The Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle has this morning announced the launch of the Diocesan Protection and Safety Council – a new body formed to advise the Bishop.
The Diocesan Protection and Safety Council (Council) will provide independent advice to the Bishop of Maitland-Newcastle on a range of issues, including promoting the protection of children and vulnerable adults within the Diocese, developing the Diocesan capacity to continue to support those who have been affected by child sexual abuse and working to rebuild a sense of trust within the community about the Diocese's commitment to protect children and vulnerable adults.
Bishop Bill Wright says the formation of the Council will foster a culture of continuous improvement throughout the Diocese, in all matters relating to the protection of children and vulnerable adults:
"The Diocese has a particularly troubled history of failing to protect children from sexual abuse and through these failures, allowed predatory individuals to continue to abuse. It is this sad history which sees us now at the forefront of safety and protection as we aim to continually push forward with any activities which minimise the risk for people suffering in the future."
"The newly formed Council will offer independent advice to ensure that the Diocese continues to develop its policies and practices in the field of professional standards."
"As a Diocese we have an absolute and enduring commitment to promoting and ensuring the safety of all who are connected with us – be it through our parishes, Catholic schools, early education or community outreach services," Bishop Bill said.
Established as an advisory body to the Bishop, the Council consists of a range of professionals from throughout the local and interstate communities says Chair, Peter Owens:
"The Council is deliberately diverse, with a mix of both Catholics and non-Catholics, clerics and lay people specialising in both the legal and mental health sectors."
"It's this diversity which I believe sees the Council well equipped to provide sound recommendations to the Bishop, but also to ensure these are seen through to implementation and integration within the everyday life of the Diocese as well," said Mr Owens.
The Council will produce an annual report for each financial year, detailing results of any evaluation or review processes conducted, new developments implemented and an operations summary of the Diocesan Protection Unit – Zimmerman Services. The first annual report will be made available in December 2017.