Frequently asked questions

If you need information about what is required to work as a leader or with children or young people, your BTS Representative can help you with information about obtaining an appropriate check, registering with the CPU, accessing resources such as the BTS Code of Conduct, as well as other requirements.

If you need to raise an issue or concern, for example you are worried about the safety of a child, there will be support people in your church that have pastoral training and experience and are familiar with how to respond well to issues of abuse under Breaking the Silence.  A church may have one person for this purpose, or perhaps a team of people.  Sometimes a pastoral care team fulfills this purpose.  This support role can be filled by a minister or elder or another mature Christian with appropriate experience.  We encourage churches, if possible, to have at least one female as a support person for when issues arise.  The BTS Representative may also be able to advise you or will be able to guide you on who to talk to.

If in doubt, or if you would prefer to talk to someone independent of your church, you are always welcome to contact the CPU on 02 9690 9325 or cpu@pcnsw.org.au – the CPU is here to help.

Top-up training in Breaking the Silence is required on an annual basis for all those is leadership and who work with children and young people.

This is typically done at the beginning of the year when the new year’s children and youth programs are starting up.

Top-up training involves the following steps:

  1. Read through the BTS Policy together
  2. Read through the BTS Code of Conduct together
  3. Discuss reporting requirements and who to speak to if you have concerns
  4. Discuss any safe ministry issues particular to your ministry 

 

All of this is contained within the Top-Up Training Package.

The governing legislation is the Statute of Limitations which indicates that records should be kept for 7 years.  If the record is concerning a child or young person the record must be kept for 7 years, or 7 years past when a child turns 18 (ie. age of 25), whichever is greater.

Yes you can. You can allow people from outside the church to provide child care or run events with the children or young people of your congregation.

However, before they can provide this service they must have met the church’s child protection requirements. That is, they must have a verified Working with Children Check, done BTS Foundations Training (or equivalent), and know who they a required to report to.

If people from outside the church are providing assistance to your regular leaders and are “under the supervision” of someone who has met the Breaking the Silence requirements then they can help out. It must be made very clear however that they are not to be left alone with any child or group of children and must be in the presence of the authorised person at all times.

Anyone wanting to take photos or video of children in the church must get parental permission. We recommend a cautious approach. You must include information about where you wish to publish the photos on the permission note. For example, on the sample registration form provided on this website the following is included:

AUTHORITY FOR CONTACT / PHOTOS
  • I consent to my child being contacted by the leaders of this program.
  • I consent to my child being contacted by the church to be informed of upcoming events.
  • I consent to my child‘s photo being taken or a video being taken in which my child appears for use within the program and the church in general.

Doctor, Nurses, Teachers and many other professions include child protection training in their professional development. When one of these people is in a position of authority within the church, they do not need to do the full BTS Foundations Training.

However, as BTS covers more than just child protection and addresses the issue of abuse from the church’s point of view, they do need to complete some components of the training. They need to complete the Code of Conduct, Sexual Misconduct and Our Policy sections as a minimum requirement. The pastoral charge will then record which components of the training were completed and note that other professional training replaced the remainder. That said, we strongly recommend that professionals such as these join with other leaders and complete the full Foundations training. They can be an immense encouragement and source of information.

If you have done child protection or safe church training in a mainstream denomination, such as the Anglican, Baptist, Catholic, Lutheran or Uniting churches, then you will need to familiarize yourself with information that is specific to serving in the Presbyterian church.

This includes the Policy, Code of Conduct and reporting requirements, all of which is contained in the Top Up Training package.

For information regarding training from other denominations, or if you are in doubt, please contact the CPU who can tell you if you need to do the full Breaking the Silence Foundations training, or just the Top Up training.

All leaders from the age of 16 are required to meet all the Breaking the Silence requirements, including Working with Children Check requirements and completing the training. Leaders between the ages of 16 and 18 are unable to obtain a Working with Children Check in NSW. See the FAQ “What about people in NSW who are not eligible for a Working with Children Check or who are exempt?” for more information about what needs to be done in these circumstances.

If you have concerns about a particular leader who is between the age of 16 and 18 completing these requirements please contact the CPU for advice.

