Diocese marks Child Protection Week with Child Protection unit opening

CLICK HEREThe NSW Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle last night opened and blessed its new Child Protection and Professional Conduct Unit, which aims to ensure safe environment for children in the care of staff and volunteers from Catholic parishes, schools and other agencies.

Helen Keevers, Manager of the Child Protection and Professional Conduct Unit, said the new facility aims to ensure that the diocese complies with all relevant child protection legislation. She aid it will also introduce a system of education and prevention.

"It will address the needs of all affected parties for support and natural justice. The unit will also facilitate healing for individuals and communities affected by past abuse within the Church," she said.

Since May 1999, under the Ombudsman's Act, the NSW Government has legislated that any organisation providing services for children is required to nominate a Head of Agency to deal with child protection matters.

Until recently, the Catholic Commission for Employment Relations (CCER) acted as the Head of Agency for each of the dioceses in NSW and ACT. This Head of Agency responsibility shifted from CCER to the bishop of each diocese of NSW and ACT on 1 July 2005.

Maitland-Newcastle Bishop Michael Malone said that in preparation for this significant change in managing and responding to child protection issues, he authorised a comprehensive consultation into diocesan needs in this area.

"The consultation recommended the establishment of a Diocesan Child Protection Unit drawing on the existing skills and resources of the Catholic Schools Office and Centacare Newcastle," Bishop Malone said.

Ms Keevers added: "This is not the first child protection response in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle. We already have a very efficient system within our schools and staff from the Catholic Schools Office Child Protection Unit are now working with me to form the basis of the new unit. We may bring on further staff as time and resources allow."

"A priority for the diocese is working towards healing for those who have been affected by abuse within the Church. Some of our major advisers in the establishment and development of this unit have been directly affected by abuse within the Church. We are very grateful to them for their willingness to work with us in this significant venture," Ms Keevers said.

While the Child Protection and Professional Conduct Unit is located in Newcastle, the opening and blessing ceremony took place at 6:30 pm last night at St Paul's Church, Rutherford, a central location within the Diocese.

"I commend the new Unit to all in the diocese in the fervent hope that together we can create a safe environment for children in our care and enhance the professional status of all our employees and volunteers," Bishop Malone said.

Catholic diocese recognises child protection week with opening of new child protection unit (Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle 4/9/05)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle
National Child Protection Week

Integrated child protection for Maitland-Newcastle Diocese (CathNews 3/3/05)
Priest jailed for sexually abusing altar boy (CathNews 12/4/05)
NSW bishop apologises over abuse (CathNews 7/12/04)
NSW bishop announces Vincentian priest suspension (CathNews 7/9/04)

NZ abuse claimant tells of deprivation (CathNews 5/8/05)
More charges for jailed priest (CathNews 8/7/05)
Mystery over high-profile abuse case (CathNews 26/5/05)

Abuse allegation against former principal upheld (ABC West Coast SA 6/9/05)
Complaint over priest 'will not go to police' (The Advertiser 7/9/05)

7 Sep 2005