Churches of Christ in NSW & ACT (CCNSWACT) is committed to modelling the love of Christ by promoting physical, emotional and spiritual safety in all that we do. We recognise that the growing number of recommendations and legal requirements may leave you feeling apprehensive or overwhelmed. We are confident, however, that the Safe Church Health Check (SCHC) will support you as you navigate these challenges.

Our heart is to equip and support local churches for ministry, so we have sought to provide suggested structures and resources to reduce the burden on you as much as possible. However, your local church leadership will need to take some steps to implement these Safe Church practices as appropriate to your local church context. We encourage each local church to delegate this important task to appropriate individuals. The church pastor is not necessarily required to undertake these tasks themselves.

In 2013, the Australian Government called a Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (Royal Commission) in response to community concern about widespread reports of cases where Australian institutions failed to protect children from child sexual abuse. The work of this Royal Commission has emphasised that members of the public, children, young people, parents, carers, families and communities should be confident that organisations working with children provide safe environments. The Royal Commission was conducted over four years, making 409 recommendations for the federal government, state jurisdictions as well as numerous sectors, including religious entities.

A key outcome of the Royal Commission was the development of the Child Safe Standards. The Child Safe Standards collectively show that a child-safe organisation is one that creates a safe culture, adopts strategies and takes action to promote child well-being and prevent harm to children and young people. In February 2022, the NSW government legislated compliance with the Child Safe Standards for organisations that provide services to children, including churches. The ACT government is expected to follow suit in the near future.

The Safe Church Health Check has been designed to assist churches in meeting the Child Safe Standards and other legal obligations. In addition to legislative requirements to implement the Child Safe Standards, churches have existing legal obligations when it comes to providing activities and services to children and young people, including:

  • Common law and statutory duties to take reasonable precautions to prevent child abuse;
  • Requirements to ensure that people doing certain defined work hold relevant clearance checks;
  • Reporting to government authorities in accordance with their obligations, if any, under:
    • Mandatory Reporting Legislation
    • Reportable Conduct Legislation
    • Criminal Legislation
    • WWCC Legislation in NSW
    • WWVP Legislation in ACT

Of course, mere legal compliance is not our aim. Rather, we hope to promote a culture that reflects the love of Christ, loves and protects individuals, and fosters missional engagement with local communities.

Where to Start

In order to successfully complete a Safe Church Health Check, there are a few fundamentals that must be accomplished first.

1. Appoint a Safe Church Team

If you are a church leader or church administrator, the first step is to have the governance body of your church appoint a Safe Church Team. The Safe Church Team may include paid staff and/or volunteers, we have provided a Model Role Description to outline their responsibilities. It is a very important role that should report directly to the church’s Senior Pastor and Governance body. The Safe Church Team must have at least one male and one female. Where possible, potential conflicts of interest should be avoided.

 

2. Amend, adopt and communicate relevant Policy and Procedures

These documents (referred to as the ‘Safe Church Package’, or SCP) must be marked with the date they were formally adopted by the governance body. This is important as it ensures that the governance body is aware of the contents of the documents, provides formal authority for the documents and indicates how recently any particular document was amended. The Safe Church Team may go through the process of identifying policies and amending procedures for your church context, but it is important to understand that the Senior Pastor and Governance body will still have legal responsibility for ensuring that reasonable precautions are taken within the church context. The most recent versions of the SCP documents for churches of Christ in NSW & ACT can be found in the Ministry Portal under My Resources (Access to this site requires authorisation from CCNSWACT.)

 

3. Complete your Safe Church Register

Ensure that all volunteers have been screened, signed the Code of Conduct and that child-related workers have also provided their WWCC and completed Creating Safe Spaces training.

 

4. Consider the Safe Church Health Check questions

As you answer the questions, be aware that arrangements may differ significantly from church to church – particularly according to church size and resources. We have provided some ideas and examples for any question where details are requested. However, you may have alternative ideas, or in some instances, you may have reasons to suggest that a particular item is not relevant or necessary in your context. If that is the case, please just provide a brief explanation of those reasons.

 

5. When you can answer ‘yes’ to all the questions, you are ready to submit!

The Safe Church Health Check is designed to support churches as they address various obligations. How these obligations are addressed will vary from church to church, depending on your context. Please contact us if you have questions about how specific requirements might apply in your context. We are here to support you.

SCHC Application

You can download the SCHC Application form here [attached pdf] and type answers in the pdf, or you can submit your SCHC responses online here.

If you have any questions, please reach out to us via hello@ccnswact.org.au or call (02) 8573 6000.