Each quarter, via the Congregation Governance Toolkit email, the Safe Church Unit will be sharing news and updates - be sure to check the Safe Church Noticeboard for updates relevant to your congregation. Click on the drop down boxes below to learn more. If you are not already receiving the Congregation Governance Toolkit quarterly email, sign up here.

October 2022

 As we approach the end of the year it is a good time to assess how some roles in the congregation have changed and prepare for people taking on new roles now and in 2023. It is also a good time to consider how our Child Safe culture looks.

I take this opportunity to acknowledge the retirement of Anne Empson. Anne made a significant contribution to the Safe Church Unit especially in developing the new webpages, policies and guidelines and strengthening our Persons of Concerns processes.

The Safe Church Unit has welcomed Rev Jenny Ducker as the Safe Church Resourcing Minister. Jenny’s initial focus is developing the curriculum for Synod’s Online Safe Church Awareness Training. We hope to have a platform that can deliver the training in the new year.

The Working with Children Check is one element of screening required for people working with children and leaders who oversee activities in the church. It is important that any new or renewed WWCC is verified and recorded in your register.

For Church Councils now is the time to log into the WWCC site and update your contact details. Maintaining current contact details is important as this is the person notified if the status changes from Cleared to Barred or Interim Barr.

Recommended Action:

  1. Check that all WWCCs have been verified and recorded in the WWCC register
  2. Update your congregation contact details:
    1. NSW with the Office of the Children’s Guardian (OCG) https://ocg.nsw.gov.au/working-children-check/organisation
    2. ACT with Access Canberra https://www.myaccount.act.gov.au/WWVPNDIS/s/
  3. In the event of being notified of a WWCC status as Barred or Interim Barr contact the Safe Church Unit

SRE is a significant ministry with children in our Public Schools. Now is the time to recruit teachers and ensure that continuing teachers for 2023 are accredited.

SRE Teachers

SRE Teacher accreditation occurs by:

  • a recommendation of the Church Council and providing supporting forms to the Synod SRE admin team.
  • SRE Teacher completing required training
  • Submission of Application/Renewal form
  • SRE Admin Team will provide an Authorised Name Tag

More information about SRE is found at https://nswact.uca.org.au/safe-church-unit/special-religious-education/  

SRE Participation for New Students

Parents enrolling students for the first time in Kindergarten, High School or at a new school will fill out an enrolment form, part of the process is also to complete the SRE Participation Form. This is a separate form either paper or in 2023 a digital version is being introduced. Encourage parents in your congregation to select SRE Participation usually the option to select is “Combined Arrangements”

Recommended Actions:

  1. Check with Existing SRE Teachers that they have current accreditation for 2023
  2. Notify SRE Admin Team of any SRE Teacher who will be retiring in 2023
  3. Consider who may be encouraged to become an SRE Teacher
  4. In your newsletter and announcements encourage parents enrolling children in kindergarten or year 7 to complete the SRE enrolment form for their child and select the Combined Arrangements option

This year implementing the Child Safe Principles has focused on Leadership.

Principle One - Child safety is embedded in leadership, governance and culture. What does a Child Safe Culture look like? The following table is a good starting place to assess the child safe culture of your congregation.

 

A

Staff and volunteers need to implement the Child Safety and Wellbeing Policy.

The Child Safety and Wellbeing Policy exists but most people do not know about it.

B

People in the church/congregation raise child safety concerns, even if they are not sure if the issue is a problem.

People are afraid to raise these concerns. They worry they will not be believed, or that they will get in trouble for speaking up.

C

If child harm or alleged abuse is identified, the church/congregation is quickly in contact with the authorities to report, is open with authorities about the situation.

The church/congregation does not contact authorities, tries to minimise the child harm or alleged abuse, and withholds information from authorities.

D

Staff and volunteers know it is important to speak up about child safety, even if it involves raising concerns about the behaviour of others. They trust that the church/congregation will investigate concerns in a fair and supportive way.

Staff and volunteers prioritise protecting their colleagues. They do not raise concerns because they do not trust the church/congregation will fairly investigate them. Staff and volunteers worry they will be victimised if they speak up.

E

There are consequences for breaching the Child Safety and Wellbeing Policy or Code of Conduct.

Leaders make decisions about breaches based on their views of staff members or volunteers and whether they think a child is trustworthy.

F

The church/congregation culture makes it difficult for child abuse and harm to occur because everyone is focused on child safety.

The church/congregation culture creates problems and results in gaps in child safety protections.

  1. The Church Council considers each statement for your congregation:
  2. Is it more like the statement in the green column or the red column?
  3. Is there anything that can be done to improve each statement for your congregation?
  4. The Church Council watch the OCG video on Child Safe Principle One (known as Standard in NSW) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3kHuCby2oiU&t=2s

August 2022

Child Safe Principles focus on Leadership 

This quarter we continue our focus on the Child Safe Principles relating to Leadership (Principles 1, 6, 8,9 and 10). Please do not hesitate to contact the Safe Church Unit if you have any questions or require support. 

Choosing church council members involves prayer and discernment. Finding the right mix of skills, personality, and spiritual maturity along with a willingness to serve can be a challenge. It’s easy to be caught up in the choice and election of members, without doing the appropriate background checks to ensure that every church council member is a fit and proper person to assume a leadership role in the church. 

All church council members require a Working with Children Check (WWCC) in NSW or a Working with Vulnerable People (WWVP) check in the ACT, whether there are children in the congregation or not. Both checks include a National Police Check within their process. It’s best to take a preventative approach, rather than finding out afterwards that an elected member is barred from holding the appropriate screening check or refuses to apply for a check and is then stood down. One option is to include a space on the nomination form for the nominee’s WWCC or WWVP number. Whatever approach is taken, it’s important that the council chairperson ensures that both nominees and current church council members are aware that having a WWCC or WWVP clearance is part of being a church council member.  

