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Safeguarding of Children Policy

May 2017


The Dominican Sisters of Western Australia recognizes and upholds the rights of children as outlined in the UN Convention on the rights of the child. Accordingly the rights, needs and the welfare of children are to be valued, promoted and supported in every respect. All children are to be treated with dignity and respect.

The Dominican Sisters of Western Australia will take every opportunity to promote the general welfare, health, and full development of children, and in carrying out its range of service activity to assist and care for children, will seek to protect them from harm of all kinds.

All work practices and service activity for children will aim to provide a positive, welcoming, warm and supportive context and atmosphere for children and their families.

The Dominican Sisters of Western Australia aim to provide a formal process of Child Complaints Procedure that is sensitive to children and that is managed in an open, fair and equitable way.

The Dominican Sisters of Western Australia will promote a supportive infrastructure for all children and will maintain standards of safety for the physical and emotional well-being of children.

Although reporting of such matters is not mandatory in Western Australia, as an organisation, The Dominican Sisters of Western Australia believe that notification is necessary in order to ensure that children, who are a powerless and vulnerable group in our society, are protected and receive the best possible help when assault has occurred.

Key Definitions

A Child

A child means every human being below the age of eighteen years unless, under the law

applicable to the child, majority is attained earlier.

(Convention on the Rights of the Child, United Nations, Article 1)

Child Abuse

Child abuse is an act by parents, caregivers or any other person which endangers a child or young person’s physical or emotional health or development. Child abuse is not usually a simple incident, but may take place over time. (DHS, Victoria, 1999)

Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse occurs when an adult or someone physically stronger, bigger and/or older than the child uses power or authority over the child to involve the child in sexual activity. Physical force is sometimes involved. Contact offences include touching and fondling through to sexual penetration. Non-contact offences include verbal sexual harassment, indecent exposure, ‘peeping’ and exposure to pornography.


Harm is defined as being an injury or other detrimental effect of a significant nature to the child’s well-being. The harm to a child may be physical, psychological, or emotional in nature. Harm may be the result of physical, psychological or emotional abuse, or neglect of a child, or the result of sexual abuse or exploitation, but is not limited to that caused by abuse or neglect. Harm may also be the result of self – harming behaviour on the part of the child, e.g. suicidal behaviour, anorexia, or other self - destructive behaviour etc.

A Child in Need of Protection:

A child is ‘in need of protection’ if the child has suffered harm, is suffering harm or is at

unacceptable risk of suffering harm, and does not have a parent or caretaker able and willing to protect him or her from the harm.

This definition of harm includes situations where the risk of harm is caused by the child’s own actions or someone outside the home. It includes circumstances where, despite a parent’s conscientious efforts and through no neglect or action on their part, the child remains exposed to risk of harm. It also includes circumstances where the parent does not have the capacity to care for the child, despite a desire to do so. It also includes circumstances where a child has no parent or family available to them.

The Dominican Sisters of Western Australia is a Pontifical Congregation in its own right, hereafter referred to as “The Dominican Sisters”

The Prioress refers to the elected Leader of the Congregation

The Child Protection Officer refers to the designated Sister, employee or volunteer who will take on the role of Child Protection as outline in this policy

The Department of Child Protection and Family Services is the WA State Government department which deals with child protection matters and allegations and complaints, hereafter referred to as “CPFS”

The Catholic Professional Standards (CPSL) refers to the independent body funded the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference which deals with complaints of abuse by any Church personnel.


  1. The following procedures are to be followed where there is any allegation of abuse involving a child under the supervision or care of the Dominican Sisters or any allegations about past abuse where the adult complainant attended a school or service provided by a Dominican Sister.
  2. Confidentiality:
2.1 Where there is a request for information concerning a child, the child’s views (if of sufficient age and ability) should be ascertained prior to release of information unless
  • The inquirer seeking the information has a statutory responsibility to the client, or if the inquirer is a parent /guardian of the client (child) in question. Nevertheless, the age of the child needs to be taken into consideration, e.g. it may be inappropriate to divulge personal information about a 15 year old.
  • The information to be released is of a very minor nature, such that it does not intrude on the client’s right to privacy, e.g. date of birth
  • The information is urgently required by a person or body with statutory responsibility and the relevant person(s) cannot be contacted.

3. Safety

3.1 The Dominican Sisters of Western Australia will provide a physical environment that meets the needs of children and is safe and user friendly.

3.2 All Sisters and employed and volunteer workers are required, in line with this Child Policy, to bring any matter where a child is at risk, to the attention of the Prioress.

3.3 When taking protective action in relation to a child deemed to be at risk, the worker where possible, will act in consultation with the child’s family. However, the child’s safety will be given first priority.

3.4 If any child is hurt or harmed in any way whilst on the premises of The Dominican Sisters, Sisters and employed and volunteer workers staff are to report the incident to the Prioress and the designated Child Protection Officer, immediately and a written record of the incident is to be provided to the Prioress within 48 hours.

3.5 Notification

The Prioress, or the designated Child Protection Officer notify the Catholic Professional Standards (CPSL). The Department for Child Protection and Family Support CPFS) is to be notified if there is a child involved, by following the procedure set out below if there are reasonable grounds to suspect that a child has been sexually, physically or emotionally abused. Any Sister, staff or volunteer worker may have ‘reasonable grounds’ when:

  • A child tells them he/she has been abused
  • Someone else tells them
  • A child tells them she/he knows someone who has been abused (often a child is referring to him/herself anyway)
  • Their own observation of a particular child’s behaviour or their knowledge of children generally leads them to suspect sexual assault.
  • An adult victim discloses past sexual abuse
  • An adult victim discloses past sexual abuse and a child is in the care of the person believed to be responsible.
3.6 If there is an adult making a complaint about past emotional, physical or sexual abuse, the person receiving the complaint is to provide a written report of the incident to the Prioress or designated Child Protection Officer - Sister, employee or volunteer worker.
3.7 The written record will include:
  • Identifying information such as name, age, address of the child, family & person believed responsible
  • The reasons for suspecting abuse has occurred
  • Who has been notified at Catholic Professional Standards(CPS) and/or CPFS
  • Any outcome and/or proposed action by the Catholic Professional Standards (CPS) and/or CPFS.

4. Staffing/Training

4.1 All staff appointed to work with children will hold an appropriate degree and/or

have relevant work experience with children.

4.2 The Dominican Sisters will provide ongoing relevant training and development opportunities to staff involved with children’s work.

4.3 The Dominican Sisters will ensure a high level of professionalism by staying abreast of current thinking in the area of children’s work, by subscribing to relevant journals and the purchasing of relevant training and resource material.

4.4 All staff appointed to work with children must have an International and/or National Police Clearance and a current Western Australian Working With Children Check.

5. Grievance Procedures for Managing Complaints

5.1 If the complaint is of a sexual nature against a staff member, the “Towards Healing” protocols will apply. Staff member receiving the complaint must refer the matter to the Prioress or the Child Protection Officer and/or advise the client to phone 1800 072 390.

  • The client will be encouraged to report the matter to the Police or to DCPFS.
  • The Congregation Safeguarding Officer will report to the police any criminal activity – sexual or physical abuse
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