Management of Known Offenders
From time to time a situation may arise where a known offender (person of concern) has been worshipping and been involved, or wishes to worship and be involved, in a parish. Individual Safety Agreements address the safety issues that arise where there is a person of concern whose presence constitutes a risk of sexual abuse or other forms of harmful behaviours to others in the parish community.
Any ministry to a person of concern must acknowledge:
- the Work health and safety legislation in the ACT and NSW states that employers must provide safe physical and emotional work places for workers and visitors (all volunteers in parishes are classed as workers, all parishioners are classed as visitors);
- Parish Councils with the Bishop and Rector share the responsibility of duty of care, i.e. to provide safe environments for all people in our ministry units;
- that there is no one type of person of concern, therefore we will use individual Safety Agreements;
- that there is a high level of community feeling and fear about sexual abuse;
- that there are survivors of abuse in congregations, and we seek to care for them effectively;
- the issues of forgiveness and a person of concern’s right to privacy;
- not all persons of concern will have the capacity to enter into an Individual Safety Agreement;
- the need for support, training, establishment, and oversight in this process by the diocese.
This approach to ministry with person of concerns has as its heart the church’s mission and commitment to provide a safe place for all people, including children, to grow and shine.
At the same Christian communities can be one of the few places where past abusers (sexual and violent) can be the recipients of God’s forgiveness.
We acknowledge that forgiveness does not mean immunity from temptation to reoffend or the removal of all barriers to the exercise of ministry. The forgiveness and grace of God, mediated with supervision and clear guidelines through a local church, can be a vital part of a healing journey.
A person of concern, or the parish, may not appreciate that the person may pose a risk to the safety of children and vulnerable adults. While demonstrating genuine compassion and justice, we must take steps to protect the parish community from the risk of harm.
With all these complex issues to consider in safe ministry to persons of concern, the Professional Standards Director (PSD) will play an oversight, supervision and monitoring role in ministry with all persons of concern in the diocese.