Notes and comments by Tony Lawless

The National Catholic Safeguarding Standards are, clearly, the result of a serious commitment on the part of the bishops and other leaders. They manifest an enormous investment in serious work, the engagement of a highly competent team of experienced and independent professionals, and a very large investment of money and of dedicated work.

A framework for Catholic Church entities to build child-safe cultures

They are designed to be implemented by all Catholic entities, ministries and organisations across Australia.

They constitute a framework which articulates the requirements for Catholic entities to promote the safety of children through the implementation of policies and activities to prevent, respond to and reportconcerns regarding child abuse.

They are designed to drive cultural and behavioural change and promote accountability and transparency of Catholic Church leaders and their ministries and entities.

The 10 National Catholic Safeguarding Standards are taken directly from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse’s final report, Volume 6.

The Standards work together and ensure each entity, ministry and organisation across the Catholic Church place child safety at the core of how they plan, think and act.

The first phase of development of the Standards focuses on safeguarding practices for the protection of children.  The Standards will subsequently be extended to include safeguarding practices relating to vulnerable adults.

Some Key Documents published by the CPSL

The National Catholic Safeguarding Standards provide a framework for Catholic Church entities to build child-safe cultures. National Catholic Safeguarding Standards Edition 1 2019

The National Catholic Safeguarding Standards – Implementation Guide Standards 1-10

National Catholic Safeguarding Standards Implementation Guide Standards 1 - 10 Edition 1 2019

A ‘how-to’ guide for engaging children and young people in conversations about safeguarding

Audit Framework

Audit Report Ballarat

Others at:

CPSLTD website:

Newsletters are important source:

the Ten Standards in brief

Framework for Catholic Church entities to build child-safe cultures

The Ten Standards may be reduced to skeletal form:

1 LEADERSHIP, GOVERNANCE AND CULTURE: Child safeguarding is embedded

2. CHILDREN: Informed and taken seriously


4 EQUITY AND DIVERSITY: Equity is upheld, different needs respected

5 RESOURCE MANAGEMENT: People/staff suitable and supported

6 COMPLAINTS MANAGEMENT: Processes are responsive, understood, accessible

7 EDUCATION AND TRAINING: Knowledge, skills, awareness; ongoing education and training

8 PHYSICAL AND ONLINE ENVIRONMENTS: Promote safety, with safeguards


10 POLICIES AND PROCEDURES: Documentation of policies and procedures

What they are:

  1. We might also call this a campaign, like Road Safety Campaigns – focussed, varied, limited, repeated. This child safety campaign will be reviewed every three years, and hopefully repeated and repeated. It takes generations to change behaviour patterns.

  2. The goal is expressed as “to change the culture”. A lot of new rules alone will not keep children safe, but repeated campaigns over many generations will eventually instil a culture of caring.

  3. They are labelled “Standards”. They are not laws to be obeyed but strategies – campaign strategies – steps to take – things to put in place to achieve the goal of safer communities.

  4. They are a framework of ten items required to produce a real change throughout the institution. They cover the whole area and address all the problems - hopefully.

  5. In each item, under each Standard, several criteria are listed. These criteria are expressed as basic requirements to make a church safer for children. (Parallel criteria in a Road Safety campaign would be good roads, safe vehicles, competent drivers, appropriate speeds...)

  6. For each of the criteria, indicators spell out in detail what is needed. (In Road Safety campaigns 'indicators' would be 'to care for road surfaces, to install signs, to inspect of vehicles, to train and test of drivers...)

  7. Improvement comes gradually, over decades, but total safety is never achieved. Hence the review after three years when the campaign will be refocused and different strategies may be introduced (as Road Safety: speed cameras, breathalyser tests, spot checks, fines, mandatory sentencing...).

What they are not:

  1. These ten standards do not cover care for the victim of an assault. They are strategies to protect against assaults happening, while the care of a child who does suffer an assault needs a different approach.

