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Independent professional standards company starts work in Melbourne and Bendigo dioceses

New company offers sound basis to seek to restore community's confidence and trust in Church's institutions, says Archbishop

Archbishop Freier told clergy and lay workers in the Church: "It has been evident from the many survivor statements and learnings from the recent Victorian Parliamentary Enquiry and the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse that a more independent Office of Professional Standards can offer a greater assurance of effective handling of complaints and screening of clergy and lay people for the protection of the community."

By Mark Brolly

July 6 2017An independent professional standards company for the Anglican dioceses of Melbourne and Bendigo, Kooyoora Ltd, has begun operations.

Melbourne’s Archbishop Philip Freier announced on 3 July that the new company had begun operations two days earlier as the Office of Professional Standards for the two dioceses.

“It has been evident from the many survivor statements and learnings from the recent Victorian Parliamentary Enquiry and the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse that a more independent Office of Professional Standards can offer a greater assurance of effective handling of complaints and screening of clergy and lay people for the protection of the community,” Dr Freier wrote in a letter to clergy and lay ministers. “It offers a sound basis to seek to restore confidence and trust of the community in our institutions.”

The new company follows the passage of the new Professional Standards Uniform Act 2016 by Bendigo Synod in May 2016 and Melbourne Synod last October. A working party led by Bendigo’s Bishop Andrew Curnow was set up in 2014 to identify the best option for independently handling complaints against Anglican clergy and other Church workers in a diocese and to undertake the necessary screening process to assess the fitness for office of people taking up roles in the Church. The working party had endorsed the legislation put to both synods.

“I emphasise that the Act is for the protection of all in the Church community, particularly those to whom we minister but also our clergy and lay persons who give ministry and service in the mission of the Church,” Archbishop Freier wrote. “The Office of Professional Standards is available to discuss confidentially any particular concerns you have about conduct that may be causing harm.”

In background notes attached to his letter, Dr Freier wrote that Kooyoora Ltd was incorporated on 12 January this year as an independent not-for-profit company limited by guarantee. It was established to provide services to charitable and faith-based organisations in relation to professional standards, screening of people and related training.

Its initial sponsoring members are the Melbourne Anglican Diocesan Corporation Ltd and the Bendigo Anglican Diocesan Corporation Ltd, with the two dioceses funding the establishment costs. Kooyoora Ltd will charge the respective diocesan corporations on a fee-for-service basis for the services it provides in connection with complaints, clearances, training and inquiries.

The directors of the company during the start-up phase are the Chancellors of Melbourne and Bendigo dioceses, Mr Michael Shand, QC, and Mr Ian Dallas respectively. It is intended to expand the Board and appoint independent directors, representing a range of stakeholders, by the last quarter of the year.

Ms Anne Baker, who was Registrar of Bendigo diocese for five years until 2016 and has served as Royal Commission Officer for the Australian Church, has been appointed interim Executive Director of the company.

Ms Claire Sargent, the Director of Professional Standards of the Melbourne diocese since 2004, and Mr Vin Lucas, a Human Resources executive for many years at Cadbury Schweppes and Asahi, are respectively to be Director and Deputy Director of Professional Standards during the establishment phase of the company, at least until November. Ms Marcella Meagher, who has administered clearances for the diocese, is to be Administrator.

Archbishop Freier wrote that the commencement date for the Professional Standards Uniform Act 2016 (Melbourne) was 1 July, except for part 4.2 (relating to clearance for service for volunteers), which will commence on a date later in the year to be fixed by the Diocesan Council.

Existing clearances for ministry were recognised under the new Act and would continue for their duration.

“Clearance must be given before any new appointment is to take place as every new role in the Diocese must start from a platform of good standing,” Archbishop Freier told TMA.

He urged clergy and lay workers to carefully read the Act, in particular the duties of clergy and other prescribed Church workers to familiarise themselves with the approved Code of Conduct (Section 16), to comply with the mandatory reporting provision (Sections 17 and 18) and to apply for and obtain a clearance (Parts 4.1 and 4.2).

“The Melbourne and Bendigo Anglican Diocesan Corporations have formally appointed Kooyoora Ltd to provide professional standards services to each Diocese in accordance with the Act and have committed to meet its establishment funding needs,” Dr Freier wrote.

Diocesan Council had formally approved the code of conduct under the Act being the National Code, Faithfulness in Service, modified only to reflect the terms used in the Act. It also had approved regulations under the Act, prescribing the requisite forms and had formally prescribed the particular lay roles for which a clearance for service would be required when Part 4.2 of the Act commences.

“The new company has approved operating protocols, both for handling complaints and for clearance for ministry, after having first consulted with the respective dioceses. A further protocol on clearance for service is being developed. For continuity, Kooyoora Ltd has also appointed to the respective Professional Standards Committee, the Board and the Review Board, as constituted under the new Act, the people who currently hold those positions. Further appointments are expected to be made.

“The Act, the Code of Conduct, Regulations, Prescribed Lay Roles and Approved Protocols will be available on both the Diocesan website and, once it is online, the Kooyoora website.”

Archbishop Freier concluded his letter with an appeal: “Please hold all survivors of child abuse in your prayers and support those associated with this new initiative in ensuring its success.”

The establishment of the company across diocesan boundaries goes some way to fulfilling commitments the Anglican Church made to the Royal Commission earlier this year. At the Anglican “wrap-up” hearing in March, the Royal Commission emphasised to Church leaders the importance of a national approach, while the hearing was told that measures to strengthen the Church’s protection of children would be put to General Synod in Maroochydore, Queensland, in September.

In a statement issued on the opening morning of the hearing, Archbishop Freier, as Anglican Primate of Australia, said: “We eagerly await the Royal Commission’s recommendations. We believe that the rigorous and independent scrutiny the commission has provided is greatly to our benefit. There is a pronounced appetite for change inside the Anglican Church. We are determined to apply best practice so that the Church is a truly safe place for children.”

  

  • The Office of Professional Standards contact details will remain the same:

                   Phone: 1800 135 246

                   By mail: Director of Professional Standards,

                                     PO Box 329, Canterbury Vic 3126.

  • The Kooyoora Ltd office main days of operation will be Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. The office number is (03) 9416 1008.