We have now had 19 churches satisfy all the requirements of the Safe Church Health Check and an additional 40 churches have submitted an application and are making final amendments. These are a diverse range of churches, including suburban, rural, regional, CALD, new, established, large and small churches but all share a commitment to Safe Church practice. We are encouraged by the commitment across our movement with nearly 200 churches who have already engaged with the Safe Church Health Check process by adopting policies and/or seeking advice about specific legal requirements.
Creating Safe Spaces
The Standards team are preparing for a meeting with all our Creating Safe Spaces presenters on 3rd November, where we will discuss some updates and improvements to our training resources. Would you please pray for our presenter team as they continue to engage via Zoom and to support churches in developing Safe Church practice? This is crucial but challenging work, and we appreciate the commitment of our presenters.
Working with Children Checks that were due to expire between 27th September 2021 and 26th January 2022 have been automatically extended by 3 months. This includes any WWCC that were originally due to expire between 19th July and 27th September 2021 and have already been extended. Please see the ocg.nsw.gov.au for more details.
NSW Child Safe Scheme
The NSW government is moving forward with its proposal to make the Child Safe Standards mandatory for all organisations working with children, including churches. The legislation to implement the Child Safe Scheme has already passed the lower house but was stalled in the upper house by the cancellation of Parliament due to Covid. The government listened to our initial representations and has now included sporting organisations in the scheme and removed mandatory guidelines. We have continued to make representations to members of government to ensure that the bill in its final form adheres to the content of the Child Safe Standards as developed by the Royal Commission and does not add elements that might adversely affect religious freedom.
On Wednesday 12 May 2021, the NSW Government introduced legislation to amend the Children’s Guardian Act to require certain organisations to implement the Child Safe Standards. The Bill can be found [here].
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse recommended 10 child safe standards, drawing on its findings, research and consultation about what makes organisations child safe. The standards come with core components to help organisations implement each standard.
The Children’s Guardian Act 2019 passed the NSW parliament on November 2019 and comes into force on 1 March 2020. A key part of the Act involves changes to the Reportable Conduct Scheme. The Reportable Conduct Scheme, in NSW, was previously managed by the Ombudsman’s office and only included a small number of churches (those who were classified as including residential care due to running certain types of camps).
The Children’s Guardian Act 2019 passed the NSW parliament on November 2019 and comes into force on 1 March 2020. This act covers a number of areas, primarily related to the Office of the Children’s Guardian.
Changes to the Civil Liability Act 2002 (NSW) – Division 4 of Part 1 B – mean that proceedings for child abuse can now be brought against an unincorporated association. This provision is retrospective, it applies to proceedings brought in relation to abuse that occurred prior to the commencement of the division.
Special Care Provisions operate to adjust the age of consent where there is a power imbalance or relationship of responsibility between two people. This means, for example, that where one person is a youth leader the other person is not able to consent to any sexual activity until they are over 18 (instead of the usual age of consent, which is 16). These provisions have existed since at least 1900 but have now been expanded to include sexual touching as well as sexual intercourse.
In response to recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, a range of amendments have been made to the Civil Liability Act 2002 (NSW). These sections are prospective, applying only to offences occurring after 26 October 2018.
In addition to collecting the WWCC number of any person in child-related work, the employer must also verify the WWCC and retain a record of the verification date, personal details and expiry of WWCC. (s9A)
Individuals who have a WWCC now have an obligation to notify the Children’s Guardian within 3 months of any change to their name, address, contact details or employer (s36B)