Frequently Asked Questions

General – Why is Creating Safe Spaces training important?

This addresses Child Safe Standard 7, the Reportable Conduct Scheme requirement that churches have systems for ‘preventing and detecting reportable conduct’ (s54 Children’s Guardian Act 2019) and the Baptist Insurance requirement that churches provide ‘Training for clergy, employees and volunteers in the above policies/procedures’. It also addresses the need to demonstrate reasonable precautions to prevent harm.

General – Why do we need specific plans about listening to young people?

This addresses Child Safe Standard 2 and is also an evidence-based means of reducing risk of harm to children and also reducing the likelihood that any harm will be unreported.

General – Why is it important to involve families and communities?

This addresses Child Safe Standard 3, the requirement (under the reportable Conduct Scheme) to have systems to detect and report reportable conduct and also helps to identify risks that might not be identified by staff and volunteers.

General – Why is it important to have plans to support equity and diverse needs?

This addresses Child Safe Standard 4 and the increased vulnerability that often arises from language, culture or accessibility barriers

General – Why are there limitations on who can be called ‘Pastor’ ?

The Royal Commission highlighted the trust imparted with the title Pastor and advised that anyone using that title should participate in accountability measures. Baptist Churches of NSW and Act provide external accountability through Accreditation and Recognition. If a church chooses to use the title pastor in additional circumstances it is vital that there are additional external accountability measures to address the relevant issues.

General – Why are we making Pastors commit to Guided Reflection Practice

This addresses child safe standard 7 and the Royal Commission recommendation that all people in religious or pastoral ministry have professional supervision. 

General – Why do we need a written Code of Conduct?

This addresses the Reportable Conduct Scheme requirement that churches have a Code of Conduct for staff and volunteers and the Baptist Insurance requirement that churches have ‘a Code of Practice covering clergy, employees and volunteers who may come into

contact with children and vulnerable adults.’. A Code of Conduct is important to communicate and clarify expected behaviours and to provide a commonly understood basis for discipline or complaint management where necessary.

General – How do we know whether overseas ministries have appropriate child protection policies in place?

In additional to ethical responsibilities which relate to children beyond our own geographical jurisdiction, all basic religious charities must comply with the external conduct standards if they operate outside Australia or work with a third party operating outside Australia. This includes sending even small amounts of money to an international ministry. There are four external conduct standards, External Conduct Standard 4 requires a charity to take reasonable steps to ensure the safety of vulnerable individuals (include young people under the age of 18) overseas.

Persons of Concern – Who might be a Person of Concern?

The Australian Baptist Ministries endorsed approach to Persons of Concern balances our commitment to protect children and vulnerable people with our desire to demonstrate the grace of our Lord Jesus. The approach provides structured support and accountability to individuals who have committed or are at risk of committing sexual offences. 

The basis for the definition of ‘Persons of Concern’ is the known offenders exclusion clause in Baptist Insurance Services insurance policies. This exclusion clause means that churches are not insured for claims relating to ‘known offenders’. The BIS definition of known offenders includes anyone who:

In addition to these mandatory categories, which may not be altered by the individual church or by the Baptist Churches of NSW and ACT, an individual may be considered a Person of Concern if 

Persons of Concern – Why do we have to have a specific Persons of Concern Procedure?

The Australian Baptist Ministries endorsed approach to Persons of Concern balances our commitment to protect children and vulnerable people with our desire to demonstrate the grace of our Lord Jesus. The approach provides structured support and accountability to individuals who have committed or are at risk of committing sexual offences. From a legal perspective, the process addresses the risk that the church might be liable for offences as a result of section 6F of the Civil Liability Act 2002 (NSW). Churches who comply with the Persons of Concern process will have access to some financial support in the event of a claim that is not covered because of the BIS exclusion clause. That financial support is conditional on following the Persons of Concern process and is limited to legal costs. The Persons of Concern process is designed to address all reasonable precautions so that there should be no cause for the church to be legally liable in the unlikely event of an offence. 

Persons of Concern – How long does a Person of Concern remain a Person of Concern?

If an individual has pled guilty, been convicted of or admitted to a sexual offence or has otherwise been found to have sexually offended, then they will remain a Person of Concern indefinitely because they remain within the Baptist Insurance Services definition of a ‘known offender’.

If an individual is charged with an offence or subject to allegations of an offence, then they will remain a Person of Concern until the investigation is complete. If there is an adverse finding, they will continue to remain as a Person of Concern. If there is no adverse finding then they may not be a Person of Concern.

