The Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle’s commitment to the safeguarding of children and vulnerable adults will reach new levels from today, with its existing agency Zimmerman Services upgrading to become the Office of Safeguarding.
As part of the upgrade, the Diocese is committing significant new resources, employing more specialist investigators, increasing its training obligations and improving its governance and compliance measures.
Sean Tynan, formerly Head of Zimmerman Services and now Director of Safeguarding has managed the transition process and said the launch of the agency had been timed to coincide with Child Protection Week.
“I understand people being sceptical, I respect people wanting to see actions, not hear words. But you can’t deny the evidence, the establishment of the Office of Safeguarding is a significant and concrete example of the Diocese’s commitment to safeguard children and vulnerable adults. In the coming years we’ll consistently demonstrate that reality, not to prove anything but because it’s who we are and what we do,” Mr Tynan said.
“As the Office of Safeguarding, we are empowered to test every part of the Diocese. It is a preventive and proactive process we have not had before. To fulfil this compliance role, we have been given more resources and an expanded mandate. And we have enhanced our Healing and Support services, establishing a dedicated cottage for healing services and increasing the numbers of Healing and Support staff,” Mr Tynan said.
The Office of Safeguarding will work alongside the Diocese’s various agencies including its 59 Catholic schools, CatholicCare Social Services Hunter-Manning, St Nicholas Early Education centres, the Development and Relief Agency (DARA) as well as parishes and pastoral care ministries.
Bishop Bill Wright believes establishing the Office of Safeguarding with its expanded mandate and increased resources “is the next logical evolution of Zimmerman Services”.
“As a Diocese, we will continually monitor and develop the sophistication of our auditing and compliance regimes to ensure our policies, procedures and organisational structures promote a culture of safeguarding children and vulnerable adults as a vital expression of our Catholicism and a central tenant of professional practice,” Bishop Bill said.
“We are committed to implementing and maintaining compliance with the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations and the National Catholic Safeguarding Standards. We will work with the NSW Office of the Children’s Guardian to develop and then implement the NSW standards for child-safe organisations.”
Bishop Bill described the events that led to the formation of Zimmerman Services as a “silent tragedy”. He said during the mid and later 20th century “across our society’s institutions, a terrible number of children were the victims of child sexual abuse”.
Zimmerman Services originally derived from Beverly Zimmerman, a Sister of St Joseph, and the second female chancellor of this Diocese. She was an extraordinary teacher and educator, but it was her work in 2006-08 that helped establish the child protection service as it now is.
Despite the name change, the Diocese will continue to acknowledge her contribution and the institution created in her honour. Zimmerman Services will remain as part of Healing and Support.
The Office of Safeguarding’s new website www.officeofsafeguarding.org.au is a key component of the Diocese’s promotion of safeguarding principles and practices. Included on the website is a video Statement from Bishop Bill Wright regarding safeguarding in the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.