Jodie is the Director of the Diocesan Safeguarding office overseeing the entire Safeguarding responsibilities within Catholic Schools Broken Bay, CatholicCare, Chancery and the Parishes of our Diocese. She spoke with us on safeguarding and articulates what it means to step up and speak out and how we keep our children safe from harm.
What is your role and who does it serve?
I am the Director of the Diocesan Safeguarding Office. My role serves the whole of the Diocese and I have a responsibility to ensure that the Diocesan’s strategic vision, established by Bishop Anthony for safeguarding for preventing harm to children and vulnerable adults is in place and is in line with best practice principles across Catholic Schools Broken Bay, CatholicCare and the Chancery and Parishes of our Diocese. Each of these sectors have a dedicated safeguarding team managing operational safeguarding and the Managers for Safeguarding and myself come together as a Diocesan leadership team, working together to drive a ‘whole of Diocese’ approach to safeguarding consistent with the National Catholic Safeguarding Standards.
What brought you to do this work?
I have always sought work that I feel makes a difference to people’s lives. I started my work with the Diocese of Broken Bay 18 years ago, commencing with CatholicCare. This role was Child Protection Officer and at that time was responsible for organisational change due to new legislation to protect children. Since that time, I have always been in roles within the Diocese within Safeguarding and Child Protection. It wasn’t until the time of the Royal Commission that I commenced full-time with the Chancery, where I was then fortunate to be able to develop my leadership skills which has given me the opportunity to take on this Director role.
What motivates you?
Making a difference and helping others. I am in a privileged position of leadership within the Diocese and am fortunate to be able to work closely with Bishop Anthony and other leaders of the Diocese to enhance the culture of safeguarding across all sectors.
How does your work make a difference?
Whilst we cannot undo the past, we hope to make a difference to the lives of those that have been impacted by abuse when they contact our office for support. We have dedicated professionally qualified staff who can appropriately respond to those that have been abused and support them through the process of seeking justice. Having worked in the Diocese for some time, I can see the gains that have been made over the last decade.
I get to work with the Safeguarding offices to assist in shaping the culture of safeguarding with a model of continuous improvement. This is making a difference today by ensuring we have best practices in all sectors, including each of our schools, where we have safe environments for children and young people.
What does Safeguarding mean within our Diocese?
Safeguarding within our Diocese means a commitment to ensuring everyone within the Diocese is safe and supported. It means upholding our personal and professional responsibilities to create a culture of safeguarding through continual improvement, listening to the voice of the vulnerable, responding appropriately and each of us taking on this responsibility.
How does family connection help to keep children safe?
Children feel safe and supported when they have a strong sense of belonging to a place and community born from their early connection to their family. By raising awareness of the importance of connection to family, we hope that this year’s Safeguarding Month theme will be a reminder to parents and carers about the importance of maintaining strong bonds with their children. Strong family connections provide children with a warm and caring environment; role models good communication; provides a predictable family environment; and provides connections to support outside of the family unit. Through having a strong sense of security, children will have the confidence to explore their world and try new things and learn. They will also be able to deal better with challenges and setbacks because they know they have family support.
What can people do to step up and speak out when they have concerns for the safety of children?
There are many ways that families can reach out for support if they have concerns for the safety of their children. If the concern relates to the behaviour or conduct of an employee, it is important that they report their concerns immediately to their Manager such as the School Principal or Director or Parish Priest. If the concern was in relation to the child being at risk of significant harm, the concern would need to be notified to the Department of Communities and Justice, Child Protection Helpline. If a crime has been committed or is likely to be committed, a report should be made to the NSW Police. In any case, if in doubt, advice and support is available by our Safeguarding Offices for each of our sectors.
How can we let children know their voices are being heard?
The Diocese has developed resources aimed at embedding the voice of the child in the Church’s leadership, governance, and culture. One of these resources, has been the Rights of the Child Framework launched in 2020. For further information on the Diocesan Rights of the Child Framework. Another way in which we have raised awareness around listening to the voice of the child, has been through the development of the Participation of Children and Young People in Catholic Communities resource, launched in 2021. We collaborated with the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney and Diocese of Parramatta to develop this resource. These resources are aimed at providing guidance to organisational leaders and adults working with children on how they might share their power and invite children into the decision-making processes that impact their lives.
Why is Safeguarding Month in Broken Bay important?
Safeguarding Month of September is important because it is an opportunity to raise awareness about the importance of keeping children and vulnerable adults safe. During September also sees celebration of Safeguarding Sunday and National Child Protectionweek. In our Diocese, the Liturgy of Lament, held by the Office of the Bishop is a public apology to the victims who experienced abuse within the Church. The Liturgy of Lament is held in early September. Throughout this month, we continue to raise awareness of the importance of Safeguarding through various means. This year we have launched our main activity for Safeguarding in Families. Families are encouraged to share their stories of how they connect with their children through the month of September. The most creative and inspirational stories will be showcased on the Diocesan Safeguarding Month 2022 webpage.