Although an individual may be a Person of Concern indefinitely, the support and accountability process is somewhat flexible and responsive to the level of risk posed by the individual at any given time.

Policies and Procedures – Why do we need a Safe Church Policy?

This addresses the Child Safe Standard 1 and the Baptist insurance requirements that churches have ‘a policy committing the organisation to providing a safe environment for children and vulnerable adults’. It also provides an overarching commitment which directs and underpins all the detailed procedures.

Policies and Procedures – Why do we need procedures for handling complaints and addressing child protection concerns?

This addresses Child Safe Standard 6, the Reportable Conduct Scheme requirement that a church have systems for ‘handling or responding to reportable allegations’ (section 54 Children’s Guardian Act 2019), Mandatory reporting requirements under section 27 of the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998, responsibilities under s316A of the Crimes Act 1900  and the Baptist Insurance requirements that churches have ‘a process for handling allegations of sexual abuse’ and ‘a process for complying with mandatory reporting obligations’. 

Policies and Procedures – Why do we have to conduct and record risk assessments?

The church has a common law duty to take reasonable care to avoid causing foreseeable harm. Recording risk assessments provide evidence that the church has fulfilled this duty by taking reasonable precautions. 

Policies and Procedures – Why do we need a written Code of Conduct?

This addresses the Reportable Conduct Scheme requirement that churches have a Code of Conduct for staff and volunteers and the Baptist Insurance requirement that churches have ‘a Code of Practice covering clergy, employees and volunteers who may come into

contact with children and vulnerable adults.’. A Code of Conduct is important to communicate and clarify expected behaviours and to provide a commonly understood basis for discipline or complaint management where necessary.

Record Keeping – Why do we need to maintain a Safe Church Register?

Many elements of the Safe Church Register is required by the WWCC legislation. Additional elements, such as CSS training, police check and record of induction, have been added to address the need to demonstrate that the church took reasonable precautions to prevent harm. Such evidence is necessary in a range of contexts, but particularly in relation to civil liability under section 6F of the Civil Liability Act 2002 because there is deemed responsibility and only positive proof of precautions will displace the presumption of responsibility. 

Record Keeping – Why do we need to keep so many documents for such a long time?

This addresses Child Safe Standard 10 and also ensures that there is evidence of Child Safe practices in the event of a claim being made against the church. Given that there is now no time limit on claims made in relation to child sexual abuse, it would be wise to retain all relevant documentation for well beyond 45 years.

Record Keeping – Why do we have to conduct and record risk assessments?

The church has a common law duty to take reasonable care to avoid causing foreseeable harm. Recording risk assessments provide evidence that the church has fulfilled this duty by taking reasonable precautions. 

Record Keeping– Why do we need a written Code of Conduct?

This addresses the Reportable Conduct Scheme requirement that churches have a Code of Conduct for staff and volunteers and the Baptist Insurance requirement that churches have ‘a Code of Practice covering clergy, employees and volunteers who may come into

contact with children and vulnerable adults.’. A Code of Conduct is important to communicate and clarify expected behaviours and to provide a commonly understood basis for discipline or complaint management where necessary.

Record Keeping – Why do we need to have role descriptions?

Role descriptions can help with smooth functioning of church teams. In addition, role descriptions address the risk of vicarious liability for intentional harm by clarifying the nature and responsibility of positions. This identifies which positions should be subject to additional screening and supervision and provides a record of which positions are not intended to include high levels of interaction with young people. 

Record Keeping – Why do we need to include Child Safe practices in all our meetings and have a minuted annual review?

This addresses Child Safe Standards 9 and 10 and also allows regular consideration of whether reasonable precautions have been taken in regard to relevant risks.

Screening Questionnaire – Why do I have to answer the screening  questions?

 Our church is committed to taking all reasonable steps to ensure the safety of those who join with us, especially children, young people and vulnerable adults. The question int his screening questionnaire form part of a system that must be applied consistently in order to be effective. Screening is just one part of the system, but it is a very important part. Every volunteer in the church is asked to answer the same questions, it is not the result of any suspicion.  

Screening Questionnaire – Who will get to read the screening questionnaire?

The screening questionnaire is handled sensitively and confidentially. Nevertheless, if you have concerns about particular questions please feel free to discuss these with the Safe Church Team. 

Screening Questionnaire – What is the point of a Screening Questionnaire – it is really necessary?

