Is ACSL independent of the Church?

We are a not-for-profit company limited by guarantee.  As such, we operate in accordance with our Constitution, the Corporations Act and the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission.

Under our constitution, our board of directors have a duty to act in the best interests of the company, and to ensure the objects of the company are met. Our board directors have experience and credentials in child and adult safeguarding, professional standards, law, governance, Church administration, and finance and management.

Our board retains an important feature of the previous CPSL model which is the discretion to publish audit/review reports of Catholic entities.

Why does the ACBC have more member representatives than CRA and the AMPJP? Does this mean the bishops have more influence/control?

The number of member representatives broadly reflects the level of funding provided by the subscribers from each member group, however no single member has more than 50 percent of the member representatives. The reserve powers vested in members requires approval by way of a special resolution, i.e. at least 75 per cent of the member representatives voting for any resolution.

What public reporting does ACSL conduct?

We publish an annual report on our activities, as well as publishing the audit/review reports from each subscriber to the company.


What are the National Catholic Safeguarding Standards?

The National Catholic Safeguarding Standards  (NCSS) take the 10 National Child Safe Principles and apply them to the  structures, relationships and processes within the Catholic Church in Australia. The National Catholic Safeguarding Standards harmonise with the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations.

Our Standards set out the approach, knowledge, practice and professional engagement needed to ensure the safety and protection of children and vulnerable adults.

They are designed to ensure that the safeguarding practices across the Catholic Church in Australia are consistent and appropriate.

Read more here.

How have the Standards been developed?

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse identified 10 key elements of child safe organisations. The Federal Government tasked the Australian Human Rights Commission and National Children’s Commissioner to craft these elements into 10 National Principles that could be adopted by any organisation working with children, from dance studios to faith groups. The National Principles were endorsed by the Council of Australian Governments (all state and territory governments) in February 2019.

The National Catholic Safeguarding Standards were formally adopted by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference and Catholic Religious Australia in May 2019.  Edition 1 of the National Catholic Safeguarding Standards focuses on the safeguarding, care and protection of children. 

Are all Church Authorities subject to the National Catholic Safeguarding Standards?

All Catholic entities across Australia are expected to implement the Standards. This is in line with community expectations that all institutions across Australia implement the National Principles for Child Safe Organisations. 

Which organisations are classed as Church “entities”?

An entity, for the purposes of the National Catholic Safeguarding Standards, refers to an organisation that has been identified as Catholic by a competent authority within the Catholic Church. Entities include all Catholic dioceses and archdioceses in Australia, eparchies, religious institutes (including institutes of consecrated life, secular institute or society of apostolic life), ministerial public juridic person (MPJP) and Associations of Christ’s Faithful.

What is a Church Authority?

A Church Authority refers to either:

  • The diocesan bishop (or archbishop, as appropriate) of a diocese or his administrator from time to time;
  • The Australian major superior in respect of religious institutes;
  • The canonical steward in relation to a particular Catholic entity in respect of other Catholic entities not referred to in A. or B.

What support is there for Church entities to implement the Standards?

We assist Catholic entities to implement the Standards by providing formal training, resources and materials on the requirements of the Standards. We also produce  templates and share best practice materials and insights to help Church entities apply the Standards in their local environments.

See Support Materials

When will the Standards cover safeguarding for vulnerable adults?

The first phase of the development of the Standards has focused on safeguarding children, as the focus of the Royal Commission and the recommendations it generated primarily related to abuse of children within institutional settings.  

We are committed to creating a culture of safety and care for everyone who comes in contact with the Catholic Church.  The next edition of the Standards scheduled for release in 2022 draws on research and expertise from other current Royal Commissions looking into aged care, disability and mental health. The second edition of the Standards includes requirements for entities to effectively safeguard adults at risk from harm as well as children.

How have you heard the voice of survivors in the development and rollout of the Standards and audit framework?

During the development phase of the Standards, we sought the advice and opinions of survivors, their families and advocates through a series of special consultations across the country.

Approximately 60 people attended seven consultation sessions, providing feedback on the Standards and the ‘child-friendly version’ of the Standards. The consultations included small group discussion of the barriers and opportunities for change, including changing culture, effective complaints handling and creating safe spaces.

We continue to receive submissions responding to the National Catholic Safeguarding Standards Draft Two, which incorporates considerations of support for adults at risk.  

We continue to welcome your feedback on the Standards. You can write to us at

To read more about our consultation process, please see our Consultation Feedback report.

How have you heard the voice of children in the development and rollout of the Standards?

The National Child Safe Principles for Child Safe Organisations conducted consultations with children and young people about the National Principles and things important to them in terms of safety and wellbeing. The National Catholic Safeguarding Standards reflect the child rights-based approach taken by the National Principles

As part of our national consultations on the development of the National Catholic Safeguarding Standards, children and young people were asked about their views on the wording of individual standards and the explanatory statements that accompany them. This strategy of engagement involved working with children and young people and considering the overall meaning of each standard, framing the criteria required to meet the standard, and then documenting what each standard “meant” for children and young people.

