malicious. For example, a parent uses corporal discipline (a slap on the back of a child’s upper leg) for the purposes of correcting dangerous behaviour, not to cause harm to the child. However, if the slap leaves a bruise, it is assault.
The circumstances in which any physical force is used will be crucial when determining whether an assault has occurred, as the question will often be one of degree. There is a range of physical contact that, because of the context in which it occurs, falls within the standards of ordinary everyday conduct and does not amount to assault.
For an assault to occur, it is not necessary that the person act with hostility or that the child sustain an injury. However, the presence or absence of any hostility or injury may be significant when deciding whether the physical force used, or the apprehension created, constituted an assault.
In addition, the Ombudsman Act specifically outlines certain conduct that does not need to be reported:
Serious physical assault
A physical assault is not serious where:
A physical assault is serious where:
In considering whether a serious physical assault has occurred, reporting bodies whose work involves regular restraint of children should consider the context of events, including the child’s age and vulnerability.
Generally, behaviour that does not meet the standard of a serious physical assault does not become a serious physical assault by means of it being repeated. The only exception to this is where an employer has developed legitimate concerns for the safety of a child or children and intervened with a worker (for example, warnings or counselling) and the behaviour is repeated.
Ill-treatment captures those circumstances where a person treats a child or young person in an unreasonable and seriously inappropriate, improper, inhumane or cruel manner. The focus is on the alleged conduct rather than the actual effect of the conduct on the child or young person.
Ill-treatment can include disciplining or correcting a child in an unreasonable and seriously inappropriate or improper manner; making excessive and/or degrading demands of a child; hostile use of force towards a child; and/or a pattern of hostile or unreasonable and seriously inappropriate, degrading comments or behaviour towards a child.
In making a determination regarding ill-treatment, it may be important to consider relevant codes of conduct outlining the nature of professional conduct and practice by employees/workers that should occur when working with children/young people.
Neglect includes either an action or inaction by a person who has care responsibilities towards a child.
The nature of the employee’s responsibilities provides the context against which the conduct needs to be assessed.
Failure to protect from abuse:
Reckless acts (or failure to act):
An incident can constitute neglect if it contains any element within this definition.
Neglect can be an ongoing situation of repeated failure by a caregiver to meet a child’s physical or psychological needs, or a single significant incident where a caregiver fails to fulfil a duty or obligation, resulting in actual harm to a child or where there is the potential for significant harm to a child.
Behaviour that causes psychological harm is conduct that is obviously or very clearly unreasonable and results in significant emotional harm or trauma to a child.
There needs to be a proven causal link between the inappropriate behaviour and the harm, and the harm must be more than transient.
For reportable conduct involving psychological harm, the following elements must be present:
Psychological harm can include the exacerbation or aggravation of an existing psychological condition, such as anxiety or depression.
If you have reasonable cause to believe a diocesan worker is causing a child to be at risk of significant harm (ROSH) you must report the allegation to the Department of Family and Community Services (FaCS) Child Protection Helpline
Ph. 13 21 11 available 24 hours, 7 days a week
The MRG (Mandatory Reporter Guide) is available on the Keep Them Safe website as an online interactive tool:
If you wish more information on the MRG go to:
A child is at risk of significant harm (ROSH) if there are current concerns for their safety, welfare or wellbeing because of one or more of the following.
If you have just witnessed a crime or a crime is being committed or your life or property is being threatened, ring 000 and ask for Police.
For detailed information on ringing 000 emergency services:
If you have witnessed or have been made aware of a crime that does not warrant a 000 call, you should contact the local Police station. You can locate the local Police station online:
You may also contact the Police Assistance Line:
P: 131 444 available 24 hours, 7 days a week
If a crime was committed against a child or vulnerable adult or involving a child or vulnerable adult, the crime must also be reported to the Office of Safeguarding.
The Office of Safeguarding will report all allegations of child abuse offences to NSW Police.