The Audit Program for a Church Authority commences with a pre-assessment checklist which will help to determine the level of audit or review that best captures the needs of the organisation or ministry.

Once that is agreed,  the execution of the ACSL Service Agreement, places the Church Authority and its entities into a three-year audit cycle and triggers the planning process for conducting the audit. 

When the audit or review has been completed, the final report will be published on our website.

What can you expect from an Audit?

The audit approach will be tailored to each organisation depending on the nature of activities, the risk profile of the entity and the depth, breadth, complexity and geographic spread of its ministries.

1. Preparing for an Audit

ACSL provides a range of tools for an entity to use to track progress in implementing the Standards and to prepare for an audit.

The Self-Assessment of Compliance is a compulsory first step. It allows the entity to describe what is in place to meet each element of the National Catholic Safeguarding Standards. It also helps to organise examples of practices, policies, training plans or other actions required for the audit.

The Assessment Scale acknowledges that no two entities will be at the same point in implementing and maintaining the requirements set out in the Standards.  We recommend that entities use the assessment scale during the self assessment process to rate their own compliance level, prior to the audit.

Each indicator in the relevant Standards is assessed during the audit on a four-point scale: Not addressed > Initial/Ad-hoc > Defined & developed > Managed & measurable.

Where a Church Authority has governance responsibility for an entity or activity that has accreditation, external oversight or other form of compliance assurance in place regarding its safeguarding activities, that entity or activity will complete the Declaration of Assurance and Compliance.  This Declaration aims to reduce duplication by allowing our audit team to review the extent of coverage by the external accreditation/assurance processes and not re-audit safeguarding practices which are already covered by an external provider.  Proof of the accreditation/assurance process will be sought by our audit team and if an organisation cannot adequately prove that the external assurance process is in place, we will conduct a full audit. 

Entities also need to develop a Safeguarding Implementation Plan which is required under criterion 9.1 of the Standards.  

2. Pre-audit Contact 

The Church Authority submits a range of information including: 

  • Schedule 2 of the Service Agreement (Scope of Audit Statement); 
  • the Self-Assessment of Compliance to inform audit activities and provide an indication of current compliance with the NCSS; and 
  • the Declaration of Assurance and Compliance to identify the extent of existing assurance coverage over individual indicators of the NCSS.

3. Understand All Activities

We will work with the Church Authority to understand the governance, activities, ministries and structures relevant to the Church Authority. 

4. Confirm Audit Scope 

We will confirm the audit scope, associated fees and timing of the audit.   

The audit team will liaise with the Church Authority to organise logistics, arrange meetings and request specific documents to review in advance.

5. Opening Meeting

An opening meeting will be held with the Church Authority leadership team and key safeguarding personnel at the commencement of fieldwork to set expectations, clarify questions or concerns and exchange necessary information.

6. Audit Fieldwork

We will conduct audit activities to review compliance against the NCSS including interviews with key stakeholders, document review and testing of processes, policies and procedures.  Approximately 25% of sites/locations will be visited. 

A debrief meeting will occur at the end of fieldwork to discuss audit observations and preliminary audit findings. 

7. Closing Meeting

The formal closing meeting will be held approximately 10-20 days after the end of fieldwork - during this time, entities will have the opportunity to remediate any audit issues.  Such remediation actions will still be noted in the audit report for full transparency. 

The draft audit report, including all audit findings and recommendations, will be discussed with the Church Authority leadership team and key safeguarding personnel at the closing meeting.  During the closing meeting, we will seek to confirm with the Church Authority any outstanding management actions and target dates for remediation. 

8. Reporting

The audit report will be finalised and provided to the Church Authority.  Reports are published on our website, in groups, at regular intervals.  The agreed management actions with timeframes as discussed during the closing meeting will be included for each recommendation and will be published in the audit report to promote accountability. 

9. Attestation of agreed management actions

The Church Authority will attest to ACSL that agreed management actions have been implemented by the target dates. 

The implementation of actions and the accuracy of attestations will be reviewed at the next audit.  We reserve the right to re-audit relevant areas of the Church Authority prior to the next three-yearly audit where significant non-compliances were noted or where remediation actions have not been appropriately addressed. 

NCSS and State, Territory and National Requirements

The National Catholic Safeguarding Standards have been mapped against both national and state requirements specifically relating to standards or principles for the safeguarding of children. 

Download the mapping documents:

Comparison between NCSS, National Principles, Royal Commission Child Safe Standards and Royal Commission Recommendations

Comparison between NCSS and State/Territory Child Safe Standards/Principles

Categorisation of Church Entities

Catholic entities vary, not only in terms of their structures and governance, but also regarding their level of engagement with children.  In recognition of this variance across entities, we have developed a three-tiered categorisation approach to the application of the NCSS.

For the purposes of an audit, the categorisation applies at the Church Authority level, not an individual ministry or activity level.

For more information about the Category System, please download our Categorisation fact sheet



For more information about the audit process or establishing a service agreement with ACSL, please contact or call 1300 603 411.

COVID-19 and our audit program

The safety and wellbeing of both our staff and our stakeholders is our highest priority.

In 2020 we developed arrangements for conducting audits while limiting physical site visits. Much of the audit work can be done remotely, including the review of policies, procedures and documents, discussions with key staff on safeguarding processes and interviews with diocesan entities/parishes or individual members of a religious institute.

The development of Service Agreements continues - if you do not yet have a Service Agreement with us for audit, please get in touch - developing a Service Agreement is a straightforward process - once you provide us with information about your ministries, governance and structures, we can provide you with an outline of how an audit would work for your particular circumstance, an estimate of cost and timing of the audit.

If you have questions about our audit program, please feel free to contact our team on 1300 603 411 or by email at