Safe Ministry Resources
HELPLINE 1800 070 511
Safe Ministry Resources
HELPLINE 1800 070 511
Safe Ministry Resources
HELPLINE 1800 070 511

PERSONS OF CONCERN

This information is provided to assist local church governance boards who are considering allowing a person of concern (known offender) to attend church.

Safe Ministry to a Person of Concern (POC) must be carefully considered. SMR recommends a cautious and methodical approach to the process of information sharing, risk assessment and subsequent implementation of a permanent (lifelong) ‘Safety Plan’ (including a written and agreed to set of standards for attendance/worship) offered to the Person of Concern by the church governance group.  

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, Recommendation 16.57 states “Where a religious institution becomes aware that any person attending any of its religious services or activities is the subject of a substantiated complaint of child sexual abuse, or has been convicted of an offence relating to child sexual abuse, the religious institution should:
1. assess the level of risk posed to children by that perpetrator’s ongoing involvement in the religious community
2. take appropriate steps to manage that risk.”

To consider how a church might appropriately minister to a known offender is not a simple matter.  The issues of forgiveness and a person’s right to privacy need to be considered. The needs of past victims of sexual abuse, vulnerable persons (e.g. children, intellectually handicapped) and the needs of the whole congregation must also be considered. Disclosure about, or knowledge of, the presence of a known offender can re-victimise survivors. The church must also consider state/territory legislation such as Work Health & Safety legislation, child protection, failure to protect (some states), failure to report (some states) and common law duty of care.

When offering safe, appropriate ministry to a person of concern a church must acknowledge and address the following:
– there are strong reactions within the community in relation to sexual abuse, and particularly child sexual abuse
– churches have a legal duty of care to provide safe environments for all people with whom they come into contact
– there is no one type of POC, therefore best practice considers the individual POC’s risks toward re-offending as well as the risks present in the local church context
– there are abuse survivors (known and unknown) in congregations who need to be cared for effectively
– the issues of forgiveness and a POC’s right to privacy
– the liability issues both in relation to amendments in the civil liability legislation and around insurance exclusions in relation to POC re-offending
– the need for ongoing monitoring and oversight in this process
– the long-term capacity of the local church must be seriously considered in terms of ongoing management of POCs

This is general information, and SMR recommends taking appropriate denominational, legal and risk management advice prior to implementing a plan with
a person of concern.

Where no denominational protocol exists, SMR can provide consultation in relation to a process for implementation of a process to assist in management of the pastoral, legal and organisational responsibilities of the local church board.

Call 1800 070 511 for more information.

Safe Ministry Resources can also provide customisation services to your organisation for the implementation of the Safe Community Framework.

The Safe Ministry/Community Framework is developed and owned by Safe Ministry Resources Pty Ltd. It is freely available to organisations to use and adapt with permission. Please contact us at [email protected] to seek permission. 

Disclaimer: These publications are not legal advice. The ideas and procedures herein are based on nationally recognised good practice advice and have been written with due regard to Australian legislation March 2020.  Legal advice may need to be sought when responding to individual incidents.

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