The following definitions apply in Safe Church policy, procedure and practice. These definitions are inclusive of the singular and plural of the term used.


  • Abuse: Abuse is a broad term. For the purposes of Safe Church, abuse includes:

    • child abuse

    • risk of significant harm,

    • reportable conduct,

    • sexual misconduct, and/or

    • conduct that breaches the Safe Church Code of Conduct.

  • Accountability: willingness to be called to account for our actions.

  • Adult: Any person over the age of 18.

  • Aggrieved person: The person making the complaint, whether they present as a victim or complainant.

  • Allegation: A complaint, incident, or allegation includes any matter brought to the church by an aggrieved person that may be rightly dealt with under Safe Church.

  • Alleged offender: The person who is alleged to have offended.


  • Balance of probabilities: The weighing up or comparison of competing possibilities, based on known facts, information and advice or instructions (either legal advice/instructions or advice provided by external authorities, including but not limited to Child Protection authorities and Victoria Police), in order to effect a decision in regards to risk management of a Safe Church Concern.

  • Bullying: The repeated seeking out or targeting of an adult, child or young person to cause them distress and humiliation or to exploit them. It includes exclusion from a peer group, intimidation and extortion. Bullying may be physical or psychological (verbal and non-verbal). Bullying may take place in person or in the digital communications environment (cyber bullying).


  • Carer: The adult person responsible for a child or young person.

  • Child: Any person under 18 years of age. This includes those also referred to as young people.

  • Child abuse: Any act that endangers the child's physical health or development. These may be things people do to children or things they fail to do for them. Abuse occurs when those in positions of trust and power abuse that trust and make use of their power to harm children. It includes neglect, emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse and domestic violence. Child abuse is reportable conduct.

  • Child Protection: The Victorian government agency under the Department of Human Services (DHS) that deals with child protection in the state of Victoria.

  • Civil authorities: The Police and officials of government departments responsible for child protection, for the administration of laws relating to complaints of sexual harassment, for the discipline of professions and for industrial relations.

  • Code of Discipline: Contained in the Presbyterian Church of Australia Constitution, Procedure and Practice - Code of Discipline.

  • Coercion: Physical or psychological actions intrinsic to initiating or hiding abusive behaviour, which involved the manipulative cultivation of relationships with vulnerable adults, children and/or young people, their carers and others in authority. This is also referred to as “grooming”. Coercion is a form of sexual misconduct.

  • Complaint: See allegation.

  • Complainant: The person who has come forward with a complaint or Safe Church Concern. In most cases, but not all, the complainant will also be the person against whom it is alleged that the abuse was directed. The term complainant is used interchangeably with the term aggrieved person.


  • Department of Human Services (DHS): The Victorian government department with responsibility for caring for children.

  • Disclosure: A disclosure occurs when someone informs a person in authority within the church that they have been subject to abuse or know of abuse or have committed abuse themselves.

  • Domestic violence: chronic domination, coercion, intimidation and victimisation of one person in a family relationship by another, by physical, sexual, emotional or mental means. This can occur in a one-off incident or over a period of time.


  • Elder Abuse: Elder abuse takes many forms, ranging from criminal acts (such as physical assault, mistreatment and neglect) through to coercive behaviour and exploitation. Sometimes it occurs on the continuum of long-standing patterns of physical or emotional abuse within a family. It can also be the result of stressful situations, such as changes in living arrangements and personal relationships, which can occur due to increasing frailty. Typically, someone known or trusted by, and in a close relationship with, the older person carries out the elder abuse.


  • False: A false allegation is one where it is determined that the alleged conduct did not occur.

  • Financial abuse: A common tactic used by abusers to gain power and control in a relationship. The forms of financial abuse may be subtle or overt but in general, include tactics to either limit a person's access to assets or conceal information and accessibility to finances, or use a personal relationship or connection to coerce a person into giving money or gifts to the abuser.


  • Grooming behaviour: Physical or psychological actions intrinsic to initiating or hiding abusive behaviour, which involve the manipulative cultivation of relationships with vulnerable adults, children and/or young people, their carers and others in authority. This is also referred to as “coercion”. Grooming behaviour for later sexual contact with children is reportable conduct and a crime in Victoria.


