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NSW Jewish Board of Deputies Symposium on Child Protection

Sunday 21 June 2015


Introduction to the Purpose of the Symposium: A whole of Jewish Community approach: Learning from each other

Professor Bettina Cass, Chair of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies Task Force on child protection

I wish to welcome you all to this morning’s Symposium on Child Protection, organised by the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies Task Force on Child Protection. The fact that you are here, most of you representing your communal organisations, others out of personal or professional interest, is testimony to the culture of goodwill and cooperation evident in our community. It is also testimony to your interest in engaging in respectful, informative discussions in order to empower our community with our shared knowledge, wisdom and experience, evidence of good practice, and our heartfelt commitment to ensuring the protection of our children and young people in all our institutions and organisations.

The objective of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies’ Task Force is to bring together all community organisations that deal with children and young people – schools, yeshivas, synagogues, youth groups, sporting groups, youth camps.  The most important issue that will be focused on is the necessity for developing and widely disseminating across all organisations in the NSW Jewish community a set of agreed policies and protocols for child protection, the communal responsibilities of child protection, the statutory obligation to report child abuse to the police, to treat victims of abuse and their families with respect, and understanding and to ensure that they receive the professional services and support which they require,  and to promote Child Safe policies and practices across our entire Jewish community.

The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies and our Task Force on Child Protection appreciates your keen interest in the issues of Child Protection in all institutional settings in our Jewish community. Your interest signifies the deep sense of social, communal and religious responsibility which you hold towards the protection of our children and young people against sexual and other forms of abuse. In addition, we are aware that many of your organisations, schools, synagogues, sporting organisations, youth groups, have been deeply engaged, some over many years, in the process of promoting child safe policies and practices within your organisations, and we need to learn from each other.

This symposium will provide information, guidance and education presented by experts about: what is child sexual abuse and what are the impacts across the life cycle; procedures for preventing child sexual abuse and ensuring child safe policies and practices; what are the statutory obligations of community organisations and services, as set out by State legislation which is administered and audited by the NSW Office of the Children’s Guardian; how have our Jewish schools and major sporting organization, Maccabi, established child safe policies and procedures; why does it matter for our religious and lay leadership in the Jewish community to work together on ensuring a child safe community, and finally, in the concluding session, the President of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, Jeremy Spinak will ask: since this symposium is the commencement of our integrated discussions, where to from here in establishing coordinated procedures for creating policies and protocols so that the whole NSW Jewish community will work together on ensuring Child safe policies and practices?

The foundational principle of the Task Force is that the overriding concern of every one of our educational, religious and other lay community institutions and of each individual associated in any way (as paid staff or volunteers) with our institutions is the protection, physical, emotional and psychological, of every child and young person entrusted to them and who come within their system. The rights of our children to protection, to physical and psychological and emotional safety and wellbeing must be accorded priority in all of our processes and procedures. It is essential to emphasise that in keeping with the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies role as the representative peak organization across the NSW community, the Board’s Child Protection Task Force will act as an overarching focal point and central source of networking for initiatives taking place across the community.

I wish to thank the members of our Task Force who have worked with strength and commitment to bring forward from their own deep knowledge and experience the ideas which have formed the basis of this morning’s symposium. The members are:

Dr Cathy Kezelman (President of Adults Surviving Child Abuse who has worked actively with ECAJ during the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse); Caroline Haski (Registered Psychologist with extensive experience in working with survivors of trauma and their families); Dr Paul Joshua (Conjoint lecturer in the School of Women’s and Children’s Health at the University of NSW, who has worked as a Fellow in child protection); Judith Levitan (a founding member of the Jewish Alliance Against Family Violence, with special interest in community attitudes to domestic violence); Deborah Blackman (founding member of the Jewish Alliance Against Family Violence and Founder of EduCARE which is developing programs on child protection policies and procedures for schools, synagogues and other organisations across the Jewish and broader communities); Rabbi Mendel Kastel (CEO of The Jewish House, with extensive experience in promoting the safety and wellbeing of young people in the community);  Richard Spencer (acting CEO of Jewish Care which has responsibility for providing community education, counselling and advice with respect to Child Safe policies and practices). In addition, Brian Babington, CEO of the national organisation Families Australia and convenor of the Coalition of Organisations Committed to the Safety and Wellbeing of Australia’s Children has played an invaluable role as advisor to the Task Force. We are very pleased to have such highly experienced and committed members of our Task Force.

We in our Jewish community, in our endeavour to put in place best practice Child Safe policies and practices in all of our organisation, might wish to start with three community priorities  to focus our discussions. We must always bear in mind that the best results will be achieved by working together cooperatively across our lay and religious organisations, and across health and other professional personnel, learning together from different sources of knowledge, wisdom and experiences, and accepting our joint responsibilities.

These suggested principle are:

Empowering our community organisations with knowledge, ideas and commitment to keep children and young people safe and to enhance and safeguard their wellbeing;

Driving innovation and improvements across all our community organisations by working cooperatively to share our knowledge, wisdom and experience and ensuring a regular commitment to updated knowledge and training;

Calling upon our Jewish religious and ethical values of interpersonal and social justice to protect our greatest heritage: our children and young people from abuse and harm.

I know that I am foreshadowing what our next speakers will tell us by making the following observation, but it needs to be stated and then re-iterated: All responsible people in our communal organisations, in our education and religious organisations, youth groups, sporting groups, and others should understand the statutory reporting requirements in our state jurisdiction and be updated by regular information campaigns and educational programs conducted to ensure they have contemporary, relevant information. They should also have ongoing training and advice about how to empower children and young people to reduce their vulnerability and ensure that there are safe and known pathways for them within the institution to recognise and report abuse. And they should be aware of the necessity to support survivors of abuse and their families with respect and care and refer them to professional advice and counselling.

Following this Symposium, the NSW JBD Task Force, in keeping with its integrative role, will develop a set of mutually agreed protocols for Child Protection to be adopted by all of the organisations in the NSW Jewish community. In this way we will all be responsible for upholding and sustaining and putting into practice our Jewish religious and ethical principles and our legal and moral responsibilities to our children and young people.

To access other speakers presentations:

Dr Cathy Kezelman

Deborah Blackman

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