Harmony Week, running from Monday 21 to Sunday 27 March, celebrates Australia’s exciting and diverse cultural reality. It looks to promote inclusiveness, respect and belonging for all Australians, regardless of cultural or linguistic background, and unity around a core set of values – from the traditional owners of the land to those who have come from around the world to make Australia their home. Our diversity is one of our greatest strengths and Harmony Week celebrates this.
The week is also an opportune time, as the Professional Standards Unit (PSU) writes below, to reflect on how we reach out and engage with families and children from diverse communities to build culturally safe environments that foster trust and inclusion.
Our vibrant parishes nicely reflect Australia’s cultural diversity, being made up of generations of migrants, some new and some that are decades old. Sadly, many have experienced extreme hardship in their home countries, in their journey to Australia and in the migration process.
In the modern era, we have become all too aware of the ways in which intergenerational cultural trauma impacts children. For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, racially discriminatory government policies which resulted in the Stolen Generation have had a profound and lasting impact. For refugee communities, the struggles involved in migrating to Australia, which include adapting to a new culture and disconnection from family and friends, is a cultural trauma of its own. The impact of these experiences can have lifelong implications.
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse found that ‘Aboriginal children may be less likely to disclose abuse due to a lack of cultural safety and a fear of authorities intruding into their family and community, based on historic experiences of systemic racism and abuse’. Therefore, additional attention to cultural safety and close engagement with communities are necessary.
The Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne is committed to honouring the trust that has been placed in our parishes, agencies and entities and to supporting the crucial partnership with parents and guardians that serves to strengthen the safety of children and young people.
The Archdiocese has made the following commitments to:
The National Catholic Safeguarding Standards ask us to contemplate how the promotion of cultural safety for children from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds occurs in parishes and entities.
What these standards highlight is that parents and carers are critical partners in promoting the safety of children and young people. By reaching out and engaging with families and children from diverse communities, in turn we are building culturally safe environments that foster trust and inclusion. These connections to community support systems and networks have been shown to be a protective factor for child protection.
Harmony Week is an opportunity to reflect on how inclusive we really are when it comes to child safeguarding. Doing a “Cultural Safety Health Check” is one way to assess how well we are including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and diverse communities in keeping children safe in our parishes.
Take time to reflect on the following and collectively discuss your assessment. How are we doing? What more can be done?
If you would like to share your good work in including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and diverse communities in Child Safeguarding, please reach out to your Safeguarding Officer in the Professional Standards Unit.
For more information and resources to celebrate Harmony Week 2022, please visit www.harmony.gov.au.
ABS 2016 Census Data. Check out the Australian Bureau of Statistics website
Commonwealth of Australia, Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, Final Report: Volume 6, Making institutions child safe 2017, p. 170.
Melbourne Catholic29 July 2021
Safeguarding Unit12 October 2021