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Archdiocese of Perth signals importance of National Child Protection Week with star-studded breakfast


Perth Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB launches the inaugural 2016 Child Protection Breakfast by the Archdiocese of Perth. The Archbishop explained that the launch of the annual Child Protection Breakfast was a sign of the Archdiocese’s “determination to be at the forefront of child safety and child protection”, and to collaborate with others working in the field. Photo: Marco Ceccarelli.

By Rachel Curry

More than 250 people this week celebrated National Child Protection Week by attending the Archdiocese of Perth’s inaugural 2016 Child Protection Breakfast - an event which Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB hopes to hold annually.

Held at the Duxton Hotel in the Perth CBD, the breakfast was attended by the State Minister for Mental Health and Child Protection, Andrea Mitchell MLA, Perth Lord Mayor, The Right Hon Lisa Scaffidi, the Western Australian Commissioner for Children and Young People Western Australia, Colin Pettit as well as senior people from Catholic Agencies and Government Departments.

Hosted by ABC broadcaster Karen Tighe, the event focused on the importance of protecting children in our society and the steps that must be taken to prevent the failures of the past from happening again.

Special tribute was paid to the Archdiocese of Perth’s Safeguarding Project, which has trained 192 volunteer Safeguarding Officers to work in parishes throughout Perth, many of whom attended the breakfast.

During his address, Archbishop Costelloe acknowledged the Catholic Church in Australia’s “terrible record” on child protection, which has been brought to light by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

“For too long, the Catholic Church has been a part, a big part, of the problem. Now, as we try to respond with honesty, with humility and with compassion to those who have suffered so badly, we know that we can and we must also be part of the solution,” he said.

The Archbishop explained that the launch of the annual Child Protection Breakfast was a sign of the Archdiocese’s “determination to be at the forefront of child safety and child protection”, and to collaborate with others working in the field.


WA Commissioner for Children and Young People Colin Pettit speaks at the inaugural 2016 Child Protection Breakfast held by the Archdiocese of Perth at the Duxton Hotel on Tuesday 6 September, 2016. Photo: Marco Ceccarelli.

The Catholic Church is not alone in having previously allowed predators to operate within its ranks, he added, which shows there is “a sickness at the heart of our society which is both frightening and destructive”.

“But lest we become discouraged or even despairing over the challenge we face, we should look around us this morning and draw hope and confidence from the fact that all of us here are representatives of communities, organisations and public and private agencies which, as we collaborate together, constitute an ever growing army of people who are prepared to put our children first,” he said.

WA Commissioner for Children and Young People, Colin Pettit who is responsible for advocating for the wellbeing of the 590,000 children and young people aged under 18 in WA, agreed with the Archbishop’s comments.

He encouraged everyone in the room to recognise that they have a role to play in protecting children.

“We’ve gone through an era when as a nation, we’ve stood back and said, ‘It’s not my job,’ and we’ve allowed things to happen and we’re suddenly realising it is all of our jobs,” he said.

“And so hopefully this is a good starting point for all of us today, to say that we all have a role to play to make children safe, our most valuable people, and that they grow up and make our society an even better society for us into the future.”

Mr Pettit drew attention to the Child Safe Organisation WA resources released by his office earlier this year, which are available free of charge and were developed in response to the St Andrew’s Hostel Inquiry, the Royal Commission and other inquiries in Australia and overseas.


Archbishop Timothy Costelloe with Archdiocesan Safeguarding Project Co-Ordinator Andrea Musulin at the inaugural 2016 Child Protection Breakfast. Photo: Marco Ceccarelli.

In the course of interviewing several hundred children to develop the resources, children aged as young as five were able to articulate what made them feel safe, he said.

“They were things like: they feel safe when they can speak out and they will be listened to, they will be taken seriously and their concerns will be acted on, they will be truly respected and valued contributors to the organisation, there will be safe environments for them to go to when they feel unsafe, they will have trusted mentors that will listen to them and react immediately,” he said.
When all of those things are in place, Mr Pettit said, the organisation has a strong foundation on which to carry out child-safe work.

Mr Pettit went on to present the National Association for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect State Award to Safe Clubs 4 Kids, an educational project that aims to create safe environments for children involved in sport and recreation.

Colouring Competition - WinnerSep16

Awards were also presented to the winners of the Child Protection Week Colouring In and Poem Competition, while Year 1 students from St Helena’s Catholic Primary School in Ellenbrook performed a special Protective Behaviours song and dance.

The Archdiocese of Perth’s 2016 Child Protection Breakfast was sponsored by The eRecord, Protective Behaviours WA and the Knights of the Southern Cross WA.