President Dr Deidre Palmer has renewed the Uniting Church’s apology to survivors of institutional child sexual abuse, following the historic National Apology at Parliament House in Canberra.
“For anyone who was abused in the care of the Uniting Church, in our churches, schools or agencies, I’d again like to apologise sincerely. I am truly sorry that we didn’t protect and care for you in accordance with our Christian values,” said Dr Palmer.”
“The National Apology is an important landmark in our nation’s history. This week and in the weeks ahead, our thoughts are with those of you who have been abused, and with your families and friends who’ve been impacted by the ongoing effects of the abuse.
“Our commitment to you is that we will make amends and ensure others will not suffer as you did,” said Dr Palmer.
“I commend all those who spoke powerfully in the Parliament, in the Great Hall and around the country. The voices of survivors must never be forgotten, and the voices of children never ignored.”
“Our Church has some important commitments to live up to - to be a Church that listens to children and adults, to make our Church a safe place for all, and to take responsibility for the wrongs done in our name.”
After recent commentary about the National Redress Scheme (NRS), Dr Palmer has given a public reassurance about the Uniting Church’s commitment to the Scheme.
“We opted in to the NRS in June this year as soon it was confirmed that the Scheme was going ahead, and we’re moving as quickly as possible to meet the requirements for participation.”
“There are many legal and governance arrangements involved in joining the NRS. We have created a single national entity to deal with redress applications across the six Synods and the Assembly of the Uniting Church and other agencies that have chosen to join the NRS. On top of that, several state governments are yet to pass the enabling legislation to allow sign on in their jurisdiction.
“We’re moving ahead as quickly as we can with what we have to do, and our work is well advanced. I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to sign a memorandum of understanding with the Department of Social Services soon,” said Dr Palmer.
Enabling children and families to participate in decision-making was one of the key recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
To assist congregations in this work the Uniting Church has released a resource called Tools for Listening. The resource, developed by child safety experts across the UCA, guides people working with children through basic program engagement.
“Listening to children in our care and instilling in them the confidence to speak out and be taken seriously is a crucial principle of a child safe organisation,” said Dr Palmer.
“The more children are empowered to participate in decisions affecting them, the safer they’ll be – and we really want children to be safe in our churches and institutions.”
Tools for Listening is recommended by NAPCAN – the National Association for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect, the National Council of Churches (NCCA) and the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress.
Executive Officer of the UCA Royal Commission National Task Group Rev. John Cox thanked all the contributors to the resource.
“Collaboration and sharing across our Church and agencies has been a strong part of our response to the challenges of the Royal Commission,” said Rev. Cox.
“The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse recommended that children and young people be involved in the strategic development, design, implementation and evaluation of initiatives, that children participate in decisions affecting them and are taken seriously, and that families and communities are informed and involved.”
“This resource and others that follow are a key part in creating safe places for all in our care.”
If you are a Uniting Church member and would like information about safe church training, please contact your Synod or Presbytery.