Safe Communities rolling out in parishes

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Safe Communities rolling out in parishes

A program designed to uphold the safety of children and vulnerable adults who come into contact with the Church in Tasmania is being rolled out in parishes.

In April parish priests and administrators signed a commitment of intent to implement the Safe Communities program.

Now parishes are engaging in a self-assessment of their practices against the 10 National Child Safety Standards.

Items on the self-assessment include practices like conducting screening of volunteers, and making information available for parishioners about reporting abuse.

Tassie Strafkos, the Archdiocesan Safe Communities Officer says help is available to parishes during this process.

“A lot of it is about having the conversations,” Mr Strafkos said.

“If they contact us and [say], ‘Oh look, do you mind coming out and talking about this?’ Then we can help with that. ‘Can you come in and help us finish this?’ Then we can help with that as well,” he said.

“We want it to be a constructive process. And it’s a self-assessment, so they are looking at themselves based on what they know … And it might be that they are doing more than what they think they are.”

One query the Safe Communities team have received through the June parish administration forums, was about the need to undertake both police and working with vulnerable people checks for employees and volunteers.

“We developed four questions and answers about the checks to explain why both are needed,” Mr Strafkos said.

Although an important initial stage in the process of implementing Safe Communities, parishes will be expected to complete a self-assessment annually.

“It enables us to determine how parishes are [aligned to the standards], and also highlights what issues they might have,” he said.

Each parish has freedom in implementing the program according to their parish’s situation.

One parish he visited had not set up any special committee, but was having discussions in its parish council about the program.

He described the discussions as ‘constructive’.

“We’d encourage them to keep it simple. If having a separate committee works, then that’s fine.”

Here to help: Archdiocesan Safe Communities Officer Tassie Strafkos and Project Officer Danielle Lipscombe are working with parishes to implement Safe Communities. Photo: Naomi Leach.