Wahroonga, New South Wales
Adventist Church leaders and volunteers working with children and vulnerable persons now have an innovative new training tool at their fingertips.
Every nine minutes a child is sexually assaulted in Australia; that’s about seven every hour. And in New Zealand, up to one in three girls will be subjected to an unwanted sexual experience by the age of 16.
Safe Place Services (SPS) has launched an eLearning resource that enables training to be undertaken conveniently and easily via laptops, tablets and smart phones. It’s accessible 24/7—anywhere there is internet availability.
Created by Adventists for Adventists, it provides standardised training across all conferences in Australia and New Zealand, and positions the Church at the forefront of online child protection training. “I’m really proud of the training,” SPS Training and Development manager Suzanne Bocking said. “We have created it with all the wisdom and experience of 16 years of Safe Place Services in the Seventh-day Adventist Church.”
Training was previously only available face to face, creating the near impossible task of conducting sessions for the approximately 850 churches in Australia and New Zealand, many in remote areas. “Only a few of the conferences were providing training and it was difficult to get around to all their churches, and often times when they did key people would be missing,” SPS director Pastor David Robertson said. “Now we get to reach a lot more people than we have ever reached before.”
There was a sense of urgency, too, as a result of the ongoing hearings by The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Australia. The Commission has emphasised the need for more education and training—seen as a major way of preventing the alarming rates of child abuse.
“The latest statistics are staggering,” Ms Bocking said. “Every nine minutes a child is sexually assaulted in Australia; that’s about seven every hour. And in New Zealand, up to one in three girls will be subjected to an unwanted sexual experience by the age of 16.”
Various training modules will be rolled out progressively, including specific topics on the responsibilities of church elders and local church Safe Place coordinators.
Learners can progress at their own speed and for those with low literacy, English as their second language or a preference to listen rather than read, ReadSpeaker is available on every page. “Right now the Safe Church Awareness Training is available and this is required by all people who hold positions in their churches and those working with children,” Ms Bocking said.
“We appreciate the contributions of a dedicated and skilled team to this Adventist initiative,” Pastor Robertson added. “The new resource doesn’t replace face-to-face training. It provides for those conferences and locations where that’s not possible.”
SPS Training and Development manager Suzanne Bocking.
SPS eLearning is an initiative of Safe Place Services, which is a service of the Australian Union Conference (AUC). AUC president Jorge Munoz welcomed this new development. “It’s critically important that the Church has best practice in relation to child protection,” he said. “This is a wonderful initiative and we are very thankful to the team at SPS, and especially to Suzanne Bocking for her tremendous work here. We want to encourage all of our members and our pastors to get well acquainted with this great resource.”
The AUC and South Pacific Division are also working toward the implementation of a new independent office for the protection of children and vulnerable persons.
For more information and to access the training go to: <http://elearning.safeplaceservices.org.au>.
Tracey Bridcutt is copyeditor for Adventist Record.