Australian Christian Churches is committed to the highest standard of protection and safety for children or young people who attend a program, service or facility run by churches and ministries associated with the movement.
The ACC Child Protection Policy, officially adopted by the National Conference in April 2015, is binding on all ACC credential holders and churches. The implementation date became effective from 1 December 2015. Since that time, close to 8,000 ACC pastors, leaders and volunteers have received training through the Safer Churches program.
The Safer Churches Strategy is outworked through National, State and Local levels.
National: The Child Protection Policy was commissioned by the National Executive to ensure the ACC maintains the highest standard of compliance in child protection across the movement. Guidelines were developed to assist local churches and ACC pastors to outwork the criteria practically. The National Executive appointed Safe Ministry Resources (SMR), an independent company, to help prepare customised training and provide resources through the ACC Safer Churches Strategy.
State: The Safer Churches Strategy operates through the ACC State Offices. Each State has appointed a dedicated Safer Churches Officer to ensure the Child Protection Policy is implemented at both State and Local Church levels.
Local: Every local church board or governing body has the responsibility of actioning the Safer Churches Strategy in their church. A designated Local Safer Churches Person or Team is the contact point for reporting concerns within each church.
International: The Safer Churches program is also included as part of the ACCI Missions & Relief training for those working in other countries.
Training, Equipping and Resources
Training, equipping and resourcing pastors and church workers is the main emphasis of the Safer Churches Strategy. Workshops are held regularly across the regions of the States, and for those in remote or overseas locations, an online course is available.
Since 1 December 2015, the following resources have been made available:
• Safer Churches National Helpline 1800 070 511
• State Safer Churches Officers
• The ACC Safer Churches Manual for Awareness Workshops
• The Safer Churches Program Implementation Kit
• The dedicated Safer Churches section of the Pastor’s Login
Regular updates through National and State communication channels continue to keep ACC People informed, including articles in the EMAG on related subjects such as Sexting and Pornography, Caring for Volunteers, Child Safety Guidelines, Process for Reporting etc.
The Safer Churches Strategy includes WHS compliance and best practice when it comes to safe emotional and physical workplaces, as well as a template Code of Conduct for local church volunteers.
The Safer Churches Strategy was addressed at the annual State conferences in September/October 2015, where the structure of the Strategy was outlined in the lead up the implementation date, 1 December 2015.
State based training workshops began in December 2015, starting with training of ACC State personnel and expanding to the local churches. Meetings with the State Safer Churches Officers are held on an ongoing basis, as we continue to review progress and hone the Safer Churches strategy for even greater effectiveness.
Ongoing monitoring and review of any matters of child sexual abuse is a permanent agenda item at State and National Executive meetings.
The objective of the National Executive is to ensure that every credentialed pastor has completed training and is up to date with the mandatory State based ‘working with children checks’ required, before their credential is renewed. The requirement for attending a Workshop is every three years at a minimum.
From the end of 2016 onwards, no ACC pastor can have their credential renewed without having completed child protection training at least once every three years. The requirement for pastors to maintain State based ‘working with children checks’ has been in place for many years.
Every church is required to have a Child Protection Policy implemented in their church. This is declared through the annual church dues process, with states offices providing support to those churches who need assistance in this regard.
Since the implementation of the Safer Churches Strategy, the ACC remains open to adopting new recommendations that will assist in further increasing the level of child protection in local church environments. These include recommendations made by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
In the first period since its implementation, the ACC Safer Churches Strategy has ensured that thousands of pastors, leaders and volunteers in local church and ministry environments have undergone a high level of training in the area of child protection. The ACC is committed to building on this foundation to ensure that child protection remains at the highest level possible across the board.
[Prepared by SEAN STANTON, ACC NATIONAL SECRETARY]