  • Legal duty of care: any legal responsibility that the church has to ensure the safety and well-being of those who participate in its ministries, services and activities.


  • Malicious: An allegation that is intended to cause distress to the person against whom the allegation was made.

  • Misconceived: Whilst an allegation was made in good faith, a misunderstanding on behalf of the person making the allegation occurred.


  • Negligence: may be found to exist when it is established that the church had a duty of care which was breached and a specific tangible loss or harm was suffered as a result.

  • Not able to make a finding: This outcome is applicable in the rare cases where the evidence, or lack of evidence, is such that a finding of sustained, not sustained, false, vexatious, misconceived, or not reportable conduct cannot be made.

  • Not sustained: Where insufficient evidence is available to establish that the alleged conduct did or did not occur.


  • Offender: The person who perpetrated proven abuse.


  • Pastoral care or pastoral support: The provision of care, counsel and education to persons who seek the support of the church, including:

    • guiding to make decisions concerning spiritual matters by means of Biblical teaching,

    • prayer,

    • provision of practical support, such as medical care or counselling,

    • reconciling someone to God and/or other people,

    • spiritual guidance, and

    • sustaining through a period of hardship and/or crisis.

  • Person of Concern: A ‘Person of Concern’ is a person who fits any of the following criteria:

    • Has pleaded guilty to, been convicted of, or has admitted to a sexual criminal offence (including stalking offences).

    • Has been found to have sexually offended, arising through due diligence checks related to recruitment (for example, through the application of the Safe Church Volunteer Approval Process or a Negative Notice provided by the Department of Justice in response to a Working With Children Check application).

    • Is currently charged with a sexual offence.

    • Is recognised as a “known substantial risk to children’s safety from sexual abuse” within the definitions provided in the ‘Failure to Protect’ advice from the Victorian Department of Justice relating to section 49o) of the Victorian Crimes Act 1958.

    • Has been the subject of an allegation of a sexual offence and this was not appropriately investigated.

    • Has been found to have received an adverse risk assessment arising from sexual misconduct.

    • Deemed to be a risk to the safety of children and/or vulnerable adults because of an adverse risk assessment relating to sexual misconduct or other abuse-related misconduct.

    • Exhibits constant wandering across other peoples’ sexual boundaries.

  • Position of authority within the church: Those in a position of authority within the church include all ministers, home missionaries, deacons and deaconesses, licentiates, elders, paid employees, church workers whether paid or volunteers and all those working with children and young people.

  • Practice-related concern: A concern raised in relation to current ministry and activity practice in the church that comes under the terms of reference of the Safe Church Policy and Code of Conduct.

  • Presbyterian Church of Victoria Code Book: The rules and regulations of the Presbyterian Church of Victoria published in a document which contains all Assembly approved amendments.

  • Prohibited person: Under Victorian law, a prohibited person is someone who is a registered under the Sex Offenders Registration Act or who has been convicted of offences as set out in Victorian government laws relating to children and young people, child protection or the Victorian Crimes Act. A prohibited person is a person who has been issued with a Negative Notice by the Department of Justice and as a result cannot obtain a Working With Children Check. A prohibited person may not undertake any activity, paid or volunteer, with children or young people in the PCV.


  • Reasonable foresight: a responsibility that the church has when planning activities to identify any reasonably foreseen danger/risk and take reasonable steps to prevent or avert such risk. This responsibility also applies to managing people-related risks to the safety of others in the church, for example the inclusion of a Person of Concern

  • Reasonable standard of care: the level of care that a participant may reasonably expect that the church will take in providing any church sponsored activity, including church worship services and other church groups and activities.

  • Reportable conduct:

    • any sexual offence, or sexual misconduct, committed against, with or in the presence of a child (including a child pornography offence), or

    • any assault, ill-treatment or neglect of a child, or

    • any behaviour that causes psychological harm to a child, whether or not, in any case, with the consent of the child.

