The Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle has an absolute and abiding commitment to promote the safety, welfare and wellbeing of children. As a volunteer working in a diocesan school, you should be aware of your obligations and responsibilities in protecting students from abuse or neglect.
Becoming a volunteer
To be able to volunteer within a diocesan school you are required to read the Volunteer Policy and Code of Conduct which are available to download from the Diocesan Volunteer Webpage. You will be required to register and complete all necessary checks, inductions and safeguarding training relevant to your volunteer role. This may mean you may be required to obtain a Working with Children Check and/or National Police Check. All paperwork and checks are to be completed and verified before you can commence in your role. Safeguarding training must occur within six months of your commencement as a volunteer.
The Children and Young Person’s (Care and Protection) Act 1998
As a volunteer in the state of NSW you can report certain information to the Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ). You should discuss your concerns with a teacher, assistant principal or principal. You can report your concerns to the DCJ Child Protection Helpline (Ph. 132 111, 24 hrs/7 days) if you have reasonable grounds to suspect that a child or young person is at risk of significant harm and your concerns are current. Risk of significant harm may occur from a single act or omission or to a series of acts or omissions.
It is better to be safe than sorry, so if you are uncertain, talk to a staff member at the school.
Part 4 of the Children’s Guardian Act
Part 4 of the Children’s Guardian Act defines diocesan schools as a “schedule 1 entity” and as such we must have systems for preventing, reporting (to the Children’s Guardian) and investigating reportable conduct.
All volunteers who hold a Working with Children Check for the purpose of their role within a diocesan school fall within the scope of Part 4 and may be investigated for alleged “reportable conduct”, which includes sexual offences, misconduct, assault, ill-treatment, neglect, and behaviour that causes psychological harm to children.
As a volunteer “working” at a diocesan school, any alleged reportable conduct will be investigated. It does not matter if the conduct is alleged to have happened outside school and in your private lives.
The Office of Safeguarding is the Diocese’s specialist safeguarding and child protection service that works with the Children’s Guardian to ensure the Diocese meets its obligations under Part 4. As volunteers you should co-operate with any investigation conducted by the Office of Safeguarding.
The Child Protection (Working with Children) Act 2012
Under this legislation, people who undertake a role in child-related work in a paid or volunteer capacity in the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle are required by law to have a Working with Children Check Clearance. This “clearance” can be obtained by applying online at https://www.kidsguardian.nsw.gov.au/child-safe-organisations/working-with-children-check
Volunteers receive a clearance for free, and it lasts up to five years.