Board of Deputies plenum hosts child protection planel

Emeritus Professor Bettina Cass AO

Emeritus Professor Bettina Cass AO, Chair of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies Taskforce on Child Protection and Chair of the ECAJ National Working Group on Child Protection, arranged and moderated a high-level panel of experts, including the NSW Children’s Guardian Janet Schorer, to discuss Child protection in the Jewish community: Awareness, Prevention, Redress at the July plenum.

Janet Schorer and Julianna Demetrius

Each panelist brought their expertise to the topic, covering: the legal framework, government assistance, child-safe standards, community training, the National Redress Scheme, reporting to police and ethical issues.

Jewish House CEO and National Mental Heath Commissioner Rabbi Mendel Kastel OAM gave a moving address, describing how he’s witnessed survivors of child abuse break down in tears when offending organisations provided an apology. He also urged Jewish community organisations to join the National Redress Scheme. Rabbi Kastel’s notes can be read [HERE].

Rabbi Mendel Kastel OAM

Bettina Cass writes:

After the Report of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and the introduction of the National Redress Scheme, the over-arching responsibilities to maintain child-safe spaces have changed and we must adapt to ensure that all of our organisations comply.

The strong message is that child protection is a communal responsibility, involving religious and lay leaders, teachers, parents and all who have any responsibility for children. The special panel of five distinguished experts covered the ways in which institutions can embed and ensure child-safe spaces, through well-understood, preventative child-centered practices.

The overarching message is that our community needs the information, confidence and resolve to respond effectively to the statutory requirements and ethical procedures essential for child safety. The morally compelling issue of signing on to the National Redress Scheme to ensure institutional apology, counselling and financial redress for past survivors of child sexual abuse was also well-covered.

The expert speakers were Janet Schorer, the NSW Children’s Guardian whose office has responsibility for all aspects of child protection; Julianna Demetrius, Assistant Ombudsman in the NSW Ombudsman’s Office, who is preparing on-line information for faith-based organisations on Child Protection;  Deborah Blackman,  Director of Educare, Protecting our Children Together who conducts regular training sessions for schools, synagogues and youth movements; Rabbi Mendel Kastel, CEO of Jewish House, who led Jewish House to be the first Jewish organisation in NSW to sign up to the National Redress Scheme;  and Peter Wertheim, co-CEO of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, who reported on Jewish community organisations’ responses to the National Redress Scheme.

Dr Michelle Meyer, CEO of Tzedek, Australia’s support and advocacy group for Jewish survivors of child sexual abuse, was invited to join the panel but was unable to be in Sydney. Her paper was tabled and referred to.

The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies strongly encourages all community organisations and members to play an active role in reinforcing the Jewish community’s commitment to child protection, the establishment and maintenance of child-safe institutions and signing on to the National Redress Scheme.

Julianna Demetrius, Deborah Blackman, Emeritus Professor Bettina Cass AO, Janet Schorer