“White Balloon Day” is the day when we acknowledge survivors of child sexual abuse and promote awareness about the potential for lifelong consequences of abuse. Established by “Bravehearts” the white balloon signifies the importance of supporting survivors when they choose to break their silence.
Staff at the diocesan offices observed White Balloon Day on Thursday 10 September with a panel presentation, followed by the opportunity to ask questions and share morning tea together.
The speakers were:
Manager, Zimmerman Services, Sean Tynan. Zimmerman Services is the specialist service dedicated to protecting children from abuse, investigating allegations of abuse by diocesan personnel and providing healing and support for those who suffered historic child sexual abuse. Sean enlightened us on the current scale and nature of child abuse in Australia today and how to reduce the risk of abuse.
Team Leader, CatholicCare Counselling Services, Tanya Russell explained how her team listens to children. Counsellors provide a safe and comfortable environment and employ a variety of skills and approaches to support children who are at risk or experiencing difficult circumstances.
Director of Schools, Catholic Schools Office, Ray Collins. Ray has responsibility for the co-ordination of education programs for 56 schools across the diocese, educating about 18,500 students, employing 1,300 teachers and 600 support staff as well as thousands of volunteers. Ray addressed the integration of protective behaviours in the school curriculum, predicting further concentration on sexual abuse in the curriculum, K-12, following the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
Casework Counsellor, Healing and Support Team, Zimmerman Services, Sara Adams spoke about being mindful, keeping children safe, responding to disclosure and recovery after abuse. She said ‘healing’ means different things to different people and cited the definition of Adults Surviving Child Abuse: “Healing is restoration of a sense of safety and wellbeing, capacity to engage in healthy relationships with others and general ability to enjoy life.”
While all four speakers were honest about the depth of the issue, it was clear to their audience that the diocese’s commitment to child protection is unequivocal and well supported.