Applying for a WWCC or WWVP check is free for volunteers and does not take much time.  

Recommended Actions:  

  1. Ensure all members of church council have a verified WWCC / WWVP.  
  2. Update nomination processes and forms to include a verified WWCC / WWVP prior to the election of church leaders 

The Child Safe Principles/Standards identify what works to make the church safer for children and young people. They identify and emphasise the importance of adopting multiple strategies to address the safety of children and young people. 

The Principles/Standards are focused on outcomes more than prescriptive compliance. For the church we have the flexibility to implement them in ways that are meaningful, achievable and related specifically to each congregation. God calls us to look out for and keep all people, especially children, safe. 

Implementing the Principles/Standards will support and strengthen the organisation and culture of the church to ensure children are kept safe. As the church, we are motivated to put children and young people first and do what is best to ensure their safety. Implementing the Principles/Standards will help Church Council to do this even better. 

The child safe principles implementation tool has been modified in line with the Office of the Children’s Guardian implementation plan. It has been organised into three topics to be covered over three years, Year 1 Leadership, Years 2 Children and Families and Year 3 Workers. Year 1 ‘As Leaders we are building the Framework for a Child Safe Culture’ is the focus for 2022. The tool now also includes sample responses for Topic 1 to assist congregations in working on their own plan. 

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse identified the importance of a Code of Conduct being in place for all Child Safe Organisations.  

A Code of Conduct is an important part of the church’s child safe approach. It helps manage risks to child safety that may arise through adult interactions with children and young people. The purpose of a Code of Conduct is to establish a clear set of rules and expectations for behaviour that is in line with the church’s culture and values. Having clear expectations of how adults interact with children works to prevent child abuse and encourage reporting. It also creates positive expectations for the behaviour of all adults in the church and your congregation. 

A Code of Conduct: 

  • provides adults with a clear guide on the behaviour that is expected of them, and of the behaviours that are unacceptable  
  • provides guidance so adults are not left to recognise unacceptable or concerning behaviour on their own  
  • outlines the likely action an organisation will take if there is a breach of the code.  
  • is applicable for all adults working or volunteering in an organisation.  
  • Codes of Conduct specifically for children and young people may also be developed, especially those aged 13 - 18. 

A sample code of conduct can be found here. It is in line with both the UCA Lay Leaders Code of Conduct and requirements under NSW and ACT legislation.  

Recommended Actions:  

  1. Church Council review the congregation’s code of conduct for all leaders and helpers 
  2. Ensure that all leaders and helpers have signed the code of conduct   

Safe Church guides have been produced to support those who participate in Children’s and Youth ministry. Comprehensive guidance is given on a range of topics including supervision, physical safety, communication, e-safety, reporting abuse, support and appropriate contact for each age group. The guides should form part of the induction for all leaders and helpers in children and youth programs.  These guides are to be made available to inform parents and carers of the measures taken to ensure that the church is providing safe programs. 

The guides are available for download on the Safe Church Website

Recommended Actions: 

  1. Induct and provide all leaders and helpers with the appropriate guide  
  2. Make the guide available to all parents/carers placing it on the church noticeboard or link on the website. 

May 2022

In March the Synod Board approved the following updates to some of our Safe Church Policies:

All Safe Church Policies are available here. It is important that all Church Councils review these documents and the accompanying guidelines to ensure any policies and practices at your church or presbytery are current.

a. Persons of Concern Policy Synod of NSW & the ACT

b. Mandatory Reporting Policy Synod of NSW and the ACT

c. Reportable Conduct Policy Synod of NSW and the ACT

d. Child Safe Policy Synod of NSW and the ACT

We have also revised a template for Congregations to use as the basis for their own Safe Church Policy. It can be found as a resource on the Safe Church Leadership for Church Councils page on the Safe Church website

This year we are focusing on the Child Safe Principles relating to Leadership. A Safe Church culture starts with all leaders, especially with Church Councils modelling and championing safe behaviour and practices. This year the Office of the Children’s Guardian in NSW will be looking to see how we are implementing the Child Safe Standards as legislated in NSW. We suggest a few tasks to undertake this quarter to get the ball rolling:

1. Read the Child Safe Principles at your Church Council meeting and discuss them, with a particular focus on those that relate to leadership (Principles 1, 6, 9 and 10)

2. Read the Safe Church Commitment Statement and have a conversation about affirming this statement as a Church Council, and discussing how you might let the rest of the congregation know about this affirmation. 

3. Appoint a Safe Church Liaison person and pass on their details to the Safe Church Unit - safechurch@nswact.uca.org.au 

The Child Safe Principles page of the Safe Church website has a wealth of information to assist in your discussions and planning. 

By now you will have received your copies of the posters that the Safe Church Unit put together to empower children to speak up when they feel uncomfortable or have concerns about any aspect of church life. Please personalise this poster for use at your congregation. While this poster is great for children of reading age and above, we are looking for creative ways to empower our smaller children. Our challenge to congregations is to design a poster for children under the age of seven which portrays the following.

· Identifies the emotion of being sad or uncomfortable as a feeling they should talk about with a trusted adult

· Portrays that it’s OK to for children to speak up

· Shows graphically who a child can speak to if they have a concern in your congregation

 We would love to see what you come up with so we can share them across the Synod!

Many congregations are involved in the tremendous ministry of SRE in their local school. As teachers in your congregation commence Term 2 encourage them this is a good time to have their classroom observations and personal reflection on their lessons. The form can be found here.

Check to see that your teachers Authorisation cards are current. If not contact us at sre@nswact.uca.org.au and we can accredit or renew the accreditation of you teachers.