Many children’s programs in the church have young people helping out in a leadership role. However, as it is not wise for someone under the age of 16 to be in sole charge of a group of younger children, they cannot be the main leader of a group.

Junior leaders should be encouraged to participate in leadership of younger children, and can take on this role providing they are under the supervision of a more senior leader. This senior leader must meet all the requirements of Breaking the Silence in terms of screening and training, and must be the person who has responsibility for the group. What this looks like in practice may vary from church to church. For example, a senior leader may have a class of 10 children in a hall and have a junior leader present as a helper. The group could divide into two groups within the same space to complete an activity. The senior leader is still responsible and present with the group as a whole. It is a good idea to think about how much information to give a leader who is under 16 years of age. If appropriate, we recommend that the BTS material is given to the young leader’s parents with a request that they consider what is appropriate for their child to be given.

If you have a particular situation involving a young leader who is under the age of 16 and you require clarification of what is required please contact the CPU.

There are some people in our churches who work with children and young people who are not eligible to apply for a Working with Children Check. For example, anyone under the age of 18 years cannot obtain a WWCC. There are others who are exempt from the Check (see the list below).

In all of these cases, if the individual is going to undertake a role within PCNSW that we would otherwise ask them to obtain a WWCC for they must do the following:

  1. Statutory Declaration: This is a declaration by the exempt worker that they have no offences that would bar them from working with children under Sch 2 of the Child Protection (Working with Children) Act 2012. The second page is to be completed by any authorised witness under the Oaths Act.
  2. Consent and Undertaking: This is to be completed in conjunction with the Statutory Declaration as this form gives the authority for the Office of the Children’s Guardian (OCG) to conduct a criminal history check as part of OCG audit functions. It also provides for the applicant to undertake to advise us, should they become barred or convicted of a relevant offence.

These documents should be printed double sided and attached together. These are then sent to the CPU. The Office of the Children’s Guardian may ask to see them during an audit. If you have any questions, please contact the CPU.

People who are exempt from the NSW Working with Children Check

There are specified exemptions from the Working With Children Check. People covered by these exemptions are not required to have a Working With Children Check. There are more exemptions than listed below (you can find the full list at (www.kidsguardian.nsw.gov.au) but these are the ones most likely to apply within PCNSW:

  1. Children (under the age of 18)
  2. Administrative, clerical, maintenance or ancillary work not ordinarily involving contact with children for extended periods
  3. Very short term work:- A worker who works for a period of not more than a total of 5 working days in a calendar year, if the work involves minimal direct contact with children or is supervised when children are present- As a visiting speaker, adjudicator, performer, assessor or other similar visitor for a one off occasion, in the presence of one or more other adults
  4. Volunteering by a parent or close relative at an activity in which the child usually participates (in this case PCNSW requires that they only assist their own child and are supervised)
  5. Interstate visitors:– can work or volunteer at a one-off event for up to 30 days a year without a NSW Working With Children Check- can work or volunteer in any child-related work for up to 30 days a year, if the person holds an interstate Working With Children Check, or is exempt from the requirement to have such a check in his or her home jurisdiction.

The CPU is happy to issue certificates for training facilitated by a CPU trainer, or for completing the online training. If you did BTS training in your church, we would suggest that you ask your minister to write a statement of completion with details of the date, venue and facilitator with their church letter-head.

How to get a certificate:

  • Attended a CPU-run training session – Request to CPU
  • Completed online training – Request to CPU
  • Attended a church ‘in-house’ training session – Ask your minister

