10 SEPTEMBER 2019
The Victorian Parliament, on September 10th, passed amendments to the Children, Youth and Families Act, which mean that people in religious ministries are added to the list of mandated reporters to Child Protection Services.
The legislation states that a:
"person in religious ministry means a person appointed, ordained or otherwise recognised as a religious or spiritual leader in a religious institution;"
The law makes it mandatory for ministers and other appointed religious leaders to report child abuse, including when it is revealed to them during a confession. Under the law, ministers and religious leaders face up to three years' jail if they don't report child physical and sexual abuse allegations. This law was supported by both the Government and the Opposition.
Mandatory reporting refers to the legal requirement for nominated groups to report a reasonable belief of physical or sexual child abuse to authorities.
There is no significant change for the PCV brought about by this legislation as under ‘Failure to Disclose’ and the existing Safe Church PCV reporting protocols, PCV personnel have essentially operated as mandatory reporters regardless.
In addition to this information being provided to the General Assembly, in October 2019, the Safe Church Unit has communicated this change to the PCV.
Any questions about this may be directed to the Safe Church Unit. The Victorian Government have issued a media release regarding this.
3 september 2019
VIT REGISTERED TEACHERS AND THE WORKING WITH CHILDREN CHECK
In September 2019 the Victorian Government and the Victorian Institute of Teaching (VIT) introduced a new requirement whereby people holding VIT Registration must also link their VIT Registration number to organisations outside of their employment, where they work with children - e.g. teachers who are also Youth Group leaders at their church.
VIT Registration holders are henceforth required to link the PCV to their VIT Registration - see the information at the links below for further detail and in order to action this:
1 july 2019
safe church compliance & administration officer hours
Thanks to the generosity of the General Assembly and our Church community, Mr Ian Atkinson, Safe Church Compliance & Administration Officer now works every Wednesday and Thursday 9am - 5pm. His contact details remain the same.
4 february 2019
safe church training updates
new basic training has launched
The In-House Congregational Safe Church Basic Training has been updated and the 1.5 hour video now available at the Safe Church PCV YouTube Channel. The system for SCRs registering and hosting Basic Training remains the same and the booklet has been updated.
2019 refresher training has launched
new safe church resources - child safe standard 7
Victorian Child Safe Standard 7 requires organisations to develop and implement strategies to promote the participation and empowerment of children. As a result there are 8 new posters for use and display in children’s ministry areas within the PCV. The posters are on the Resources page - to find them scroll down to the Posters - Children and Youth Ministries section.
These posters are child and youth friendly and have safe content for children. For an example go here
5 may 2018
advanced training has launched
Safe Church Advanced Training has now launched - new dates are posted here as they are arranged.
Information about the training is found here
Please contact SCU if you have any questions.
1 january 2018
the victorian reportable conduct scheme
Commences 1 January 2018 for all religious organisations in Victoria
The Victorian Reportable Conduct Scheme legislation states at 16B (1) 1 (a) that “the protection of children is the paramount consideration in the context of abuse or employee [“employee” is defined as both paid and volunteer workers in the organisation] misconduct involving a child”.
The PCV must comply with the Victorian Reportable Conduct Scheme (RCS). This means that any historical and current child abuse allegations relating to employees and volunteers who work for the Church must be reported by the Head of Entity (this is the Clerk of the General Assembly for the purposes of the RCS) to the Commission for Children and Young People.
The Church must also provide evidence to the Commission for Children and Young People of a legislative-compliant investigation and appropriate response to the allegation(s).
There are five types of ‘reportable conduct’:
sexual offences committed against, with or in the presence of a child
sexual misconduct committed against, with or in the presence of a child
physical violence against, with or in the presence of a child
any behaviour that causes significant emotional or psychological harm to a child
significant neglect of a child.
The RCS is further evidence of the seriousness with which the State and community of Victoria treat the safety of children from abuse. The RCS forms part of a concerted effort to build a culture of child safety in Victoria across all organisations that have children in them. The main emphasis of the RCS is to ensure that all organisations are clear about their reporting duties, risk assessment and risk management.
Please contact the Safe Church Unit with any RCS concerns or allegations.
Alternatively anyone may report directly to the Commission for Children and Young People - phone: (03) 8601 5281
24 november 2017
The safe church unit has moved
The Safe Church Unit is now located at
268 Canterbury Road
Heathmont Victoria 3135
Please send all mail to this new address.
16 october 2017
new safe church unit supervisor appointed
At the 2017 General Assembly Reverend John Wilson completed his tenure as Supervisor of the Safe Church Unit. It with great appreciation that the Safe Church Unit acknowledges Reverend Wilson's work in this role and his wisdom and assistance during his tenure.
Reverend Brian Harvey has been appointed Supervisor of the Safe Church Unit, building upon his existing role as Safe Church Panel of Reference Convenor, and, his knowledge and experience in this aspect of the life of the Church. The Safe Church Unit is most grateful for Reverend Harvey's willingness to serve the Church in this role.
1 august 2017
changes to the victorian working with children check legislation
From 1 August 2017 the definition of "direct contact" within the legislation has been updated - see here for details. The term "supervision" has also been removed from the legislation, meaning that any person who works with children, whether under supervision by an existing WWC Check holder or not, must have their own WWC Check - see here for further information.
1 july 2017
changes to the victorian crimes act - child sex offences
The Victorian Government have revised and updated relevant sections of the Victorian Crimes Act to bring the terminology of the offences into modern language and to further strengthen the laws surrounding criminal sex offences against children. For further information see here.