This work helped to capture children and young people’s understanding of how the Standards would be applied and how the implementation of the Standards would translate into their daily experiences with the Church and its entities. It resulted in the ‘child-friendly’ version of the Standards that captures the key themes of each of the Standards (and where relevant, expanded detail within the Standard) translated into language readily accessible to children and young people. We have created the National Catholic Safeguarding Standards Child-friendly Standards Statement, a one-page document that acts as a charter of rights and commitment statement of the Standards for children

 The children and young people involved in the project valued the opportunity to have a conversation about safeguarding and discuss these issues with adults. We have now developed a consultation resource kit which includes activities, group processes, handouts, resources for children and facilitator notes to help Church entities engage children and young people in conversations about safeguarding.

Access the guide here.


Who pays for the review/auditing process?

The cost of each audit and reporting process is met by the specific Church Authority that is the subject of the audit.

How are seminaries being audited? Whose governance do they fall under?

If a seminary falls under the sole governance of one diocese or religious institute, then the seminary will be audited at the same time as the diocese or religious institute is being audited.  Where a seminary is under the governance of multiple Church authorities, as is the case for many seminaries in Australia, the seminary will be audited as a separate Church entity.

What is the ACSL Review and Audit Framework?

Audits and Reviews form part of the Quality Assurance process associated with the National Catholic Safeguarding Standards. They are not compulsory, but for Church entities that are operating in unregulated areas, a risk-based audit or review helps to support corporate governance and mitigate risks.

ACSL is currently working to develop new risk-based review criteria to assist Catholic entities to arrange audit/reviews of their systems and processes.

View the current audit framework.


How does ACSL relate to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse?

ACSL represents the next chapter in the Church’s ongoing response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. Continuing the important work started by CPSL, we bring together key national safeguarding functions into one office in order to work more efficiently, and ultimately to support and foster a nationally consistent culture of safety and care for children and adults at risk in the Church

We acknowledge the lifelong trauma of abuse victims and survivors and their families; the failure of the Catholic Church to protect, believe and respond justly to children and vulnerable adults; and the consequent breaches of community trust.

Volume 6 of the Royal Commission identified 10 key elements which institutions working with children – sports clubs, schools or church groups – need to demonstrate, as these features are characteristic of child-safe institutions. The Federal Government tasked the Australian Human Rights Commission and National Children’s Commissioner to work with the Australian community to take the 10 features identified by the Royal Commission and craft them into National Principles applicable to any institution working with children. The National Catholic Safeguarding Standards harmonise with the National Principles while adapting the requirements of the National Principles to the unique context of the Catholic Church in Australia.

The National Catholic Safeguarding Standards also address recommendations specific to the Catholic Church, which would not have been relevant to the scope of organisations covered by the National Principles.

  • 42 of the criteria of the National Catholic Safeguarding Standards are directly mapped to “elements” of the features of the National Principles
  • 7 extra criteria appear in the National Catholic Safeguarding Standards which are covered nowhere else
  • 4 criteria are drawn from recommendations of the Royal Commission which relate to seminary and formation programs and ongoing clergy and religious professional/pastoral supervision – See Standard 5
  • 2 indicators under Standard 6 relate to care and support of adult complainants and respondents (adapted from learnings from the Catholic Church in Ireland) – See Standard 6
  • 1 criterion has been added as a result of consultation with church stakeholders during the development phase of the National Catholic Safeguarding Standards. This criteria (3.5) requires the Church to publicly champion the rights and dignity of children by participating in social and cultural community events and celebrations – See Standard 3

What is the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference?

The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference is a permanent institution of the Catholic Church in Australia and the forum used by the Catholic Bishops of Australia to act nationally and address issues of national significance.

What is Catholic Religious Australia?

Catholic Religious Australia (CRA) is the peak body for leaders of Religious Institutes and Societies of Apostolic Life resident in Australia. The CRA membership comprises more than 150 congregations of Sisters, Brothers and Religious Priests living and working in all states and territories.

How can people contact ACSL?

You can reach us by calling our office – 1300 603 411 (toll free) or via email –

You can also stay up to date by following us on Twitterconnecting with us on LinkedIn and subscribing to our newsletter.

What is the Association of Ministerial Public Juridic Persons?

The Association of Ministerial PJPs (AMPJP) brings together the Ministerial Public Juridic Persons of some of Australia’s major Catholic health, aged and community care, and educational organisations.

Complaints response

Does ACSL handle complaints?

We have oversight of complaints at a national level in these specific areas:

  • assisting as requested Church Authorities with the implementation of Vos Estis Lux Mundi in accord with protocols approved by the ACBC;
  • providing an independent process for responding to complaints against a Church Authority where not provided for by Vos Estis Lux Mundi; and
  • providing a review mechanism for complaints managed by Church Authorities under any of the Professional and Safeguarding Standards.

What is the National Response Protocol?

The National Response Protocol provides a framework for Catholic entities across Australia to respond consistently to people raising concerns or allegations of child sexual abuse. The National Response Protocol outlines principles and procedures to offer a consistent response to children and adults who have been subjected to child abuse by Church personnel. Adopted by the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC) in November 2020, the National Response Protocol comes into effect for all dioceses and ACBC member entities from 1 February 2021.

The implementation of the National Response Protocol from February 1 2021 prompts the phasing out of Towards Healing and The Melbourne Response. Individuals who have matters currently being managed under Towards Healing or The Melbourne Response can continue to use those processes until the matter is resolved. Towards Healing and The Melbourne Response continue to be valid until the end of 2021 while Church authorities implement the National Response Protocol locally.