By Eric Martin
The work undertaken by the voluntary members of the Archdiocesan Safeguarding Project was recognised as a valuable and integral part of the Australian Church at the annual Safeguarding Mass, held on Sunday 8 March at St Mary’s Cathedral.
Ensuring that children, young people and vulnerable adults are protected at all times is the foremost mission of all Safeguarding Officers.
The Mass was celebrated by Very Rev Father Peter Whitely VG and concelebrated by Cathedral Assistant Priest Fr Richard Rutkauskas, and assisted by Deacon John Kiely – was an opportunity to reflect on past successes and the challenges to come in 2020.
Andrea Musulin, Perth Archdiocese’s Safeguarding Director, showed her appreciation for the many Safeguarding Officers gathered in the Cathedral’s undercroft after the High Mass.
“It’s going to be a big year of changes coming and there will be some work to do. And for that I pray for you and encourage you,” she stated.
“We are here to help you and the Archdiocese, the Archbishop and his clergy need you, we all need you, so thank you very much.”
In recent years, no other topic has saturated the life and mission of the Catholic Church in Australia like childhood sexual abuse.
In comparison to other dioceses, the Archdiocese of Perth stands out as the national leader as it embraces an in-depth programme of prevention to safeguard and protect children from any possible further abuse.
In 2014, Archbishop Costelloe SDB shared his desire to see parishes become the safest places for children, and several months later appointed serving senior police officer and child protection expert Andrea Musulin to be the Archdiocesan Safeguarding Project Coordinator.
Within less than a year, an Archdiocesan-wide launch took place which would see parish communities embracing a united vision on the safety and protection of children.
“Child sexual abuse is a terrible problem, and it simply has to be dealt with,” Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB said at the official launch of the Safeguarding Project.
Six years on, the Safeguarding Project has made significant progress in achieving a benchmark standard of compliance.
“It was a wonderful presentation by the [clergy] and it’s great to pay homage to our Safeguarding Officers for the work that they do and to recognise the time and the passion that they bring to those roles,” Ms Musulin shared with The Record after the annual Safeguarding Mass.
“We are in the early stages of preparing for the Catholic Professional Standards Audit, which is an audit of the diocese, nearly every nook and cranny of the diocese will be audited. It is our aim, not just to pass this audit, but to exceed it, to be exemplary in the work that we do and to continue to be exemplary into the future.
“It is a big task, there’s a lot to do and there will be a lot more to learn as we roll out the next phase of the Safeguarding Project across our Archdiocese as other dioceses are doing nationally,” she added.
“It’s going to take a lot of hands and a lot of effort but I’m assured that we will get there.”