Glossary of Terms

Abuse is a broad term. For the purposes of Breaking the Silence, abuse includes:
  • child abuse
  • risk of significant harm,
  • reportable conduct,
  • sexual misconduct, and/or
  • conduct that breaches the Breaking the Silence Code of Conduct.
Accreditation is the abuse prevention accreditation programme established by the church.
Any person over the age of 18.
The person making the complaint, whether they present as a victim or complainant.
A complaint, incident, allegation, or allegation – reportable conduct includes any matter brought to the church by an aggrieved person that may be rightly dealt with under Breaking the Silence.
An allegation made within a procedure conducted in terms of the Children’s Guardian Act 2019 (NSW) of reportable conduct must identify a current employee (including volunteer leaders); describe behaviour that may constitute reportable conduct or details of conviction; and involve a person who was under 18 years at the time of the alleged behaviour or conviction. All such allegations – reportable conduct are notifiable circumstances.
The person who is alleged to have offended.
Unless otherwise specified this refers to the current issue of Breaking the Silence.
The repeated seeking out or targeting of an adult, child or young person to cause them distress and humiliation or to exploit them. It includes exclusion from a peer group, intimidation and extortion.
The adult person responsible for a child or young person.
Any person under 16 years of age and in some instances any person under the age of 18 years of age.
Includes neglect, emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, domestic violence as defined in Section 4 of the BTS Manual. Child abuse is a notifiable circumstance.
Employment where at least one of the essential duties of the position involves direct contact with children where the contact is not directly supervised, such as child protection services, pre-schools, kindergartens, child care centres, schools, refuges used by children, hospitals, clubs, Sunday schools, camps etc.
Standards identified by the Royal Commission which aim to make institutions safer for children.
The Police and officials of government departments responsible for child protection, for the administration of laws relating to complaints of sexual harassment, for the discipline of professions and for industrial relations.
Contained in the Presbyterian Church of Australia Constitution, Procedure and Practice – Code of Discipline.
Physical or psychological actions intrinsic to initiating or hiding abusive behaviour, which involved the manipulative cultivation of relationships with vulnerable adults, children and/or young people, their carers and others in authority. This is also referred to as “grooming”. Coercion is a form of sexual misconduct.
The relevant State or Territory government department with responsibility for caring for children.
See allegation.
The person who has alleged abuse. In most cases, but not all, the complainant will also be the person against whom it is alleged that the abuse was directed. Unless it is necessary to specify complainant the term aggrieved person is used throughout the BTS Manual.
The CPU has appointed a number of contact persons so that if an aggrieved person wishes to make a complaint to a person who is independent of the church they may do so.
Conduct Protocol Unit of the Presbyterian Church of Australia in the State of New South Wales, acting on behalf of the church.
The Clerk and Deputy Clerk of the Assembly, the Law Officers, the Superintendent of the Ministry and Mission Committee and the General Manager are advisors to the Manager, Conduct Protocol Unit.
Where the supervisor is present at all times and is observing the contact by the person under supervision with any child and is responsible for directing that person if required.
A disclosure occurs when someone informs a person in authority within the church that they have been subject to abuse or know of abuse. A disclosure may or may not be an allegation or a notifiable circumstance.
Actions which involve violent, abusive or intimidating behaviour carried out by a partner, carer or family member to control, dominate or instil fear, including physical, emotional, psychological, sexual, financial or other types of abuse.
Those appointed by the CPU to facilitate procedures by which agreements may be reached between an aggrieved person and the church about what the church can and should do to assist the aggrieved person.
Physical or psychological actions intrinsic to initiating or hiding abusive behaviour, which involve the manipulative cultivation of relationships with vulnerable adults, children and/or young people, their carers and others in authority. This is also referred to as “coercion”. Grooming behaviour is a form of sexual misconduct
A framework adopted by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Australia to establish a uniform and consistent approach to the protection of children within the Presbyterian Church of Australia and all of the State churches.
The CPU must be advised of all notifiable circumstances, including:
  • any fact, circumstance, allegation, notification, knowledge of, verbal advice of, direct or indirect connection to, or attempt of abuse, and
  • all allegations, complaints, reportable allegations and allegations reportable conduct.
A notifiable circumstance may identify someone who is currently or has been a member of the church, someone who is currently or has been a person in a position of authority within the church, a current or ex-employee, a current or ex-student current or ex-volunteer and/or a current or ex-third party.
The person who perpetrated proven abuse.
The provision of care, counsel and education to persons who seek the support of the church, including:
  • guiding to make decisions concerning spiritual matters by means of Biblical teaching,
  • prayer,
  • provision of practical support, such as medical care or counselling,
  • reconciling someone to God and/or other people,
  • spiritual guidance, and
  • sustaining through a period of hardship and/or crisis.
A person of concern can be considered to be subject of a substantiated complaint of abuse; has been convicted of an offence relating to abuse; has been denied a clearance or where their clearance has been withdrawn, suspended, barred or revoked; or poses a reasonably-known risk to children, young people or other vulnerable people (refer National Safe Ministry Framework section 2.5).

