Child Protection Week and White Balloon Day

Child Protection Week and White Balloon Day

National Child Protection Week (NCPW, 2-8 September 2012)

Each year during NCPW, Bravehearts’ signature event, White Balloon Day, is held to raise awareness about child sexual assault and help empower survivors to break their silence.


The Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle will be highlighting our commitment to NCPW by displaying white balloons at each of our 55 Catholic schools, at Sacred Heart Cathedral, at selected parishes and at our diocesan head office on Thursday 6 September.

Please visit to find out more about White Balloon Day, why the white balloon was chosen to symbolise child protection, and learn about the organisation’s founder Hetty Johnston. 


Child Protection Week and White Balloon Day


The Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle has had a very troubled history regarding the sexual abuse of children.  This history has caused, and continues to cause, pain to the victims of abuse, their families and the broader faith community. The diocese is committed to redressing past wrongs and has publicly acknowledged that past practices in relation to allegations of abuse or the support offered to victims, were not comparable with current standards.


Sadly the diocese was not alone in struggling with issues of child abuse.  The Royal Commission into the NSW Police Service (1994-97) comprehensively proved that government authorities, community organisations, schools and churches all failed to protect children.  This is not an attempt to excuse or lessen the diocese’s role or responsibility; it is merely a reflection of facts that are largely missing in today’s media coverage.  This is not to suggest that media do not have a vital role in child protection.  It is often thanks to public awareness that past criminal conduct can be investigated and perpetrators brought to justice.


However to promote a perception that the vast majority of honest and dedicated priests, religious or laity working for the diocese was complicit, is simply not true.  Further, to imply that the diocese’s current conduct supports abuse or the ‘cover-up’ of abuse is a false implication.


The diocese will continue to:

  • Co-operate fully with Police investigations of historic crimes;
  • Work closely with the NSW Ombudsman and the Commission for Children and Young People to ensure appropriate statutory oversight of the diocese’s child protection services continues;
  • Require all diocesan personnel to maintain contemporary knowledge of child protection standards and report issues of concern promptly;
  • Offer ongoing support to those who have been harmed and explore new ways to promote healing.

These facts are provided to Newcastle media, including the Herald, but are not reflected in opinion or conclusion. Editing out this information may do a disservice to the diocese, but it disadvantages the very people these services exist for: those who were harmed and the tens of thousands of families who are served by diocesan schools, welfare services and parishes.


As the head of the diocese’s child protection services, I have been afforded overwhelming support by Bishop Bill Wright and diocesan leaders to promote the safety, welfare and well being of children and address historic abuse.


I share the following information to further the mission of this year’s National Child Protection Week; to raise awareness, engage and educate all Australians to understand they have a part to play in keeping our children and young people safe from abuse.


Zimmerman Services provides child protection services throughout the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle. Zimmerman Services operates under the direction of the Bishop of Maitland-Newcastle and works collaboratively with a number of statutory authorities, Church and community agencies to assist the diocese to:

  • meet its moral and legislative requirements to protect the children of the diocese from abuse, and
  • address the enduring legacy of historic child sexual assault that occurred within the diocese.

Zimmerman Services includes three separate areas:

  1. The Diocesan Child Protection Unit provides relevant services such as child protection training, investigations of alleged abuse, pre-employment checks and requests for professional advice and support.
  2. Co-ordinator of Healing and Support works with individuals who have been adversely affected by child sexual assault perpetrated by members of the diocese, to support and promote their personal and unique journey towards healing.
  3. Insights explores the deep, lasting effects of child sexual abuse on the faith communities within the diocese.

All allegations against diocesan personnel are taken very seriously and investigated with processes in place to ensure the diocese meets its moral and legal requirements to promote the safety, welfare and well being of children.

You can contact Zimmerman Services by phone (02) 4979 1390 or Email

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