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Catholic Child Protection inadequate in NSW

The Catholic Commission for Employment Relations (CCER) has denied the NSW Ombudsman's assertion to State Parliament last week that it has failed to meet its obligations as 'head of agency' for the Catholic Church in the state.

Online Catholics reports today that the Ombudsman, Mr Bruce Barbour, told Parliament that the Catholic Commission's failings were so severe that it was his "firm view" that the organisation should be replaced as the key agency with responsibility for child protection matters.

The Catholic Commission for Employment Relations has been delegated responsibility by the NSW Bishops for compliance with child protection legislation. This means they are responsible for notifying and investigating reportable allegations against employees. They also have a broader compliance, systems monitoring, policy development and training responsibility. The Ombudsman is responsible for the review of such agencies.

The Ombudsman's concerns, first raised with the NSW Bishops in 2003, included CCCER's failure to notify and properly deal with allegations involving clergy, as well as delays in notifying and completing investigations, and failure to respond to the Ombudsman's requests for information. Subsequent investigations in 2003-04 found that the CCER had not adequately implemented the Ombudsman's recommendations.

In response, CCER Executive Director Michael McDonald claimed that Mr Barbour's report contains "matters which have been addressed or are in the process of being addressed by CCER and its constituent agencies". Mr McDonald also denied the assertion that the CCER has failed to implement the Ombudsman's recommendations, saying that "the audits generally have found implementation of the legislation and constructive relations between CCER and the particular agency".

The CCER also rejected "any implication that children in Catholic workplaces are less safe than in any other. In fact, employers have made every effort to secure the safety and protection of children."

Catholic Child Protection inadequate in NSW (Online Catholics 3/11/04)

Catholic Commission for Employment Relations (NSW)
NSW Ombudsman | Child Protection Team
Weak watchdog raises abuse risk: report (Sydney Morning Herald 27/10/04)
Church "failed to act on sex abuse concerns"

3 Nov 2004