Report Abuse

Reporting abuse committed by a Diocesan worker

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Who is a diocesan worker?

Diocesan worker means any person engaged by or acting on behalf of the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, including those:

  • employed by the Diocese under an award or contract
  • volunteering their services, including authorised (foster) carers or relative or kinship carers, within the meaning of the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998
  • contracted by the Diocese, as a sole trader or other business, to undertake particular tasks
  • people undertaking practical training as part of an educational or vocational course
  • clergy incardinated to the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle or providing ministry as an agent of the Diocese
  • members of a religious congregations working for or providing ministry on behalf of and in the name of the Diocese.

Unacceptable conduct for diocesan workers

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.

Reporting to the Office of Safeguarding

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)

Professional standards

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
www.vatican.va/archive/cod-iuris-canonici/cic_index_en.html

Integrity in Ministry
www.catholic.org.au/documents/1344-integrity-in-ministry-2010-1

Reportable conduct

Reportable Conduct is is detailed in Part 4 Children’s Guardian Act 2019 and “means the following conduct, whether or not a criminal proceeding in relation to the conduct has been commenced or concluded—

(a)  a sexual offence,
(b)  sexual misconduct,
(c)  ill-treatment of a child,
(d)  neglect of a child,
(e)  an assault against a child,
(f)  an offence under section 43B or 316A of the Crimes Act 1900,
(g)  behaviour that causes significant emotional or psychological harm to a child.”

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 OCG (Office of the Children’s Guardian).

If a diocesan worker has been convicted of any reportable conduct, that constitutes a reportable conviction and the Diocese must advise the OCG.

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 OCG.

P:   02 8219 3800 (9am–4pm Mon-Fri)

Office of the Children’s Guardian
Locked Bag 5100
Strawberry Hills NSW 2012

OCG online enquiries 

 

DETAILED DEFINITION OF “REPORTABLE CONDUCT”

Sexual offence

A sexual offence is an offence of a sexual nature under a law of NSW, another state/territory, or the Commonwealth committed against, with or in the presence of a child, such as:

  • sexual touching of a child;
  • a child grooming offence;
  • production, dissemination or possession of child abuse material.

An alleged sexual offence does not have to be the subject of criminal investigation or charges for it to be categorised as a reportable allegation of a sexual offence.

Sexual misconduct

The Act defines sexual misconduct to mean any conduct with, towards or in the presence of a child that is sexual in nature (but is not a sexual offence) and provides the following (non-exhaustive) examples:

  • descriptions of sexual acts without a legitimate reason to provide the descriptions;
  • sexual comments, conversations or communications;
  • comments to a child that express a desire to act in a sexual manner towards the child, or another child.

Crossing professional boundaries comes within the scope of the scheme to the extent that the alleged conduct meets the definition of sexual misconduct. That is, conduct with, towards or in the presence of a child that is sexual in nature (but is not a sexual offence).

The Act defines ill treatment as conduct towards a child that is:

  • unreasonable; and
  • seriously inappropriate, improper, inhumane or cruel.

Ill-treatment can include a range of conduct such as making excessive or degrading demands of a child; a pattern of hostile or degrading comments or behaviour towards a child; and using inappropriate forms of behaviour management towards a child.

The Children’s Guardian Act defines neglect to mean a significant failure – by a person with parental responsibility for the child, or an authorised carer or an employee if the child is in the employee’s care – to provide adequate and proper food, supervision, nursing, clothing, medical aid or lodging for the child that causes or is likely to cause harm to the child.

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 the failure is likely to cause harm.  Examples of neglect include failing to protect a child from abuse and exposing a child to a harmful environment.

Assault

Technically, any form of unwarranted touching can, depending on the context in which it occurs, constitute an assault. However the Act explicitly exempts from notification assaults that are, in all the circumstances, trivial or negligible – as long as they are investigated under workplace procedures.

Generally, physical force that does not result in more than transient injury and which had no potential to result in serious injury – with consideration to the context and circumstances in which the alleged assault took place – would be considered ‘trivial or negligible’.

Under the Act, an assault can occur when a person intentionally or recklessly (ie. knows the assault is possible but ignores the risk):

  • applies physical force against a child without lawful justification or excuse – such as hitting, striking, kicking, punching or dragging a child (actual physical force); or
  • causes a child to apprehend the immediate and unlawful use of physical force against them– such as threatening to physically harm a child through words and/or gestures and regardless of whether the person actually intends to apply any force (apprehension of physical force).

Allegations of ‘serious physical assault’, if proven, must be reported to the OCG for the purpose of the Working With Children Check. Therefore, it is important to obtain the information necessary to determine whether the alleged assault, if proven, will constitute a serious physical assault.