  2. They are about achieving safety in the ordinary situation, not about healing, compensation, justice.

  3. They have nothing to say about fixing the past, but focus on prevention, improving safety.

  4. A particular concern for us would be to press for equally good local policy standards on how victims are treated, which would include care, counselling and compensation.

  5. While we continue our particular work of supporting victims and families and healing the community, we can also assist in the gradual process of embedding these standards in the parish, especially in raising awareness and developing hope in the community.

  6. The whole enormous enterprise gives no guarantee of success of itself. Now that the planning has been done, there's a lot of work for the parish leadership team in setting it up. But success in making this parish safer for children will be achieved only to the extent that people get involved.

How effective will the Standards be?

  1. The key to an effective campaign is to have clear goals and pay attention to details.

  2. Ten essential requirements or “Standards” are identified.

  3. Each standard is expanded by various Criteria (49 in all). Details are spelled out in 111 Indicators.

  4. The next step, as the campaign is rolled out, is to engage the people's interest and enthusiasm. There can be no greater goal for a parish community than to keep our children safe.

  5. Hence, for each one of us, we can be leaders by co-operating with the parish team, by sharing information among our family and friends, by showing our enthusiasm with confidence. Always the motivation comes from the goal: TO KEEP OUR CHILDREN SAFE.

  6. The strength of the whole program lies in its insistence on professional supervision. There are specific requirements for various people to be under supervision. Engagement with children must always be in public where they can be seen. Reporting of risks is a thread running through the fabric.

  7. Auditing on a three-year cycle is intended not only to keep everyone on their toes, but to identify and correct gaps and failures. A time limit is set for remediation of defects. Reports are published.

The Audit: what does it entail?

  1. Basically every parish has to go through the 111 indicators and declare where they are up to with each one: Not addressed > Initial/Ad-hoc > Defined & developed > Managed and measurable.

  2. Where an element is missing, not started, or malfunctioning, this goes into the report published on the CPSL website. Time limits are set for remediation of every deficiency.

  3. This triennial review would entail a good deal of work and may well need volunteers to help.

  4. In short, to achieve a culture where children are safe in this parish many hours of voluntary work will be necessary, on top of the good will and enthusiastic involvement of everyone in the parish.

What are they to us?*

  1. Our primary concern is for the actual victims of abuse, to support them, visit them, advocate for them.

  2. This must include to contribute to what victims want more than anything in the world: to make sure it doesn't happen to other kids, i.e., to establish a safe community.

  3. Success of the standards will depend on acceptance and involvement of the whole community.

  4. On the community level:

    1. making Child Safety a common topic of conversation. Talking a lot. As there is a culture of secrecy - “See no evil. Hear no evil. Speak no evil.”, so there is a culture of openness, with honest free-flowing yet respectful conversation.

    2. Supporting the parish team in word and action. Setting an example of willing cooperation to displace the general distrust and withdrawal.

    3. Helping those in denial to face the reality of this danger to their kids. This entirely personal exercise needs reflection, and sometimes we need to talk over the issue with a trusted friend.

  5. On the individual level:

    1. Listening to the children for anxiety, complaints or revelations and responding properly.

    2. Sharing our own experience is one way to help someone to open up their thinking.

    3. Being knowledgeable about the problem in general, and familiar with these Standards to be able to discuss them with anyone at any opportunity.

    4. As a group, while maintaining our independence when we cooperate with the parish team, we can work on investigating strategies and programs to suggest, or to implement in our own name.

    5. In all this the children come first, before parish development, re-evangelisation, worship, saving the Church – before everything. In whatever we do, first we must make sure the children are safe.

* LOOKOUT is a group of people who are concerned about the child abuse that has affected many people in Healesville. Membership is open to everyone. The group's purpose is to raise awareness of sexual abuse in the community, to be a support to victims and their families, and above all to be a place where you can expect to be listened to with understanding.