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The Catholic Church and religious institutions in Victoria are committed to a safe environment for all children and vulnerable persons with safeguarding embedded within its culture and operations. Clergy, employees and volunteers are committed to upholding the right to safety of all persons, and participating in a creating a culture of safety supported by policies, practices and procedures that strive to prevent abuse in the first instance and to respond appropriately and effectively if abuse does occur.  


Within the Catholic Church and participating religious institutions in Victoria there are currently two models that are available to respond to complaints of historic abuse: Towards Healing and the Melbourne Response. Nationally, there is also now the National Redress Scheme and civil litigation for those who seek compensation to redress past abuse. 

In light of our contemporary understanding of the impact of abuse and trauma, the Catholic Church and participating religious institutions in Victoria have committed to the development of a consistent and state wide model of responding to complaints. The new approach, called Pathways Victoria, will implement a set of compassionate, just and appropriately resourced professional standards processes based on the National Response Protocol. It will incorporate features from Towards Healing and the Melbourne Response, effectively bringing their processes to a conclusion and providing a new process to investigate complaints and compensate and care for victims. Those who currently receive supports through Carelink will continue to do so. The Pathways Victoria model will offer an alternative to existing mechanisms such as the National Redress Scheme and civil litigation for those who may wish to engage in a pastoral response. 

It is the hope that a sense of grace will be the light that shines through the new Pathways Model as it considers:

  • the direct experiential feedback from victims, survivors and their families on the impact and effect of institutional abuse and redress processes 

  • the lessons from the multiple inquiries and report findings.

Consultation with victims and survivors who have engaged in the Melbourne Response or Towards Healing will be sought in addition to advice and input from related professionals, victim advocates and others who have been impacted in the community. This input will both inform and shape the way in which the Catholic Church in Victoria responds to future complaints of abuse with the voices of those with lived experience vital to our commitment of restorative journeying with adult survivors of abuse. 

​Through the Pathways Victoria model and processes, the Church and participating religious institutions seek to take responsibility for addressing wrongs that have been committed. The model responds to the need of those who wish to connect at a pastoral level with a one-to-one connection with a care coordinator who will walk alongside victims and survivors on their journey. It facilitates a compassionate approach with the opportunity to restore faith and trust with every step of engagement. 


In the 1990s, and particularly after the Wood Royal Commission in NSW, many in the Australian Catholic Church saw the need for a far better response to victims and survivors of Church–related sexual abuse of children and later of vulnerable adults.

A major national protocol called Towards Healing was developed by the Church’s National Committee for Professional Standards.

The Archdiocese of Melbourne also developed its own protocol called the Melbourne Response.

Towards Healing is called a pastoral response. Its intent is to meet victims and survivors primarily in a pastoral relationship as opposed to an adversarial, legal approach. The intention is to focus first on the person in need rather than on the question of liability. It is in this spirit offers of counselling are made at the beginning of the process.

A person coming to the Church is advised criminal matters must be dealt with by the police. Despite this, and the requirement of Towards Healing that criminal matters will be passed on to the police, some victims and survivors do elect to have the matter dealt with by their Church.

They make this choice for a variety of reasons. The on-going challenge is to ensure the wellbeing of victims and survivors is kept at the centre of the Towards Healing process.

Where a victim elects to embark on Towards Healing, every effort is made to ensure they have considered legal alternatives.

Many cases have been dealt with under the Towards Healing process. Some victims and survivors have found it a good process, some have not.

Read or download the Towards Healing Policy.

You can contact Towards Healing in your state by calling: 

1300 369 977 New South Wales / Australian Capital Territory 

1800 139 020 Northern Territory  


The Catholic Church in Australia has established a new, nationally-consistent approach for handling concerns and allegations of sexual abuse and other misconduct, creating the best outcomes for people bringing forward concerns and those responsible for responding to them. The Protocol was drafted with input from many stakeholders, including survivors and their supporters. 

The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference adopted the National Response Protocol in November 2020, with the protocol implemented from February 1, 2021.

The implementation of the National Response Protocol from February 1 will mean that Towards Healing and The Melbourne Response will be phased out. Church entities that have matters already being managed under Towards Healing or The Melbourne Response can continue to use those processes until the matter is resolved. Towards Healing and The Melbourne Response continue to be valid until the end of 2021 while Church authorities implement the National Response Protocol locally. The National Response Protocol will be monitored regularly to allow for ongoing refinement and improvement.

Please download the National Response Protocol here. 


The Melbourne Response assists people who have been abused sexually, physically or emotionally within the Archdiocese of Melbourne.


Complaints of sexual and other abuse by priests, religious and lay persons under the control of the Archbishop of Melbourne are made to and investigated by an Independent Commissioner.

Anyone with complaints of abuse by priests, religious and lay persons under the control of the Archbishop of Melbourne is asked to call (03)9225-7979 and will be referred to an Independent Commissioner.

Counselling and Support

Free counselling and professional support for those who have been abused is available through Carelink. Telephone: 1300 810 957.


Ex gratia compensation of up to $150,000 is available through the Compensation Panel.

Pastoral Support

Spiritual support and guidance is available to individuals and at a parish level by contacting the Vicar General at the Offices of the Archdiocese on (03) 9926 5677.

Anyone with complaints relating to other parts of the Church should contact Towards Healing in Melbourne on 1800 816 030.

Click here for more details on the Melbourne Response.

Contact Telephone Numbers:

Independent Commissioner: (03) 9225 7979

Carelink: 1300 810 957

Archdiocese of Melbourne: (03) 9926 5677

Towards Healing: 1800 816 030