Hundreds of white balloons will be displayed across 55 Catholic schools, Sacred Heart Cathedral and the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle's head office this Thursday, to raise awareness of National Child Protection Week (NCPW) 2-8 September, 2012. Balloons will also be displayed over the weekend at various churches during Mass.
The white balloon signifies the importance of raising awareness about child sexual assault and empowers survivors to break their silence; a symbol originally chosen by Bravehearts Inc which hosts White Balloon Day each year during NCPW.
Diocesan Parish-Family Liaison Officer, Helene O'Neill, is organising the diocesan initiative with Manager of the Diocesan Child Protection Unit, Zimmerman Services, Sean Tynan.
Mr Tynan said he has been afforded overwhelming support by Bishop Bill Wright, diocesan and Catholic Schools Office leaders, to encourage staff, students and clergy to participate in NCPW by displaying white balloons.
"The Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle will display the balloons as a sign of commitment to furthering the mission of NCPW; 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," Mr Tynan said.
"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. As a diocese we have acknowledged our history and we continue to try to address the harm that was caused."
"Our participation in National Child Protection Week is simply to raise awareness of child protection. Everybody has an ongoing role to play and has some personal responsibility; as a diocese, as individuals, as clergy, religious and laity, as teachers, parents, and students, to promote the safety, welfare and well being of children, young people and vulnerable adults," he said.
Mr Tynan said Child Protection Week is an opportunity also to raise awareness of the diocese's Child Protection Unit.
"Since 2005, a specialist team has provided child protection services throughout the diocese of Maitland-Newcastle and has worked collaboratively with a number of statutory authorities, Church and community agencies to assist the diocese:
- 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 parts:
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.
The diocese and Catholic Schools Office have encouraged all schools to acknowledge Child Protection Week the best way they can: as part of their weekly assemblies or events, in their school newsletter or by distributing pamphlets to parents for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect.