In the 1990s, and particularly after the Wood Royal Commission in NSW, many in the Australian Catholic Church saw the need for a far better response to victims and survivors of Church–related sexual abuse of children and later of vulnerable adults.
A major national protocol called Towards Healing was developed by the Church’s National Committee for Professional Standards.
The Archdiocese of Melbourne also developed its own protocol called the Melbourne Response.
Towards Healing is called a pastoral response. Its intent is to meet victims and survivors primarily in a pastoral relationship as opposed to an adversarial, legal approach. The intention is to focus first on the person in need rather than on the question of liability. It is in this spirit offers of counselling are made at the beginning of the process.
A person coming to the Church is advised criminal matters must be dealt with by the police. Despite this, and the requirement of Towards Healing that criminal matters will be passed on to the police, some victims and survivors do elect to have the matter dealt with by their Church.
They make this choice for a variety of reasons. The on-going challenge is to ensure the wellbeing of victims and survivors is kept at the centre of the Towards Healing process.
Where a victim elects to embark on Towards Healing, every effort is made to ensure they have considered legal alternatives.
Many cases have been dealt with under the Towards Healing process. Some victims and survivors have found it a good process, some have not.
As part of its role and assisted by experts and victims and survivors, the Truth, Justice and Healing Council will review Towards Healing and the Melbourne protocol and make recommendations on improving these approaches.
Read or download the Towards Healing Policy.
You can contact Towards Healing in your state by calling:
1300 369 977 New South Wales / Australian Capital Territory
1800 139 020 Northern Territory
1800 337 928 Queensland
1800 139 020 South Australia
1800 356 613 Tasmania
1800 816 030 Victoria
1800 072 390 Western Australia