Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle shows its support of Child Protection Week

For the second year in a row, hundreds of white balloons will be displayed across the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle’s 55 Catholic schools, Sacred Heart Cathedral and Cathedral House Newcastle West this Thursday, for National Child Protection Week (NCPW) 2-8 September, 2013.


The white balloon signifies the importance of encouraging survivors to break their silence and aims to raise awareness about child sexual assault. It’s a symbol originally chosen by Bravehearts Inc which hosts White Balloon Day each year during NCPW.


Bravehearts founder and executive director, Hetty Johnston, has written exclusively for this month’s Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle magazine, Aurora (out this week).


In her article, Hetty tells of her own family’s experience to help encourage people to come forward and break the silence.


"One survivor disclosure today could save another child from having to endure a similar fate tomorrow," Hetty said.


Bravehearts’ website details research that shows 1 in 5 Australian children will be sexually assaulted in some way before their 18th birthday. The research states that in 85 per cent of cases, the offender is known to the child and is a relative or a trusted friend.


“Silence, secrecy and shame protect offenders, traumatise victims and put today’s children at risk. The ‘three Ss’ are the sex offender’s best friend and the child’s worst enemy.”


The Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle has an absolute and abiding commitment to promote the safety, welfare and well being of children.


Manager of Zimmerman Services, including the Child Protection Unit, Sean Tynan, said the diocese is committed to raising awareness about child protection.


“The diocese has actively shown its support of the NSW Special Commission of Inquiry and will be firmly committed to assisting the work of the national Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.


“The diocese will display white balloons again this year and will continue, not just this week but all year round, to raise awareness, engage and educate all people, especially in our diocese, to understand they have a part to play in keeping our children and young people safe from abuse,” Mr Tynan said.


Mr Tynan said the diocese is also committed to supporting people, especially those affected by abuse, with individualised healing services available to them through the Healing and Support Team, which is an intricate part of Zimmerman Services.


“The Coordinator of Healing and Support, Maureen O’Hearn, works directly with individuals to support and promote their personal and unique journey towards healing,” he said.


“Maureen is employed by the diocese and is available and committed to working with those affected by abuse to ensure they have a voice. This was evident recently when, at the request of two victims of clergy abuse, Maureen read their impact statements to the NSW Special Commission of Inquiry.”


“Because of the extremely important role Maureen plays in the lives of those affected by abuse, the diocese has also just employed a Caseworker, Healing and Support, to further assist those coming forward,” Mr Tynan said.


The two Healing and Support positions will also:

  • support the person making a statement to Police or other statutory authorities as they disclose their abuse
  • support the person, their family and friends through the criminal process in their quest for justice or a civil process in search of restitution
  • advocate to the diocese or other Church authorities on behalf of the person or groups of people who have been adversely affected
  • support the person and their family through periods of distress caused by physical, emotional or spiritual crisis.

Mr Tynan said the diocese has had a very troubled history regarding the sexual abuse of children.


“As a diocese we have acknowledged our history and we are continuing to try to address the harm that was caused. Our diocese and all its schools will participate in White Balloon Day this year to encourage children and adult survivors, to break the silence.”


For more information about the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle’s Child Protection Unit, established in 2005, please click here.


Media Enquiries



10.30am THURSDAY 5 SEPTEMBER 2013,


Please contact Emma Blackford 0432 090 764 to arrange photos at schools or to arrange a photo of Sean Tynan and Maureen O’Hearn holding white balloons with the Diocesan Leadership Team, CatholicCare Director Lisa Short and Catholic Schools Director Ray Collins.


*Please note: some schools will be marking the day by displaying balloons on another day during Child Protection Week. Similarly, various churches will participate to represent each parish region with some choosing to display their balloons inside the church, others outside.