Catholic Church in Wa Launches Safeguarding Project in Response to Child Sexual Abuse

By Natasha Harradine
ABC News
June 13, 2015

PHOTO: Safeguarding project coordinator Andrea Musulin with Perth Archbishop Timothy Costelloe. (ABC News: Natasha Harradine)

The Catholic Archbishop of Perth says a new project to protect children from child abuse is his major priority during his time in the role.

Archbishop Timothy Costelloe said the Safeguarding Project, believed to be the first of its kind nationally, has been launched in response to what he described as the "terrible scandal of sexual abuse of children" in the care of the Catholic Church.

The church has been identified during the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse as repeatedly failing to act on reports that members and clergy had abused children.

The Safeguarding Project has been welcomed by 720 ABC Perth presenter Eoin Cameron who was abused as a child by a priest and won compensation from the church.

Archbishop Costelloe said while the church would respond to issues raised in the royal commission, it was important to act now.

"I regard this possibly as the major priority in my time as the Archbishop, we simply have to get this right," he said.

"I'm very distressed about the poor way this has been dealt with sometimes in the past, I'm determined that we've got to do what we can to get it right.

"I don't think we can afford to wait until the Royal Commission finishes its work, we need to act now."

Archbishop Costelloe said the project aimed to bring healing by addressing the issues of the past, and to ensure parishes were a place of safety and security for children.

"It's not enough just to look at the past, we have to look around at the situation we find ourselves in at the moment to make sure that our parishes...are places of real safety and security for our young people," he said.

"To ensure that we put everything in place that we could to ensure that these terrible things never happen again to children or young people in our care."

Paedophiles target vulnerable children: project co-ordinator

Andrea Musulin, a police officer who has worked in the area of child abuse for more than 25 years, has taken leave from WA Police to launch the project.

She said the vast majority of child sexual abuse occurred in the home and there was no higher rate of offending within the church than other elements of society.

"If we look historically and you were a paedophile and you wanted to go to where the action was, you'd have to go to where the children are," she said.

"You had to be a person in power and control, you had to be a person that children would look up to, that would listen to what you said.

"Historically from the 1930s to the 80s where were all the orphan children? Where were children who had come out on the child migrant program? Who were looking after them? Who were running the boarding hostels? The answer is simple, it was the Catholic Church."

Ms Musulin has already completed a training program for clergy and is now working with parishes to identify and train safeguarding officers.

The safeguarding officers will learn how to identify issues relating to children and vulnerable young adults, and be a reference point for others in the parish who have concerns.

Ms Musulin said they would be taught how to respond to those concerns, to document issues and notify authorities.

Archbishop Costelloe said one component of the project which involved educating children was a national, and perhaps a global, first.

"There'll also be a focus on age-appropriate and developmentally-appropriate education for children and young people so that they'll have the language and they'll have the tools and they'll have the understanding to recognise that what is being suggested to them or proposed to is not good, is not right," he said.

"They'll know how to say no, they'll know for example that there are such things a bad secrets and that you don't have to keep bad secrets," he said.

Abuse victim welcomes idea with caution

Eoin Cameron said he was "delighted" the project had been developed but would wait to see outcomes.

He renounced his Catholicism after learning the priest who had abused him was awarded an honour shortly after the church had paid Mr Cameron compensation.

"When I sued the church and got an apology of sorts and a payout ... I was furious, furious that the Marist Brothers then awarded him an honour for the lives of the boys he'd abused," he said.

"The church in the past said things but didn't follow through and in my case they bare-faced lied to me.

"But Tim Costelloe is a trustworthy fellow and if there's anyone that can, he's just the man to do this.

"It's a sound idea, let's see how it goes."








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