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  • Nigel Akuani

MOA Signed to Strengthen Child Protection Systems

Port Moresby: As a sign of solidarity to strengthen Child Protection Systems, a Memorandum of Agreement was signed between the National Office for Child & Family Services and the Catholic Bishops Conference PNG&SI.

The official signing of documents was held on Wednesday 7th April 2022, at the CBC headquarters in Waigani. Signatories to the partnership included Mr Simon Yanis, Director & Chief Executive Officer of NOCFS; Rev. Fr Giorgio Licini PIME, General Secretary CBCPNG&SI; and Most Rev. Rozario Menezes SMM, Bishop of Lae and Bishop Deputy for Right Relationships in Ministry.

Present to show their support for the Church-State Partnership were Priests, Religious, Government and Church Officials, Lay Personnel, Diocesan Officers, and Media personnel. It was the highlight of a training for 39 Diocesan Child Protection Officers (CPO) that runs from 4th - 9th April, conducted by Sr Ancy John SCSA, Directress of Right Relationships in Ministry, and facilitators from NOCFS.

Mr Yanis commended the efforts of the Catholic Church in promoting health, education and social wellbeing, and said that with the Church’s extensive networking, much could be achieved under this new alliance. “Protecting children is everyone’s responsibility and this agreement is to ensure that Church-State officials work together and are given that mandate by law to protect children and hold those infringing Children’s rights accountable,” he said.

“Supported by laws under the Lukautim Pikinini Act 2015 and this Partnership, there is now a delegation of power that we as CPOs have the right to exercise and intervene should a child-abuse claim arise. Mothers have a voice, and so do youths, but children who are the silent majority do not, and it is our duty to speak and give a voice to their pleas,” he added.

Most Rev. Rozario described how the Church and State worked in parallel to alleviate social issues causing suffering in the lives of children, and said the agreement was a ‘Big-Step’ toward improving the efforts of Diocesan CPOs. “In Lae we are training CPOs and the government is also doing the same and this MOA is the convergence point where we meet. That will allow for better efficiency, capabilities and collaboration between our CPOs,” he stated.

Fr Giorgio said the partnership was made possible through prior joint-initiatives and existing relations between Church and State to improve Child-Safety in the country. “It starts on good grounds because there is already work in progress by Church-State CPOs, and it ensures that the welfare of children in our families, communities and everywhere is protected,” he said.

Programs Director for Caritas Australia, Daniel James Skehan, said the agreement was very encouraging and reassured the full support of Caritas Australia in local initiatives designed to safeguard the wellbeing of children. “It will surely encourage future collaborations between different organisations, and these will all be done to ensure a safe environment for all our children to grow up in, and to eventually become responsible adults ready to make a significant contribution in society,” he said.

To show the commitment of NOCFS in the partnership with CBCPNGSI, a cheque of K43,500 was presented by Mr Yanis to Fr Giorgio. Certificates of Attainment were later distributed to 40-participants of the training, that instilled in them a sense of pride, accomplishment and a reminder of their significant contribution towards protecting children.

Catholic Family Life Apostolate Coordinator from the Archdiocese of Port Moresby, Lucy Lavu, described the agreement as a milestone for the Church and thanked the Church and Government for recognizing ‘Child Protection’ as an issue of urgency in the country.

A brief Q&A Session from the distinguished speakers followed after the presentation of certificates, before the provision of light refreshments.

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