Awareness, prevention and redress: Child Protection in the Jewish Community 

July 18, 2019 by Bettina Cass
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The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies Panel on Child Protection at this week’sJuly plenum provided illuminating insights into a topic of great significance for the Jewish community.

Rabbi Mendel Kastel, National Mental Health Commissioner and Jewish House CEO, Peter Wertheim, Co-CEO ECAJ, Deborah Blackman, Director of EduCARE – Protecting our Children Together Emeritus Professor Bettina Cass, Chair ECAJ Working Group on National Child Protection and Chair of NSW Jewish Board of Deputies Child Protection Taskforce, Clr Isabelle Shapiro, Acting President NSWJBD, Janet Schorer, NSW Children’s Guardian, Julianna Demetrius, Assistant Ombudsman, NSW Ombudsman’s Office and Liam O’Callaghan, Chair of NSWJBD Social Justice Committee

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 communal responsibilities to maintain and sustain child-safe spaces and practices have changed and we must adapt to ensure that all of our organisations are child safe.

The strong message is that Child Protection is a communal responsibility, involving religious and communal leaders in every organisation, teachers, parents and all who have any responsibility for children. The special panel of five distinguished experts covered comprehensively the ways in which Institutions can embed and ensure Child Safe spaces, through well understood preventative, legislatively aware, child-centred 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 as 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 the Panel but unfortunately not able to be in Sydney and her paper was tabled and referred to. The NSW Jewish Board of Deputies strongly encourages all community organisations and the members of our community to play an active and committed 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.


Emeritus Professor Bettina Cass  is the Chair, NSW Jewish Board of Deputies Child Protection Taskforce, Chair, ECAJ National Working Group on Child Protection and convener of the panel for the NSW JBOD

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