The media attention on St Kevin’s College last week [ABC Four Corners 17/2/2020] and the subsequent fallout has had many people talking this week on the subject of ‘school culture’ and the responsibility of schools to create and maintain a safe environment for all children.
Whilst both State and Federal Governments introduced much-needed legislation for institutions working with children in response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual to ensure that children are not abused in the future, the news of last week provides a timely point of reflection for all of us on our awareness, commitment and practice of child safety.
Do we institute child safe standards as a matter of regulatory compliance and external mandates, or do we strive to create environments of safety and security out of love and concern for those in our care? Have we as a community come together to acknowledge and learn from shocking past failures, including our own? Do we acknowledge that child safety is everyone’s responsibility, every day, and work towards making this happen by creating strong and respectful school communities where children and families are known and valued, connected and supported by each other, and have a strong sense of belonging within the community? Are we open to all that is necessary to progress in this sensitive area?
As a school, we have embraced the sacred responsibility to create environments which enable each student to flourish for the sake of their own wellbeing and, more broadly, for the health and wellbeing of the entire school community. But to be effective in this space, we need to be deep listeners, to give voice to children, parents, caregivers and staff as active partners contributing to a positive culture.
This is an ongoing challenge, especially as new staff arrive and new families and their students join our community. We need to give everyone the chance to be heard, really listened to, to feel their contribution matters to the life of the community. If all school members are empowered to have a voice about safety and know how to raise concerns, and these are taken seriously and responded to promptly and thoroughly, then an inclusive child-safe environment can be fostered and maintained.
Like you, I am appalled at the betrayal of trust demonstrated by people whose role it is to protect and support the young people in their care. It is equally upsetting to read of the many times when claims of abuse are not properly supported which only serves to amplify the overwhelming sense of betrayal felt by victims.
Our school can never claim the moral high ground in this regard due to our own history of betrayal. I wish to acknowledge the courage of survivors and whistleblowers, some from Salesian Institutions, who have been before the Commission and before the Courts to tell their story. A truly child-safe community is one where children are not afraid to come forward to raise a concern and are listened to by those responsible for their care.
Here at Salesian College, we take seriously our duty
to develop, implement and constantly review a range of strategies to
best equip our students, staff and community to keep the safety of
children as an absolute priority. Under the guidance of our Child Safety
Committee, made up of staff, parents and students, the College has
Information regarding the College’s Child Safety Policies and
Procedures are available on our website and on Schoolbox. If anyone
wishes to discuss any issues with me personally regarding Child
Safety, I am always prepared to make myself available.
As a Catholic Principal, I am deeply sorry to all those who have suffered sexual abuse at the hands of people in our Catholic Institutions in positions of trust.