The Archdiocese of Brisbane has a volunteer network of just over 10,000 people. To help in the management of volunteers, the Archdiocese uses a comprehensive Volunteer Manual that includes a Code of Conduct, key policies relevant to volunteers and a performance review template for volunteers in key positions or managing teams. In addition to the Volunteer Manual, the Archdiocese has recently introduced an online volunteer portal which helps streamline the on-boarding process for new volunteers, inclusive of a set of questions helping to determine whether the volunteer will need a working with children check.

You can view the volunteer manual on CPSL's website under Support Materials - Good Practice here.

We caught up with Pat Casey, Volunteer Coordinator at the Archdiocese, to speak to him further about volunteer management in relation to safeguarding at the Archdiocese.

Interview with Volunteer Coordinator Pat Casey at the Archdiocese of Brisbane

Could you introduce yourself and explain your role
I have been working for the Archdiocese of Brisbane since October 2000. Initially I was with Centacare’s Disability Employment Service for 13 years, then I moved into the People and Culture (HR) team in Archdiocesan Services where I wore a number of hats involving Parish HR Planning Audits and Return to Work Coordination. The role of Volunteer Coordinator was created in July 2016 as more and more volunteers were being identified and as part of the organisations response to safeguarding. The role focuses on volunteers, and consists mainly of  leadership and management, recruitment, selection and onboarding, training and compliance, and volunteer recognition.

Who are the volunteers that you coordinate? What do they do? What roles do they have?
The volunteers are predominantly the 10,000 volunteers across the 97 parishes within the Archdiocese of Brisbane. The roles range from mass participants such as Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion and readers, to youth and children’s ministries. A recent analysis has valued the contribution of our volunteers at over $32 million dollars. We’ve categorised our volunteers into four risk levels, based on the roles they undertake, which are detailed in the volunteer matrix within our Volunteer Manual.

What is the importance of volunteers to the Archdiocese?
The parishioners are the core of the Church and volunteers are essential to every parish to ensure the parish priest and parish employees have reliable committed support for the running of the masses and the Church community activities.  It is estimated that our volunteers contribute 768,850 hours per annum!

What is the importance of volunteers in the area of safeguarding in the Archdiocese?
The volunteers have become the leaders in this area of safeguarding. The Archdiocese has set vigilant prevention and protection safeguarding practices which are applicable to all Catholics and it is the volunteers who have taken up the gauntlet to show the way.

How does the Volunteer Manual which you use help to make the Archdiocese a safer place for children?
It has become a valuable resource in defining  a volunteer’s rights and responsibilities, it shows how Catholic values are reflected in the Catholic Social Teachings and it also includes an extract from "Integrity in the Service of the Church". This, along with the risk management matrix and recruitment procedure which set out mandatory compliance both in criminal history and new volunteer registration, provide a platform for users to demonstrate that the Archdiocese has safe practices, safe people and safe places.

How have volunteers responded to (changes) in safeguarding measures over the years?
There is no doubt that volunteers initially struggled with the stringent measures put in place, particularly those who have served faithfully over many years. Unfortunately we lost volunteers who were sceptical and felt undervalued and mistrusted. However, as communication improved and the parish priests endorsed and promoted the Safeguarding Children & Vulnerable Adults Prevention and Protection Policy, there has been an acceptance that the safeguarding measures are necessary in this current world we live in, and that if one child or vulnerable adult is saved from being harmed, then the measures are worthwhile.  Based on there being more than 10,000 active volunteers in the Archdiocese, they have become receptive and accepting of the new safeguarding measures.
Safeguarding volunteers in the Archdiocese of Brisbane. Image courtesy of Pat Noakes.

Interview with a volunteer Safeguarding Representative from the Archdiocese of Brisbane

CPSL also caught up with Jenny Noakes, a Parish Safeguarding Representative (volunteer) in Noosa to talk about her experience as a volunteer in the Archdiocese with a safeguarding responsibility.

Hi my name is Jenny Noakes. I reside in Tewantin, Queensland and have been parishioner of the Noosa District Catholic Parish for approximately 35 years.
I commenced my role as Local Safeguarding Representative at the end of 2014 following discussion with my then parish priest but got into full swing in this role at the start of 2015. My first task was to educate myself with regards to the policy, its requirements and my responsibilities to my parish, deanery and the Archdiocese
I see my role as utilising the provided tools and resources to assist in empowering my parish community to understand their own responsibilities and requirements with regards to safeguarding the most vulnerable members of our community. One of these tools is the Archdiocesan Volunteer Manual.  I am in the process of reviewing said document to adapt to the needs of our parish and parishioners. The updated version will be utilized in the upcoming planned volunteer ministry review sessions. I find the Manual meets the needs of those who are new to volunteering and provides a good reference source.
I also see my role as providing the information and encouragement for people to feel safe to discuss any concerns they may have with regards to the change in the culture of child protection and reporting. The outcomes of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse left many of our volunteers and parishioners feeling deeply saddened, perplexed and betrayed. 
I try to attend professional development opportunities when possible, such as the CPSL training day Applying the National Catholic Safeguarding Standards Workshop held last March in Brisbane, and networking days held by Safeguarding Services in Brisbane.

Those that know me would say that I am somewhat passionate about this safeguarding role. In a previous life my work brought me into contact with victims of domestic abuse, elder abuse and too often child abuse, in all its presentations. I have skills acquired over time; if I want to see the change then I need to be active in that change and utilise those skills. I have been very fortunate to have the support of two parish priests, amazing parish staff and the patience and cooperation of the parish community. This certainly makes the task easier.
The Church as an institution has some way to go to rebuild lost trust; it too has to undergo a change of culture. It needs to work in open partnership and collaboration starting with the parish community. Accountability and transparency are words until they are put into practice; hopefully what is occurring in our parish, and our Archdiocese, is moving us towards a child safe Church here.