Diocese sends mixed messages on reporting child abuse
THE Diocese of Rockhampton's policies contradict themselves on child sex abuse. And they send mixed messages.
They state that anyone suspecting a child is in immediate danger should call the police, but also mandate that sexual abuse be reported to the principal or designated contact, and no one else.
Enter the Diocese of Rockhampton's website and you will find 38 Catholic Education policies, none of which is explicitly aimed at preventing child sex abuse or responding to instances of suspected sexual crime against children.
A policy titled Student Protection refers to protecting children from harm, including self-harm, and points to student protection processes for detail on rules for dealing with abuse.
A one-page policy on sexual harassment and bullying provides no definition of either, and points to relevant legislation.
If you manage to find the student protection processes section, which do refer to child sexual abuse, you'll notice a big grey box repeated on several pages which repeats:
"Nothing in student protection processes should prevent a staff member or any other person from taking immediate action to notify police, particularly if he/she believes it is essential for student safety."
However, the rest of the document emphasises the need to stay calm and attentive in the event that sexual abuse is raised by a student, and urges the listener to take good notes.
It states that on receiving information about sexual abuse from a student, staff are not to communicate with anyone other than a designated contact or principal.
If you zoom in close enough to read the fine print on the reporting process, you'll see that once a report has been made to the principal, the principal immediately sends that report to police.
The student protection policy is not due for review until 2017.
Perhaps the diocese would consider forming a coherent and thorough, transparent policy on preventing school children from sexual predators.
It should be up front and centre, not buried, like much of the Catholic Church's horror stories of child abuse were for far too long.