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Your kids are safe at Catholic schools, diocese tells parents

YOUR kids are safe from sex abuse. That's the message from the Catholic Diocese of Rockhampton.

The diocese has used school newsletters to reassure Gladstone parents their children were safe from sexual predators.

The move was in response to the damning findings of the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse, which unearthed decades-old horrific evidence of sexual abuse within the church's ranks.

>> Diocese sends mixed messages on reporting child abuse

The Observer has seen the letter published in the newsletters of St Francis Catholic Primary School, Tannum Sands, and Chanel College, in Gladstone.

"As the director of Catholic education in the diocese of Rockhampton, I want to assure you that my highest priority is the safety of the children in our schools," Rockhampton Diocesan director of Catholic education Leesa Jeffcoat wrote to parents.

"The hearings concerned the sexual abuse of children at a Catholic school in Toowoomba in 2007 and I was shocked and distressed as I listened to or read the evidence given at the Royal Commission.

"My heart went out to the victims of this terrible abuse and to their families. They remain very much in my thoughts and prayers."

Ms Jeffcoat did not respond to The Observer's requests for comment.

A relative of a Chanel College student was not convinced the church could keep youngsters safe.

"It (student protection practices) doesn't outline what the policies to keep kids safe actually are, so how can we be assured by that?" the woman, who wished to remain anonymous, said.

She said transparency was the only way the Catholic Church could be trusted.

"They need to tell us what has happened to the children who were abused," she said.

"What's been done to right the wrongs? How have the policies changed to make sure it doesn't happen again?

"Have any staff been stood down? I have no intention of sending my children to a Catholic school. None at all."

Newly elected Bishop of the Rockhampton Diocese, Father Michael McCarthy, believes child safety is not an issue of concern for the Catholic system in central Queensland.

"I think it's healthy that the Royal Commission is happening and we will work with the royal commission," he said.

"I think the Royal Commission is much broader than that (investigating child sex offenders). It's looking at the processes that are in place and again trying to address them if there is a weakness, for a much more positive future.

"The (safety) protocols have been in place for quite a while, and I'm confident in the work of the Catholic Education office here through Leesa Jeffcoat, that (child safety protocol) is in place."

Topics:  catholic church, child abuse, michael mccarthy, royal commission into child sex abuse, sex abuse



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