Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle Safeguarding Audit Report February 2024

National Catholic Safeguarding Standards

A rigorous safeguarding audit of the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle has assessed a 98 per cent compliance with the National Catholic Safeguarding Standards (NCSS) according to the audit report published by Australian Catholic Safeguarding Ltd (ACSL) today.

Bishop of Maitland-Newcastle, the Most Reverend Michael Kennedy asked that the audit be particularly rigorous. ACSL partnered with Prolegis Lawyers, an independent legal firm, in the audit. Thirty-four per cent of the Diocese’s parishes were visited as were three schools and the Diocese’s head offices. Over 100 people were also interviewed.

The ACSL-Prolegis audit of the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle found that 96 (98 per cent) out of the 98 relevant indicators were ‘Developed and Embedded’ or ‘Developed’.

The auditors made seven recommendations to improve safeguarding practices within the Diocese. These recommendations were accepted in full by the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle, and work has already commenced on implementing them. Audit recommendations are classified according to priority and urgency for remediation. There are no Priority 1 (high priority) recommendations for the Diocese.

ACSL Chief Executive Officer, Dr Ursula Stephens, said that the audit demonstrated that the Diocese has comprehensive safeguarding policies and procedures. She acknowledged the efforts of the Diocesan safeguarding personnel to ensure that policies were being met in practice.

“Without doubt, the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle demonstrates it is committed to addressing the Church’s sad history in this area. Across the Diocese and in every Ministry, strong safeguarding practices are evident. Our recommendations for improvement reflect the contemporary aspects of safeguarding regulation, and, given the far-reaching commitment to safeguarding demonstrated, I expect these protocols will soon be addressed,” said Dr Stephens.

The Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle comprises 38 parishes in the Hunter-Manning region with 66 active or retired clergy, over 5,500 paid staff operating from more than 100 locations and more than 5,000 volunteers undertaking a variety of ministries within the Diocese. The Bishop of Maitland-Newcastle is Michael Kennedy, installed on 17 March 2023.

Bishop Kennedy said that he was particularly pleased with the auditors’ summary judgement that said that “the Diocese is successfully implementing and embedding a culture of safeguarding throughout its organisation.”

Bishop Kennedy also said “There is more to do. As Bishop, I assure you that over the coming years the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle will maintain its current momentum and will continue to refine and improve our safeguarding knowledge and practices, so that the safeguarding of each child and every vulnerable person is a wholly integrated and intrinsic part of everything that we do in our Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.”

The NCSS, based on recommendations made by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and aligned with the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations, provide the framework for Catholic Church entities to build child-safe cultures and to advance the safety and dignity of children and vulnerable people across the Catholic Church in Australia.

Copies of the results overview will be available at Mass from 3 March 2024 and you can read the full audit by using this link to the Australian Catholic Safeguarding Ltd website: https://www.acsltd.org.au/about-us/publications-and-reports/