Archdiocese of Perth continues work to safeguard parishes
Some 30 lay men and women have last month brought to a total of more than 50 new Safeguarding Officers for the Archdiocese of Perth. The Safeguarding Officers – as they will be known - act as a conduit between parishioners and the Archdiocese’s Safeguarding Officer, Andrea Musulin, in bringing forward reports of child abuse by members of the Church. PHOTO: Jamie O’Brien
By Jamie O’Brien
The training of some 30 lay men and women in the area of child protection has last month brought the number of Safeguarding Officers for the Archdiocese of Perth to more than 50.
The men and women from all walks of life are being trained in all facets of child protection for the role as Safeguarding Officers in their parishes.
The Safeguarding Officers – as they will be known - act as a conduit between parishioners and the Archdiocese’s Safeguarding Officer, Andrea Musulin, in bringing forward reports of child abuse by members of the Church.
The training looks at a multitude of areas the Safeguarding Officers will come across, including Working with Children legislation, responding to child abuse concerns and suspicions, as well as the role of the Royal Commission.
Ms Musulin also highlighted the role of parents in the Safeguarding Project, emphasising that “having parental support of any program like this is vital”.
“Children look to their parents for guidance and for reassurance. We all teach children about stranger danger and we all beat to the same drum. We have the same message and sit on the same page.
“When we talk about child sexual abuse prevention, we are not all beating the same drum simply because these issues (about childhood sexual abuse prevention) were not addressed when we were children.
“So, we need to get parents on board and we need parents to be quite aware of how, what, when, and why child sexual abuse is perpetrated because it is then that we can actually work with children with parental support and that will make the program all the better.”
In officially launching the project at St Mary’s Cathedral earlier this year, Ms Musulin, a police officer and expert in child protection, spoke about how the project works in the Archdiocese.
“I will be the overarching Safeguarding Officer, with two local officers appointed to every parish,” Ms Musulin said.
“The people chosen will be required to attend training and then we will look at ways in which, together, we can develop local projects that parents and children can attend.
“It is about making sure officers are au fait with the policies and procedures that I have written for the Safeguarding Project and that guiding principles are put into place and are being followed in parishes.”
A plethora of additional training will also be provided each year to further develop and strengthen the role of the Safeguarding Officers in the parishes.
Ms Musulin joined the Archdiocese of Perth with a background of 28 years of experience as a police officer, specialising in child protection.
She has provided services to children in metropolitan, rural and remote areas of Western Australia and has developed the first and only Child Protection Program for Rural and Remote Children.
Ms Musulin went on to make clear that the Safeguarding Officers are not the judge and jury.
“They are not the police providing the investigation. They are the people who receive the concern that then comes directly to me.”
This project is seen as a first globally due to the strong preventative education it involves, otherwise known as protective behaviours education.
“This is our secret weapon among the many weapons we have,” Ms Musulin pointed out.
“Looking at the recipe for crime, 80 per cent of it occurs because of the opportunity to commit the crime.
“The sheer fact that children don’t have the knowledge and are not empowered creates that 80 per cent chance of opportunity when we are talking about child sexual abuse.
“That said, there are things that we can teach children that would reduce that opportunity.
“When we are looking at a holistic view of protecting children and creating child-safe organisations, you cannot really have a child-safe program or policy that doesn’t involve empowering children through education.”
More information about the Safeguarding Project can be obtained by contacting the WA Professional Standards Office on 08 9221 7762 or via email@example.com.