    • any conduct that comes under the definition of reportable conduct as provided by the Victorian Reportable Conduct Scheme.

  • Risk of significant harm: Risk of significant harm is a term used is describe situations where a reasonable person has current concerns about the safety, welfare or wellbeing of people in the church, including the safety of children and vulnerable adults from abuse. A risk of significant harm must be risk managed by church leaders in order to fulfil their duty of care - both legally and under internal church requirements within the Presbyterian Church of Victoria Code Book and the Safe Church Policy and Code of Conduct.


  • Safe Church: Unless otherwise specified this refers to the Safe Church Policy and Code of Conduct and implementation of the Safe Church terms of reference contained therein.

  • Safe Church Concern: a concern that may be abuse related (most likely an allegation or complaint) or practice related (a practice-related concern)

  • Safe Church Unit (SCU): Safe Church Unit of the Presbyterian Church of Victoria, acting on behalf of the church and within the terms of reference of the Safe Church Policy, Code of Conduct and the Safe Church Policy, Procedure and Practice Manual.

  • Safety Agreement: a formalised agreement between a court of the church and an individual which states clear boundaries of inclusion of the individual in the church.

  • Sexual misconduct: Any behaviour that could be reasonably considered to be sexual assault, sexual exploitation, sexual harassment, coercion or grooming of an adult or a child or a young person. Sexual misconduct is contact or invitation, via any means, of a sexual nature which is inconsistent with the integrity of a person in a position of authority within the church or who is working with children or young people. It includes behaviour that may reasonably be perceived to be of a sexual nature according to the standards of the time by the person to whom it is directed.

  • Sexual assault: Any intentional or reckless sexual act, use of force or threat to use force against an adult, child or young person without their consent.

  • Sexual exploitation: Any form of sexualised behaviour with an adult, child or young person, whether or not there is consent and regardless of who initiated the behaviour, where that behaviour is contrary to the Word of God.

  • Sexual harassment: Any unwelcome sexualised behaviour, whether intended or not, in relation to an adult, child or young person where the person reasonably feels in all circumstances offended, belittled or threatened.

  • Sexualised behaviour is any behaviour that may reasonably be perceived to be of a sexual nature according to the standards of the time by the person to whom it is directed. Sexualised behaviour is only permitted as set out in the Word of God.

  • Survivor: The person against whom abuse was directed. See victim.

  • Substantiated: An allegation made and found on the balance of probabilities to have occurred.


  • The church: The Presbyterian Church of Victoria, including all congregations, organisations, committees, associations, and other groups.

  • Transparency: the practice of being willing and able to demonstrate to another responsible person how you are caring for others and/or fulfilling your role and responsibilities in the church. It is not only doing the right thing but also being seen to do the right thing.


  • Unsubstantiated - insufficient evidence: There was significant strong evidence that supports the allegation, but the evidence falls short of being able to make a substantiated finding.

  • Unsubstantiated - lack of evidence of weight: A lack of evidence made it too difficult to fully investigate an allegation despite reasonable efforts.

  • Unfounded: A positive finding, on the basis of being more likely than not, that the alleged conduct did not occur.


  • Vexatious: An allegation made without substance and with the intent of being malicious.

  • Vicarious liability: a legal liability the church is determined to have for the conduct of those who act on its behalf, for example, ministers, elders, volunteers and other church-appointed people in roles in the church.

  • Victim: The person against whom abuse was directed, many of whom refer to themselves as survivors.

  • Victorian Reportable Conduct Scheme: A compulsory scheme for organisations which work with children in Victoria requiring notifying the Commission for Children and Young People of any known or alleged misconduct with children by people within the organisation, along with measures taken in response, including but not limited to reporting to Victoria Police and documented risk management procedures

  • Vulnerable adults: people who may be considered to be susceptible to abuse or exploitation based on factors such as their health status (physical or mental), age, grief, previous or current experience of abuse, social isolation or financial hardship. In this sense vulnerability can be temporary or permanent.


  • Young person or young people: This term generally relates to any person in their teenage years but under 18 years of age. The term child/children is interchangeably used with this term.