2023 Child Protection Week: Every child at WA schools given a ‘fair go’

04 September 2023

Catholic Education Western Australia (CEWA) is reaffirming its commitment to providing a safe and secure environment for children, particularly in Catholic schools.

This years’ National Protection Week (3 to 9 September) is themed ‘Every child in every community deserves a fair go – Where we start matters.

CEWA’s Child Safe Lead, Tim Wong said child protection is a shared responsibility that extends beyond the classroom:

‘CEWA Educators’ guidance helps children navigate complex topics and provides them with a safe space to ask questions and express concerns.

‘At the same time, the collaboration between parents, educators, and communities is essential in ensuring that the lessons taught in the curriculum are reinforced consistently. Parents are encouraged to engage in age-appropriate conversations at home, emphasizing the importance of open dialogue and trust.’

Mr Wong said that, through CEWA’s implementation of the Keeping Safe Child Protection Curriculum, students, parents and educators are made aware of personal safety, healthy and respectful relationships, and essential life skills. The program introduces age-appropriate concepts into the fabric of student’s lives, with the aim of empowering them to navigate a rapidly changing world.

‘Where we start matters holds immense significance when it comes to child protection. Initiating conversations about safety, boundaries, and personal well-being from a young age is pivotal in building a foundation of trust and open communication. By introducing these discussions early on, children become accustomed to the idea that their voices matter and that they have the right to express their feelings without fear or hesitation.

‘Starting conversations about child protection concepts also serves as a pre-emptive measure against potential risks. Children who are educated about personal safety are better equipped to recognise uncomfortable situations, even before they escalate into something harmful. This proactive approach empowers children to take ownership of their well-being and, when necessary, seek help from trusted adults.’

Equipping children with the tools to understand personal boundaries is also a key teaching in the CEWA Keeping Safe Child Protection Curriculum, Mr Wong said.

‘Respect for personal space, consent, and empathy are integral components that contribute to the fabric of a compassionate and understanding society.’

Quoting the Bishops Mandate, Mr Wong said, ‘Through Catholic schools, we seek to foster a Christian mentality in our society, and to encourage young people to contribute more broadly to the development of the kind of world envisaged by Christ. One of the key tasks of the Catholic school is to form Christian men and women committed to the love, compassion and justice of the gospel of Jesus Christ.’ (Paragraph 6).

Archdiocese of Perth Safeguarding Office Acting Director Barbara Blayney said Child Protection Week was an important opportunity to raise awareness and engage, educate, and empower Australians to understand the complexity of child abuse and neglect, so we can all continue to work together to prevent it. 

‘As an Archdiocese and as individuals, we are faith-bound to offer children and their families any support and assistance they need to live in a safe and secure environment. 

Where we start matters in our lives, our faith and our decision making. 

Where we start our lives matters in terms of where we live, the resources available to us, and the opportunities presented to us make a significant difference to our life outcomes. 

Where we start as a faith-filled community matters in offering children and their families support and assistance to make a significant difference to life outcomes. You belong and are welcome here. 

Where we start as decision-makers…. matters. You are allowed to have control over your own decisions, especially when it is about your personal safety. God gave all the children the right to feel safe all the time.’ 

The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference said, Safeguarding Sunday seeks to acknowledge the immense damage caused by the sexual abuse of children and adults at risk, including by priests, religious and lay people within Catholic contexts. ‘It makes a commitment to practices and protocols that create and maintain safe environments for all people. It invites people to pray for those harmed by abuse directly and indirectly.’ 

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