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Responding to the Royal Commission's final report

The final report from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse, is now being absorbed. 

As a sector in the service of the Gospel imperatives of loving service and work for justice, our response must include renewed commitment to victims, to protection of children and vulnerable people, and to the promotion of human flourishing in all the darker corners of our society.

Our Working Group on Responding to Abuse has begun the task of responding to our strategic priority at CSSV of ‘Prevent and respond to child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church and organisations’, under the following headings:

•    Promote best practice in child safety in member organisations
•    Build on member expertise to influence response to victims, including advocating Advisory Group to Archdiocese
•    Support members to respond fully to the final recommendations of the Royal Commission.
•    Acknowledge the past with humility

A forum and workshop as part of our February 2018 conference - Hearing Healing Hope will be part of that response.  So too will be further training opportunities for member organisations.


The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse concluded this month, four and a half years after its initial meeting. Justice Peter McClellan, the Chair of Royal Commission delivered a closing address that gave an overview of the work that has been done, including:
•    More than 8,000 private sessions and a further 1,300 written accounts of people’s experience
•    57 case studies
•    three policy reports to government: Working with Children Checks, Civil Litigation and Redress, and Criminal Justice.

The chair also released a book of ‘messages to Australia’ by people who had recounted their experience in private sessions.
The Royal Commission has shed much light on deep suffering of many vulnerable young people, and on major failings of adults and institutions, failings in not protecting children, failures in covering up abuse, in not providing the support that was needed to victims and survivors, and so on.

The Royal Commission wasn’t just about the Catholic Church.  Nevertheless, sadly and tragically, Catholic clergy and other leaders were among the many perpetrators, and individual leaders and the Church collectively failed many of their victims.  Some Catholic social services were part of the problem.

Much has been done over recent decades to respond to the suffering of survivors of abuse, and to prevent abuse from happening. 
As Catholic social services we can be pleased to be associated with some wonderful programs that support and respond to victims and survivors of abuse, and with leadership in many areas in building organisations and a society in which children and all vulnerable people are safe. 
But there is much more to be done.
We need to be aware of the lasting impact of abuse on many of those we serve, and on some of our colleagues, and work to address that pain. 
We need to continue to be aware that these times can be challenging for our colleagues – staff, volunteers, communities – and we need to be ready to support them as they absorb the opprobrium of society for the evils that have been perpetrated, and as they seek to continue to strive to build a better world.

And we need to continue to work to build organisations, and build a Church, that are safe for vulnerable people.
Justice McClellan said today:
The sexual abuse of any child is intolerable in a civilised society. It is the responsibility of our entire community to acknowledge that children are being abused. We must each resolve that we should do what we can to protect them. The tragic impact of abuse for individuals and through them our entire society demands nothing less.
Catholic social services at all levels must be part of that resolve. 
As a sector we look forward with humility to engaging with the recommendation of the Royal Commission, with the work of Catholic Professional Standards Ltd, and with the commitment and expertise that is so widely present within your organisations and beyond, to continue to play our part in responding to victims and building a safer society.
In solidarity with all of our members, their staff and volunteers, and the communities they serve, including all affected by Child Sex Abuse,

Denis Fitzgerald
Executive Director 

Catholic Social Services Victoria acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Elders in each of the Communities where we work.
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