17 march 2017
safe church training for new ministers
In response to requests from our denomination Safe Church Training for New Ministers is now available to assist new ministers in areas such as reporting requirements (including legal responsibilities), resourcing to aide ministering to individuals involved in an abuse-related matter, and, responding to Safe Church scenarios. This training is for both recently graduated or ordained PCV ministers as well as for those ministers and pastoral ministry workers who have recently come to a PCV charge from another denomination. Please contact the Safe Church Facilitator if you would like further details.
1 january 2017
The Victorian Child Safe Standards apply to all organisations in Victoria which work with children, including religious organisations such as churches, from 1 January 2017. The PCV complies with the Child Safe Standards - for further information please contact the Safe Church Facilitator.
4 august 2016
The Safe Church Compliance & Administration Officer, Mr Ian Atkinson, has commenced. Ian works Thursdays 9am-5pm and can be contacted in regards to
Working With Children Checks and Compliance Audit Schedule enquiries and compliance
compliance accreditation for PCV churches, organisations and individuals, including issuing of certificates
training compliance enquiries and support
administering Volunteer Approval Process applications
handling Safe Church material requests, including requests for manuals and brochures
Ian can be contacted on Thursdays via phone 0435 417 283 or via email at other times at email@example.com
Please also note the new email address for Fiona Bligh - firstname.lastname@example.org
27 January 2016
The Safe Church Refresher Course has been launched. All details can be found at the Training page
4 january 2016
Coming Soon - The PCV Safe Church Youtube Channel
Launching in January 2016, the Safe Church Basic Training will be available for congregations to run in-house, via the use of a kit and training videos at the PCV Safe Church YouTube Channel. For the training to be compliant it must be authorised by the Session, registered with the Safe Church Unit and administered by the Safe Church Representative, as an official congregational event. It is not sufficient to refer people to the videos for them to watch in their own time.
12 January 2015
Safe Church Basic Training commences in 2015 and is offered in all presbyteries. Every person who
is in a leadership position
works with children
is involved in Pastoral Care
is required to attend Basic Training once every three years. More information is available on the Training page of this website.
The Basic Training Calendar shows the dates and locations of each session. The session lasts approximately three hours with a short comfort break half-way through.
Register your attendance with either the Safe Church Representative in your congregation or directly via email: email@example.com
31 October 2014
The Victorian Government has introduced three new criminal offences to further protect children from abuse. These new offences have serious ramifications for all people who are in leadership in churches and all those who work with children under 18.
The three new offences are:
a grooming offence which targets communication, including online communication, with a child or their parents with the intent of committing child sexual abuse
a failure to disclose offence that requires adults to report to police a reasonable belief that a sexual offence has been committed against a child (unless they have a reasonable excuse for not doing so)
a failure to protect offence that applies to people within organisations who knew of a risk of child sexual abuse by someone in the organisation and had the authority to reduce or remove the risk, but negligently failed to do so.
All allegations of child abuse are investigated by the Sexual Offences and Child Abuse Investigation Teams (SOCITs) at Victoria Police, who are specialist detectives trained to investigate the complex crimes of sexual assault and child abuse.
These changes raise the expected level of awareness and readiness to act by churches in terms of prevention of and response to child abuse. The role of the Safe Church Unit is to assist the PCV in adapting to this new legislative environment.
These laws will be covered in the Safe Church Basic Training which commences in presbyteries in 2015. In the meantime the main message is that leaders and those who work with children are to treat concerns about potential or known child abuse with the utmost seriousness. It is better to voice concerns than to downplay them. The Safe Church Unit is here to help the PCV community with such concerns and can be contacted for help and advice.
For advice and guidelines in relation to online communication and social media see Resources
2 October 2014
The State Government of Victoria has enacted changes to the Victorian Working With Children Check (WWC Check). For the purposes of the legislation a minister of religion is anyone ordained or appointed as a recognised religious leader in an organised religious institution or an appointed leader of a local religious organisation in an institution who has general authority over operations or some of the operations of the congregation in the institution.
Advice given to the Safe Church Unit during consultation with the State Government means that the broadened scope of the WWC Check will mean that the following people in the PCV require a WWC Check in addition to those already holding a WWC Check due to participation in child-related activities:
Ministers - regardless of whether or not their congregation includes children
Appointed leaders of any ministry in the congregation – this includes music leaders, bible study leaders, and specific ministry leaders (for example women’s ministry or English teaching ministry leaders) - regardless of whether or not their ministry area includes ministry to children
The legislation is broad in nature and on advice the PCV will err on the side of complete coverage. The message from government is that the WWC Check is the minimum standard and organisations should be careful to ensure that all appointed leaders have a WWC Check . Exemptions may apply for congregations where there are no regularly attending children - please contact the Safe Church Unit for further information.
The WWC Check application form is now only available online. Please contact the Safe Church Unit via email or telephone with further queries or should any assistance be required. A link to the application page on the State Government WWC Check site is in the Forms page of this website. There is no cost for the check for all volunteers in the PCV.
Why do I need a check if my appointed leadership role does not involve children?
The Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry into the Handling of Child Abuse by Religious and Other Organisations and the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse have revealed two key areas of concern that the broadening of the Victorian WWC Check seeks to address:
The need to change culture from "Child sexual abuse could never happen in my church" to "Child sexual abuse can and does happen in churches and everyone needs to be mindful of preventing it and ready to report it".
The need to remove "blocks" when a concern is raised with a leader in a church and that leader is either not mindful of the possibility of child sexual abuse occurring, perhaps even disbelieving about this or doesn't believe it is their responsibility to take the concern further.
By legislating that all appointed leaders in churches and organisations have WWC Checks the state government is seeking to both broaden awareness of child sexual abuse and assist individual leaders at all levels of church authority taking responsibility to report concerns, suspicions or known child sexual abuse.