An audit of child safety at the Catholic Diocese of Ballarat found it has met 73 per cent of new safeguarding recommendations and is working on the remaining 27 per cent.
The diocese is the first in Australia to be audited by Catholic Professional Standards Limited, which looks at current approaches to child safety, and structures for complaint response and management.
Auditors travelled to a sample of parishes across the diocese, reviewed structures in place, and interviewed staff and volunteers - this included at the diocese office, Catholic Education Office, and Centacare.
According to a statement, CPSL's audit "indicated that the diocese has in place clear and structured procedures for complaints handling, including clear reporting requirements, a pastoral approach in the handling of active complaints and formal risk management practices to address potential incidents or concerns."
The audit report concludes the diocese had fully implemented or substantially progressed in the implementation of 75 of the 103 relevant indicators - of those 75, 44 were marked 'managed and measurable' -, with another 26 in the initial stages.
Two more, relating to cultural safety training and monitoring of internet use by personnel, are yet to be addressed.
While there were no priority one recommendations, there were nine priority two and seven priority three recommendations.
The recommendations include retaining 'safeguarding records' such as incident and complaint handling, Working With Children and National Criminal History checks and incorporating this into the recruitment process; streamlining codes of conduct and consequences for breaches; including child safety as an agenda item on pastoral council and leadership meetings at all parishes; and renewing criminal history checks every three years for all roles.
It was also noted only three of the 11 parishes reviewed had formal safeguarding induction programs in place, with others providing information to volunteers on a case-by-case basis, and formal additional training should be put in place for clergy, staff, and volunteers.
It's important to note the audit took place across the entire diocese, which stretches to Mildura and the South Australian border - locally, the Cathedral parish, Redan, and Maryborough were audited, as well as eight others including Warrnambool and Warracknabeal.
CPSL was established by Catholic leadership in the wake of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
It developed the National Catholic Safeguarding Standards framework, which was formally released in May this year, and applies to all Catholic organisations.
The standards align with the rigorous state government-mandated Victorian Child Safe Standards.
Its chief executive, Sheree Limbrick, said the church funded the organisation, but the design of the audit and how it is carried out and reported is up to the board.
"We wouldn't exist if the church didn't fund us, but in terms of day to day functions and how we execute audits, it's totally at the discretion of my board who are seven highly skilled and reputable people from across Australia - not all have a connection to the Catholic Church, some do," she said.
The next step was to see the diocese fully implement all the recommendations.
"There was obviously a level of commitment which you would expect from the diocese in Ballarat, which has obviously been held to account for past failings that were nothing short of atrocious," she said.
"But there has been a lot of work done, and no matter who the team spoke to - a volunteer, a parishioner, staff at St Patrick's Cathedral, and the bishop himself, the level of awareness of what needs to be in place and how it works now, was very encouraging."
Ms Limbrick added many of the recommendations were targeted towards smaller, volunteer-oriented parishes.
"One key message, there's lots of areas of improvement would be helped by diocese taking more of a support and oversight in the parishes," she said.
"A lot doesn't happen at the diocese level, it's what's happening in parishes and communities
"We've made a series of recommendations about volunteer management - not that they're not doing things, like Working With Children Checks - it's helping rural, smaller, volunteer parishes."
The audit report was welcomed by the diocese.
"The audit confirmed that the diocese is already addressing most of the points set out in the standards," it said in a statement.
"At the same time, the auditors have identified areas for improvement, including more diocesan support to promote consistent safeguarding practices across all parishes, the provision of information to children about safeguarding, and the training of volunteers in safeguarding procedures.
"The diocese has accepted all of the audit recommendations and will work to implement them."
Ms Limbrick said constant vigilance was needed to protect children, and the audit process was part of that.
"The standards are really all about putting things in place, but you don't just set and forget," she said.
"Child protection, and vulnerable adults, protecting anyone vulnerable in the community in an organisational context, this requires constant vigilance and constant checking to see if the systems you've put in place are working.
"We talk about putting the children genuinely at the centre of your thoughts, decisions, and actions."
The full report is available online.
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