What is serious physical assault?

A physical assault is not serious where:

  • it only involves minor force; and
  • it did not, and was not ever likely to, result in serious injury.

A physical assault is serious where:

  • it results in the child being injured, beyond a type of injury like a minor scratch, bruise or graze; or
  • it had the potential to result in a serious injury; or
  • the injury suffered may be minor, but the assault is associated with aggravating circumstances (in this regard, aggravating circumstances might include associated inhumane or demeaning behaviour by the employee, for example kicking a child, pulling a child by grabbing the child around the neck).

Section 43B Failure to Reduce or Remove the Risk of Child Abuse

This section creates an obligation to remove/reduce risks of child abuse occurring. It is now a criminal offence to negligently fail to reduce or remove a risk if a person has the power or responsibility to do so.  Previous obligations only required the person to report the risk or relevant information, none of the obligations require such persons to take any action to reduce or remove that risk.  The person must know there is a serious risk of a child abuse offence taking place power or responsibility to do so against a child who is or may come to be under the care or supervision of the organisation.

To establish the offence, the prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt that:

  1. You were an adult working in an organisation engaged in child-related work
  2. There was a serious risk that an adult worker in that organisation would commit a child abuse offence
  3. You were aware of that risk
  4. You had the power or responsibility to reduce or remove that risk, and
  5. You negligently failed to reduce or remove that risk.

A ‘child abuse offence’ includes:

  • Murder, intent to murder and manslaughter
  • Choking, suffocation and strangulation
  • Wounding and assaults causing harm
  • Poisoning and drink spiking
  • Sexual offences including sexual assault, sexual touching and sexual act
  • Child abuse material, and
  • Attempting to commit any of the above

‘Child related work’ as defined in the Child Protection (Working with Children) Act 2012 and Regulation 2013.

Section 316A Concealing Child Abuse Offence

This section creates an offence if an individual (whether they perform child related work or not) fails to report a child abuse offence.  If an adult knows (or reasonably ought to know) that a child abuse offence has been committed and that they have information that might be of material assistance in apprehending/prosecuting/convicting the offender, they must bring that information to the attention of Police.

To establish the offence, the prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt that:

  1. You were an adult
  2. You knew, believed or ought reasonably have known that a child abuse offence had been committed
  3. You knew, believed or ought reasonably have known that you had information which might be of material assistance to arrest, prosecute or convict the offender
  4. You failed to bring the information to the attention of a NSW police officer as soon as practicable after you obtained it, and
  5. You had no reasonable excuse for your failure.

The definition of ‘child abuse offence’ covers a wide range of crimes against persons under 18, including:

  • Serious assaults
  • Sexual offences such as sexual assault, sexual touching, sexual act, grooming, procuring, child abuse material and child prostitution, and
  • Failing in parental responsibilities to care for a child, as well as abandoning or exposing a child.

Behaviour that causes significant psychological or emotional harm is conduct that is intentional or reckless (without reasonable excuse), obviously or very clearly unreasonable and which results in significant emotional harm or trauma to a child.

For a reportable allegation involving psychological harm, the following elements must be present:

  • an obviously or very clearly unreasonable or serious act or series of acts that the employee knew or ought to have known was unacceptable, and
  • evidence of psychological harm to the child that is more than transient, including displaying patterns of ‘out of character behaviour’, regression in behaviour, distress, anxiety, physical symptoms or self-harm, and
  • an alleged causal link between the employee’s conduct and the significant emotional or psychological harm to the child.

Risk of significant harm (ROSH)

Reporting ROSH

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:
www.reporter.childstory.nsw.gov.au/s/mrg

If you wish more information on the MRG go to:

MRG (Mandatory Reporter Guide)

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.

  • A child’s basic needs are not met, for example, the child doesn’t have enough food or clothing, or doesn’t have a safe or secure place to live.
  • A child’s parents or caregivers aren’t arranging necessary medical care, for example, a child is very sick, but is not taken to a doctor.
  • A child or young person being physically abused or ill-treated, for example, where a child has bruises, fractures or other injuries from excessive discipline or other non-accidental actions.
  • A child or young person being sexually abused, for example, sexual activity between the child and an older child or adult.
  • Risk of serious physical or psychological harm resulting from domestic violence, for example where a child could be injured by a punch intended for their mother, or a child can’t sleep at night because of the fear there will be violence in the home.
  • Risk of the child or young person suffering serious psychological harm, for example, a child having to take care of his parent, or a child being continually ignored, threatened or humiliated.

Criminal Conduct

Emergency:
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:

www.triplezero.gov.au/Pages/default.aspx

Criminal conduct:
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:

www.police.nsw.gov.au/about_us/regions_commands_districts/police_station_search

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.