The screening questionnaire addresses Child Safe Standard 5 and the Baptist Insurance requirement that churches have ‘a process for screening applicants for ministry, employment and volunteering, including referee checks and working with children/criminal record checks’ and also contributes to reasonable precautions to prevent abuse being perpetrated by a person associated with the church (for which the church could be liable under section 6F of the Civil Liability Act (2002)).

It is important to note that, although the WWCC is fairly comprehensive, there are things that it does not cover and it can only be based on actions that have been reported. A person could potentially hold a WWCC even though they have committed an offence, for example if that offence was not yet detected or reported. Also, the WWCC system can only provide screening against known risks and cannot predict future risks. For this reason, we advise that you do not rely solely on the WWCC as a screening process. 

Screening Questionnaire – It is really necessary for ALL volunteers to do the screening questionnaire?

The statutory duty to take reasonable precautions to prevent child abuse (section 6F of the Civil Liability Act 2002) provides that the church may be liable for abuse committed by any individual associated with the organisation. There must be a link between the organisation and the child against whom the abuse is committed, but the duty extends beyond child-related work. Implementing screening questionnaires, in conjunction with other Safe Church Practices is considered reasonable precautions. If there is a civil liability claim and abuse is found to have occurred, the church will be presumed to have breached the duty unless they can provide evidence of taking reasonable precautions.

Screening Questionnaire – What about things that happened a long time ago or before I was a believer? What if I don’t want to talk about it ?

Please be assured of the church’s support if you are uncomfortable about anything that arises out of this document. Answering ‘yes’ to a question does not necessarily mean that you will not be able to volunteer with the church. The pastoral team and Safe Church Team will discuss details and options where necessary.  There may be some instances that need to be reported to the Association Ministry Standards Manager, particularly information that might affect the church’s insurance. 

Please be assured that these steps in risk management are not salvation issues and do not reflect the extent to which you are welcome in and loved by your local church community. Paul writes in Romans 3:23 that ‘All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus’. We understand that every person in the church and every leader of the church has sinned and is saved by grace, not by works. However, there are some things that have consequences here on earth and we must recognise that and act accordingly.

Screening Questionnaire – What proof is there that the screening questionnaire works?

In general, we seek to take a multifaceted approach to risk management, such that efforts to exclude offenders are just one aspect of the overall Safe Church system. The Screening Questionnaire does not seek to address risk from a prediction point of view and we are not aware of any instruments which seek to do this, in fact research suggests that this is not likely to be possible (see below). 

  • Questions 1,2 and 3 are directed at identifying known offenders who may trigger the PoC process subject to BIS insurance requirements.
  • Question 4,5,6 are parallel but related to other areas – triggering a conversation around risk where there have been previous issues. 
  • Questions 7 and 8 are similarly focused on prior behaviour as a mechanism to trigger a conversation about risk 

See also:

WWCC – Who needs a WWCC?

Anyone engaging in child-related work requires a Working with Children Check (WWCC). 

The Child Protection (Working with Children) Act 2010 (NSW) defines child related work as work that involves ‘direct contact by the worker with a child or children and that contact is a usual part of and more than incidental to the work’ (see section 6(1)). However, the Child Protection (Working with Children) Regulation 2013 (r 13) extend the definition for anyone working with a religious organisation where children form part of the congregation, so that WWCC are also required by anyone who is a ‘minister, priest rabbi, mufti or other like religious leader or spiritual officer of the organisation’.

In light of this, the Baptist Churches of NSW and ACT suggests that churches require WWCC of anyone working with children or young people and also of all pastors, elders, deacons, board members and any other person who might be considered ‘spiritual officer’. In some churches this may include the worship leader, prayer coordinator, discipleship coordinator or other roles.

WWCC – Do we have to get a WWCC for anyone who lives in church property?

Where a property is identifiable as part of the church or ministry then members of the community would reasonably expect that residents are connected with the church or ministry (even if they are not). This may give rise to liability through for example, occupiers liability or common law negligence. Requiring a WWCC is a simple way to take reasonable precautions. 

An alternative means of addressing the potential risk is to take steps to ensure that members of the community are aware that the residents of the property are not connected to the church or ministry.

WWCC – Do we need to verify WWCC for contractors?

The definition of employer in the Child Protection (Working with Children) Act 2010 (NSW) includes volunteers and anyone engaging a person under a contract to perform work.

Additionally, because the statutory duty to prevent child abuse is non-delegable, meaning the church holds the duty even if someone else does the task, there needs to be precautions taken for contractors and third parties as well