By Natashya Fernandez
The 2017 Child Protection Breakfast organised by the Archdiocese of Perth was recently held on 5 September at the Duxton Hotel and saw some 200 patrons including dignitaries, schools and lay people attend the event.
Focusing on the theme, Primary Prevention and Stronger Communities, Safer Children, the breakfast coincided with National Child Protection Week (3-9 September), with the safeguarding program highlighting the fundamental belief that children have the right to physical and psychological safety at all times and that the Catholic Archdiocese of Perth must play its part in protecting all children and vulnerable individuals.
The morning commenced with Glen Mitchell, Master of Ceremonies welcoming dignitaries that included Auxiliary Bishop of Perth Donald Sproxton, the Hon Simone McGurk MLA Minister for Child Protection; Women’s Interests; Prevention of Family and Domestic Violence; Community Services; Vicar General for the Archdiocese of Perth Rev Fr Peter Whitely and the Hon Nick Goiran MLC, LLB Shadow Minister for Child Protection; Prevention of Family and Domestic Violence, Sheree Limbrick, CEO of the new Church body, Catholic Professional Standards and Mr John Dwyer State Chairman, Knights of the Southern Cross.
Commencing with the ‘Safeguarding Song’ debut performed by Teresa and Phillip Stuart-Tuckwell from Wanneroo Parish as well as the John XXIII Treble Choir performance, Bishop Sproxton was invited to say grace and welcomed everyone to the breakfast.
This year’s breakfast also included a poster competition for Year Kindy to Year 12 students, with the winners announced on the morning. Ms Ashlin Kanichai from Year Eight from St Joseph’s Parish Queens Park was the overall winner of the competition, among five other winners and her poster will be used as the official Archdiocese of Perth Safeguarding poster.
The main highlight of the event was the launch of the new resource for parents titled – Protecting Gods Children – A Catholic Parents Guide to Keeping their Children Safe. The handbook was launched by Archbishop of Perth Timothy Costelloe SDB who, though away at a retreat, launched it via a video that was aired at the breakfast.
In welcoming everyone to the second annual Child Protection Week breakfast, Archbishop Costelloe said that he wishes to assure everyone that while he is away during this important event, it is in no way a sign that he is not fully committed to the efforts the Archdiocese is making to safeguard the well-being of children.
“Nothing could be further from the truth,” he said.
“I do want to thank Andrea Musulin, our Safeguarding Director and her team for their hard work in organising this very important yearly event for the Archdiocese. It is a tangible expression of our desire to put the protection of children and young people at the forefront of our minds and our hearts.
“And so today, as part of this important gathering, I am enormously proud to launch this new resource. Written by Andrea Musulin, this parent handbook is just one aspect of the work and commitment of the Safeguarding Office.
“It complements the work of the more than 200 Safeguarding Officers who work in Catholic rural and metropolitan parishes, ensuring by their presence and active engagement in the parishes, that the dignity of children and young people is honoured and protected in our Catholic institutions, and that their right to absolute safety from any form of abuse or ill-treatment is an absolute priority for us all,” the Archbishop said.
Speaking at the breakfast about her long and winding road from being in the Police Force and officer in-charge of the protective behaviours unit, some 30 years ago, to becoming Safeguarding Director at the Catholic Archdiocese of Perth, Andrea Musulin said that it has been an incredible experience and one that she wouldn’t change for the world.
“As we launch our new protective behaviours safeguarding handbook for parents, I only wish that I had had that book 30 years ago. And when I reflect back, I do realise that we have come a long way in working with children. However there is still so much more to be done.
“As I continue in doing my job in protecting children, proudly working for the Catholic Archdiocese of Perth, I no longer wear a blue uniform, however, I do have a great team of staff under me, and I have to say that it’s working. It’s just working.
“But I can’t do it alone. I now have an army of 225 committed professional safeguarding officers working alongside me. And it is our mission to raise awareness in providing valuable information in protecting children everywhere. And we will leave no stone unturned in our endeavours to do that,” Ms Musulin said.
In his closing statement, Bishop Sproxton said that the safeguarding project is going to be a very powerful and important way in which we make our parish communities safe.
“The Archbishop has said again and again that his hope for the safeguarding project is that he will be sending a very clear message to anyone who is in any way tempted to disrespect a young child, then a Catholic Church or institution is not the place to be. And I think it’s very important for us to keep that as a principal for whatever we do.
“I am very grateful for the big response that has been made by our parish communities to engage people in our communities to be the safeguarding officers. Through these people working in our parishes, I think we have a very proactive program of supporting our children.
Bishop Sproxton went on to add that he was grateful for the 200 or so people who have answered that invitation to be safeguarding officers and thanked them for the work that they are doing.
“This program is something that is going to develop further. It is one that the Bishops are very keen to see succeed, moving away from being reactionary to being proactive.
“So we pray that the Lord will bless us in this work and enable us to continue the safeguarding project as it should.
“I thank everyone who are here today to celebrate the achievements that we have here so far, and I ask that we will be blessed in the work that we do in the future, to provide a safe environment for the children,” he concluded.