Those in a position of authority within the church include all ministers, home missionaries, deaconesses, licentiates, elders, paid employees, church workers whether paid or volunteers and all those working with children and young people.

Under New South Wales law, a prohibited person is someone who is a registrable person as defined in the Child Protection (Offenders Registration) Act 2000 (with some exceptions) or has been convicted of certain offences asset out in the Commission for Children and Young People Act 1998.
Where a declaration in relation to prohibited persons is required under New South Wales law, a similar declaration is required in other States and Territories under Breaking the Silence.
A claim, statement or assertion that has yet to be substantiated or proven within a procedure conducted in terms of the Children’s Guardian Act 2019 (NSW). All reportable allegations are notifiable circumstances.
A defined term that appears in the Children’s Guardian Act 2019 (NSW). Section 20 of the Children’s Guardian Act defines reportable conduct as:
  • a sexual offence,
  • sexual misconduct,
  • ill-treatment of a child,
  • neglect of a child,
  • an assault against a child,
  • an offence under section 43B or 316A of the Crimes Act 1900,
  • behaviour that causes significant emotional or psychological harm to a child.
Reportable conduct is a standard that is applied to all people in a position of authority within the church under the Children’s Guardian Act 2019 (NSW). Reportable conduct applies to conduct towards children under the age of 18 years. Reportable conduct includes conduct that is defined in relevant legislation that occurs within a leader’s public ministry as well as their personal life. All reportable conduct is a notifiable circumstance.
At risk of significant harm is a term used by Community Services for situations where a reasonable person has current concerns about the safety, welfare or wellbeing of a child or young person. Conduct putting a child or young person at risk of significant harm may also be reportable conduct and is a notifiable circumstance.
Royal Commission refers to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse which ran from January 2013 to December 2017 (refer to www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au for more information).
Any behaviour that could be reasonably considered to be sexual assault, sexual exploitation, sexual harassment, coercion or grooming of an adult or a child or a young person as defined in the BTS Manual in Section 5: Sexual Misconduct.
Sexual misconduct is contact or invitation, via any means, of a sexual nature which is inconsistent with the integrity of a person in a position of authority within the church or who is working with children or young people. It includes behaviour that may reasonably be perceived to be of a sexual nature according to the standards of the time by the person to whom it is directed.
Sexual misconduct is a notifiable circumstance.
Any intentional or reckless act, use of force or threat to use force against an adult, child or young person without their consent as defined in the BTS Manual in Section 5: Sexual Misconduct.
Any form of sexualised behaviour with an adult, child or young person, whether or not there is consent and regardless of who initiated the behaviour, where that behaviour is contrary to the Word of God and as defined in the BTS Manual in Section 5: Sexual Misconduct.
Any unwelcome sexualised behaviour, whether intended or not, in relation to an adult, child or young person where the person reasonably feels in all circumstances offended, belittled or threatened as defined in the BTS Manual in Section 5: Sexual Misconduct.
Sexualised behaviour is any behaviour that may reasonably be perceived to be of a sexual nature according to the standards of the time by the person to whom it is directed. Sexualised behaviour is only permitted as set out in the Word of God.
The body with direct supervision and jurisdiction over a person or person/s. For example, the supervising body for an ordained minister would be the presbytery. The supervising body for a school Principal would be the Board or Council.
Appropriate individuals sourced by the Director, CPU from time to time, drawn from within and without the church, from diverse backgrounds, having skills in areas such as mediation and conflict resolution, child protection, the social sciences, civil and church law and industrial relations.
The person against whom proven abuse was directed. See victim.
The Presbyterian Church of Australia in those States or Territories where Breaking the Silence has been formally adopted by the appropriate State general Assembly, including all congregations, organisations, committees, associations, groups, schools, hospitals and other institutions.
The person against whom proven abuse was directed, many of whom refer to themselves as survivors.
Any person/s above 16 years of age but under 18 years of age.

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