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Blaming Families SA social workers for
systemic failure is unfair and counter-
productive to protecting children, South
Australia’s Guardian for Children and
Young People Pam Simmons told a recent
“The temptation when anxiety is high is
to look to blame...but in the interest of
children we have to work against this,” said
Ms Simmons at the Cross Rd Forum on
June 9 at the Monastery, Glen Osmond.
“Everyone that works with children in
protection feels anxious for the children
they are working with and the children they
cannot get to....I see great commitment
and a great deal of care,” she said.
South Australia’s child protection system
has been under the scrutiny of a Royal
Commission following the sexual abuse
of small children in residential care by a
Families SA carer almost one year ago.
Ms Simmons told the forum, which
included Catholic parishioners, that her
role as an independent statutory public
officer was to monitor, investigate and
advocate for the rights and best interests
of more than 2500 South Australian
children and young people in State care.
“There are some really big challenges,” she
said of her work.
In July last year Families SA carer Shannon
Grant McCoole was charged with unlawful
sexual intercourse, aggravated indecent
assault and gross indecency of several
young children in a state-run residential
care facility and in after school care.
McCoole is due to be sentenced this
Ms Simmons says she was “devastated”
and “distressed” when news first broke of
the case. “And you couldn’t help but feel
partly responsible,” she said.
“Then you collect yourself and say: ‘I’m
going to work today and I’m going to do
what I can.”
Ms Simmons said greater investment in
preventative family support was needed
as was more wide-spread support of
social workers through a sharing of child
protection responsibilities from other
human service sectors, including adult
drug and alcohol abuse, homelessness,
mental health, education and health.
Last month the State Government
announced in the 2015 State Budget it
would allocate an extra $50 million over
four years to boost the number of social
care workers, foster carers and long-term
guardians and expand parenting support
programs for at-risk families.
Ms Simmons was appointed guardian
for children and young people in June
2004. She has 25 years experience as an
advocate for social justice and change in
Australia and overseas.
“When I started in this job, I looked at the
history of the child protection system...and
I felt my role was about making transparent
what was happening to children in State
care and to strengthen the voice of children
in State care,” she said.
A Catholic priest who runs an orphanage
supported by Adelaide’s Ukrainian Catholic
community says overseas donations are
desperately needed to help wounded
soldiers receive medical care.
“Hospitals are very short of all supplies
and medicines particularly for soldiers who
have lost limbs,” Father Ivan Isaeovych told
The Southern Cross through an interpreter
He said basic protective clothing and
equipment to help safely rescue wounded
soldiers, like bullet proof vests and night
vision goggles, were greatly needed.
Fr Ivan, from the Ukrainian Greek Catholic
Church, is a military chaplain serving
Ukrainian Government soldiers in the
anti-terrorist operation against pro-Russian
Last month he travelled to the troubled
region of Donetska Oblast where intense
fighting recently resumed. He delivered
water, food, general health care and
personal hygiene products to wounded
soldiers in Marynivka – a village not far
from the frontline.
Earlier in the year he was shot in the chest
by a sniper while visiting the conflict zone.
Fr Ivan met Adelaide-based priest Father
Taras Gorpynyak, administrator to the
Ukrainian Catholic Centre in Wayville, at
World Youth Day Sydney in 2008. The
Wayville parish has been fundraising for
the orphanage which Fr Ivan helps run in
south-west Ukraine with four nuns.
Last month, the Ukraine Women’s
Association of South Australia hosted a
fundraising lunch at the Wayville parish to
help wounded soldiers and their families.
The Association’s president, Irena
Boujenko, said more than $2000 was
raised at the lunch, in addition to $3000
raised since November last year. She
said the money would be donated to
two hospitals in Kiev and Lviv and to six
individual wounded soldiers known to the
“These courageous soldiers risked
their lives defending Ukraine,” said Mrs
Fr Taras’ wife Natalia said many in
Adelaide’s Catholic Ukrainian community
had family members directly or indirectly
involved in the ongoing conflict which
began last year with the annexure of
Crimea by the Russian Federation.
Her own brother and his local priest were
among those who have been delivering
aid donated by Ukrainians to soldiers. “We
are all helping as much as we can,” she
said. The Ukrainian Catholic community
in Wayville pray every Sunday together for
peace in Ukraine.
In Rome last month, Pope Francis urged
Russian president Vladimir Putin to commit
to a “sincere and great effort” for peace in
Ukraine, reported Reuters.
The United Nations estimates more
than 6400 people have been killed from
the fighting, including 400 casualties
since the signing of the Minsk ceasefire
agreement in February. The UN says
close to 16,000 have been wounded and
857,000 Ukrainians have sought asylum in
PROTECT AND SERVE: South Australian Guardian for Children and Young People
Pam Simmons spoke at the Cross Rd Forum last month on the experiences of
children in State care.
Stop the blame game: children’s guardian
HEALING FOOD: (L-R) Olga Becker, Anna Priplotska, and Marika Huntsman preparing meals to raise funds for soldiers hurt in
the Ukraine. Fr Ivan Isaeovych (below) is calling for more aid.
Photo: Nat Rogers
Ukrainian priest’s call for aid
By Rebecca DiGirolamo
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