Alumni Association President, Terry Iannello, at the EREA Apology water feature with Rylan Paatsch (Year 8), Kaiden Summerell (Year 8), Lachlan Montagu (Year 10) and Louis Miller (Class of ‘79).

Keeping our children safe

During this term I have been interviewing Year 5 boys for the 2022 school year. It is always an uplifting experience to welcome the new families to our community. Each year is different, with each cohort bringing its own identity, personalities, strengths and areas of challenge.

One thing never changes, and that is the parents and their reasons for wanting their sons to attend CBC Fremantle. Herein lies the strength of our community; the concentration of culture that wants their son to be the best possible young man and for that aspiration to be placed above all of the important achievements he may accomplish.

These interviews are also a source of sadness for me. CBC Fremantle is acknowledged overwhelmingly as a school that loves its students and provides the highest level of pastoral care. The sad thing about this accolade is how can every school not be so. Surely when a parent gives you the honour and responsibility of caring for the development and safety of their child, that trust should be repaid many times over. Now I know there have been occasions when parents have made the choice to withdraw their sons from this school, and there have been times when the fault has been sheeted home to the College, but no school will ever please everyone. While those situations can be deemed as failures on our part, one hopes that a new environment and new relationships can assist the boy to continue his journey with the benefit of knowing what went wrong, wherever the fault lay. Where schools fail irreparably is when students are not safe and their growth and ability to thrive is damaged forever.

I have written before of the stain of child abuse on the Church. A thousand years will pass and that stain will still be there. Many, many checks and balances have been put in place in schools and institutions to try and ensure that it never happens again. In the winter edition of the College magazine Touchstone, which you should receive within the next few weeks, is an article that describes a permanent memorial dedicated to the victims and survivors of institutionalised abuse. It has been installed just off the entrance to the College on Stirling Street and consists of a simple water feature where the water runs over the top of an apology to those same children. This memorial has a few aims; to ensure that those horrors are never forgotten; to provide a place of reflection and potential solace and finally to form part of the Edmund Walk that every child and adult new to our school will undertake as a part of their orientation.

In an effort to build the capacity of parents to assist their sons and especially to embolden children to be knowledgeable and assertive about their safety, it is mandated that each school, as a part of its registration, delivers the Keeping Safe: Child Protection Curriculum (KS:CPC). The teachers delivering the programme have received explicit training in the use of the Curriculum. The KS:CPC is a Department of Education responsibility under the Children's Protection Act 1993 and the Child Protection in Schools, Early Childhood Education and Care Services Policy to ensure that effective abuse prevention programmes are implemented, and that all children and young people have access to the approved child protection curriculum. Although parent permission is not required under the Education Act 1972, we encourage parents and carers to seek further clarification if required, and to provide the teacher with any relevant information about their child that could alleviate any concerns.

The advent of social media, where your son can let anyone into your home without you even being aware makes, in my opinion, child safety more important than ever before. As we saw during the online Covid-19 experience, measures are needed to protect both students and staff. Situations have developed in some schools where the boundary of the staff/student relationship has blurred and so we need to be ever-vigilant that being informed prevents potential child safety issues arising. Staff at a school play a variety of roles, but they are not your son's 'friend' and that boundary should remain immutable.

The orientation walk that includes the water feature with the EREA formal apology to victims and survivors of sexual abuse will provide the first step to remind our boys that their safety is paramount and that should they ever feel uncomfortable about their safety, they know what to do and who to go to. Together, I hope our efforts to keep our boys safe bear fruit and that the egregious crimes against children in schools is forever consigned to that extremely sad part of our history.

God bless,

Mr Domenic Bugio