CCI was pleased to partner with the Diocese of Wagga Wagga and several other agencies to deliver a series of Keeping Your Parish Safe forums in 2014. Hosted by Bishop Gerard Hanna, the forums were part of an ongoing commitment by the Diocese to create a safe environment for workers and visitors.
After conducting a Risk Assessment and Profiling workshop and a series of Risk Control Reviews in parishes between 2012 and 2013, CCI's risksupport team identified several gaps in the Diocese's approach to managing risk at a parish level. It was the beginning of very productive collaboration.
Risk Consultants Peter Kirby and Graham Porter began working closely with Diocesan Business Manager Dennis Purcell and Bishop Hanna to determine exactly what needed to be done and provide the support necessary to make it happen.
During their Risk Control Reviews Peter and Graham discovered the parishes were operating with only a basic framework for managing health and safety in the workplace. The parish manual they were using was complicated and too cumbersome for day-to-day use. Much of the material was also out of date.
"The parishes were extremely vulnerable," says Peter. "Dennis and I began to work on developing a simpler, more user-friendly parish manual, incorporating the critical elements of a Work Health and Safety Management System. The new manual, which includes templates for generic forms and checklists for common processes, was completed in 2014 and the response from parishes has been excellent."
Peter and Graham also identified a need for further training at a parish level and suggested holding a series of Keeping Your Parish Safe forums as a way to address common issues such as risk management, work health and safety, child protection and employment relations.
In July 2014, the Diocese hosted three highly successful forums with the help of experts from CCI, The National Committee for Professional Standards (NCPS) and the Catholic Commission for Employment Relations (CCER). They explored issues including: creating a safe environment for children, young people and vulnerable adults; safe recruitment practices, child protection policies, health and safety legislation, duty of care, National Employment Standards and common employment issues.
"Wagga Wagga Diocese strives for best practice in all these respective areas," says Bishop Hanna. "The forums were well attended and participants found the day to be practical, interesting and informative."
Dennis agrees and says that for many, the forums actually confirmed they were doing the right thing.
"Priests are not exposed to the common law legislative requirements that are the norm in the community today in their training," says Dennis. "Generally most of the parishes were doing things quite well and made enquiries as to how to go about things they were less confident with as they came up. What they didn't fully understand was the paperwork and formal requirements."
Dennis says there was much to be gained from all coming together to discuss common issues.
"Similar to any conference you go to," he says. "You pick up a lot of things from your peers, not just the presenters."
Peter and Graham are really enthusiastic about the whole process and look forward to rolling out similar programs in other dioceses in the near future.
"The level of engagement at such a high level of the Diocese was wonderful to see," says Peter. "The Bishop was very hands-on, writing to each of the priests and making attendance at the forums mandatory - even inviting parishes from neighbouring dioceses and archdioceses to attend."
"Dennis's commitment to improve risk management in the parishes has been outstanding and he should be congratulated."
The process is far from complete. Inspired by the improvements they've seen in the last few years, Dennis says there are preliminary plans to create a permanent position in the Diocese to provide risk management support to the parishes.
Peter and Dennis have also just completed a series of parish visits to see how priests and workers are using the manual and to work through any problems or concerns, receiving lots of good feedback.
"For example, during one such visit at the Griffith Parish, Parish Priest Father Grace told us that the program, including the forum, has given him a heightened level of Work Health and Safety awareness," says Peter, "and that he now feels more confident in his day-to-day interactions with workers, volunteers and contractors."
"There is still more work for CCI and the Diocese to do but this is a very positive result."
Like to know more?
To speak to one of our Risk Consultants call the Risk Management helpdesk on 1300 660 827.