The Archdiocese of Perth in conjunction with its dedicated Safeguarding Office has this month observed Child Protection Week, 3 to 10 September.
The week-long commemoration aligned with the nationwide theme, “Every child, in every community, needs a fair go,” reaffirming the Archdiocese’s unwavering commitment to ensuring the well-being of every child.
Child Protection Week Theme: “Where We Start Matters”
The theme for this year’s National Child Protection Week echoed the sentiments of the previous year: “Every child, in every community, needs a fair go.”
However, it was further enriched with the phrase “Where We Start Matters.”
The theme emphasised the profound impact that the starting point in a child’s life has on their future, including where they live, how they live, and the environment in which they grow.
In line with this theme, the Archdiocese of Perth recognised the pivotal role it plays as a faith-filled community in providing a safe haven for all, emphasising that “Where we start as a faith-filled community in providing a safe place for all – matters.”
A Commitment to Safeguarding Children
Safeguarding Office Acting Director Barbara Blayney spoke about this year’s Child Protection Week theme within the context of the Archdiocese of Perth’s strong commitment to safeguarding children.
“We all know that children thrive in safe and supported communities, but the reality is – as statistics tell us – one in four children in Australia experience more than one form of abuse every year,” Ms Blayney said.
“As a church community, we can make a difference. We can continue to model in the best possible way, through who we are and what we do, that we are committed to providing a safe and welcoming environment to children and adults.
“What that looks like in our everyday is by developing a strong understanding that where we start our lives, in terms of where we live and how we live – matters.”
“It also means putting into action and being committed to the knowledge that where we start as a faith-filled community in providing a safe place for all – matters.”
“Importantly, as leaders in our local Catholic community, we need to take on the responsibility that where we start as decision-makers in addressing the complex issue of child abuse – matters. It matters to the lives of children everywhere.”
Child Protection Week 2023 Events in the Archdiocese of Perth
Honouring Child Protection Week 2023’s theme, the Archdiocese of Perth Safeguarding Office organised meaningful events across the Diocese with our parishes, and staff at agencies, offices and organisations
- Kite Making
Throughout August, community members came together to decorate kites, symbolising the freedom and potential of every child. These kites carried messages of hope and support, underlining the importance of safeguarding children within the community.
“We began last year using the Safeguarding kite logo as a symbolic gesture of us providing the “Wind beneath the Wings” of the work we all do in safeguarding,” said Ms Blayney.
“The kite symbolises our connection to self and community, whilst being guided by our God, represented by the kite’s tail and guiding string, reminding us of the passage of “We can do all things through him, who strengthens us.” (Phillipians 4:13).
“This year’s decorated kites reflected this through the use of words and visual representations on ways Jesus helps us to stay connected to him.”
- Safeguarding Morning Tea
On 6 September 2023, at 10 am, morning tea was held at St Mary’s Cathedral Parish Centre.
Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB, staff from various Archdiocesan offices, agencies, organisations, parishes, safeguarding officers, came together to reinforce the importance of Child Protection Week and strong support to always ensure that we advance our continued safeguarding commitment.
The morning tea started with an Acknowledgment of Country by Barbara Blayney, followed by opening prayers and special words by the Archbishop on the Archdiocese’s commitment to safeguarding children.
“Safeguarding is a collective responsibility and one we all play our part in. This is a time to acknowledge the immense hurt caused by abuse and to acknowledge we need to respond with compassion and integrity. Let us continue to use our gifts and skills to further the common good in safeguarding our church community,” said Archbishop Costelloe.
Attendees then shared their safeguarding journey over morning tea and at about 11am the kites were flown high on the grounds of the Cathedral, visibly showing the Archdiocese commitment to child safety and safeguarding.
- Safeguarding Sunday Masses
On Sunday, 10 September, parishes across the Archdiocese hosted Safeguarding Sunday Masses. The Masses encouraged reflection on this year’s Child Protection Week 2023’s theme, highlighting the importance of children growing up safely and being supported by their family, church, and community.
The Safeguarding Office continued its leadership of honouring this week of awareness by providing ideas for an opening address and a Children’s Liturgy of the word for Safeguarding masses were available from the Safeguarding Office.
These were reflected in the words spoken at Masses across the Archdiocese:
- Bateman Parish, St Thomas More Church Safeguarding Sunday gives us the opportunity to raise awareness of the importance of Safeguarding within the Church community to create a safe environment for everyone to flourish. Through the Safeguarding program initiative, we work together offering support and assistance to build a Church of trust, safety, inclusion and respect for all, especially our children and adults at risk. Our Parish has four Safeguarding Officers who have volunteered their services to achieving this goal.
- Morley Parish, Infant Jesus Church Today’s readings give responsibility that members of a community have for the spiritual and moral wellbeing of others. Sadly, however, religious history has many sobering examples of power and violence used to establish and control righteousness.
The First Reading (Ez 33:7-9), the prophet’s overall aim in correcting others is to bring the wrongdoer to life, rather than to punishment or death.
The Gospel (Matt 18:15-20) is part of the discourse of Jesus on the life of the Church community. The Church is not a community of the perfect. How then do we deal with moral lapses, dissension and other disturbances that occur in any community ‘on the way’ to the Kingdom. The procedures set out here reflect Old Testament models requiring two witnesses.
In the Second Reading (Rom 13:8-10) Paul teaches us that our redemption from sin and death which God’s love has won for us in Christ has created an inexhaustible ‘debt’ of love. God wants us to repay that debt by considering that we owe to our sisters and brothers with all their flaws.
- Applecross Parish, St Benedict’s Church It can be very difficult when we feel that someone has hurt us to actually go and speak to them about how we are feeling. It is so much easier to revel in our hurt or seek payback for the hurt. Sometimes we feel that we might ruin a friendship by speaking to our friend about a way in which they have hurt us. But a hurt that goes unaddressed will continue to hurt and will probably be repeated. This week’s gospel reminds us of the need to challenge our friends when they hurt us but it also reminds us that when we have hurt others we need to be challenged about it and called to account for our actions.
Continuing our Commitment to Safeguarding
Barbara Blayney commented that while Child Protection Week may have ended, the commitment of the Archdiocese of Perth to safeguarding continues unabated.
“As Child Protection Week 2023 concludes, we must continue to appreciate that wherever and whenever we start, we must stand firm in our resolve to protect and support every child, ensuring that they have the opportunity to thrive and soar to their fullest potential,” Ms Blayney said.
“Safeguarding training, policy adherence, responding to concerns and the distribution of educational materials and resources in parishes, offices, agencies, and organisations remain at the forefront of the Archdiocese’s ongoing dedication to creating a safe and nurturing environment for children, and on behalf of the Safeguarding Office, I encourage and invite everyone within our Catholic community to continue to get involved and practice our safeguarding each and everytime.”
Speaking in 2022 during Child Protection Week, Archbishop Costelloe said Safeguarding fulfils the ministry of the Lord who brought hope and healing to the broken, and it was the Good Shepherd, making sure that his flock was kept safe from harm.
“So I’d like to invite you to think of yourselves as fulfilling in the ministry that you have, the call that we all have in our own particular vocations, to be good shepherds to each other. It’s a shepherding role that you have. And it’s very much a preventive role,” he said.
For more information on the Archdiocese of Perth’s Safeguarding commitment and work: https://safeguarding.perthcatholic.org.au.