Five Minutes with Liesl Centenera

Liesl Centenera

In 2018 Archbishop Prowse established an Archdiocesan Advisory Panel to provide advice to him and his office on safeguarding issues. The Catholic Voice spent five minutes with the Panel’s Chair, Liesl Centenera

What role does the Advisory Panel have in the Archdiocese?

It advises the Archbishop on matters regarding clergy and laity who have had allegations of a sexual nature made against them. We discuss specific cases and look at policies and processes around child protection and safeguarding within the Archdiocese, in other dioceses and any government initiatives in this area. We meet four times a year; however, often urgent advice is required, so we hold ad hoc meetings.

Why give your time to the Advisory Panel?

Due to the recent Royal Commission, child protection is one of the most pressing issues of our time. Many professionals in leadership roles are required to be across the area of safeguarding.

Also, my daughter was in the school next to Lanigan House several years ago when there was an issue there, so I’ve had first-hand experience, and I know how it can affect the community.  

Child protection is a hot-button emotive subject, and it is essential to me to do what I can to be part of the solution.

What do you think women uniquely bring to Professional Standards in the Catholic Church?

Women bring a unique perspective, and it’s vital to have them on the panel. However, the existing members are there for their experience, qualifications, and background – not gender. The panel has been fortunate to attract people with legal, psychology and social work skills.

 What are fundamental ways in which the Catholic Church has changed how it operates?

The Catholic Church is actively seeking out solutions and preventions. They are actively addressing gaps and seeking to gain a community perspective on how it operates.

When I attend company director courses, they all say child protection and vulnerable people’s needs should be actively considered. The Catholic Church has taken that on board and is leading the way.

The Church needs to restore trust in its processes, actively seeking to address issues and establish best practices while devoting energy and resources to finding solutions.


How does the Archdiocese continue to support survivors?

When thinking of safeguarding, some may think of somebody with a big stick. But it’s mainly about providing support. The Archdiocesan office has also rallied support from various areas, clearly communicating that all must have a role in supporting survivors. So it’s got to be a multi-pronged kind of multi-dimensional approach so that they know it’s not just some side issue that’s dealt with by a niche or boutique office within the Archdiocese. It’s for all to address.

The other way the Archdiocese supports survivors is in a prevention role. Sometimes news reports or other interactions can trigger survivors. It’s important to be prepared by developing a whole community and a whole system process around how we deal with these issues. 

The Archdiocesan Advisory Panel. Back row from left, Clare McNamara, Fr Richard Thompson, and Maria Hicks. Front row from left Kim Linsell, Liesl Centenera and Angela McCabe

Keeping children safe is everyone’s responsibility – what are three practical ways we can all make a difference?

Firstly I think having an awareness of child safeguarding is very important. People need to give time to the issue intentionally.

Secondly, we need to listen to other people’s points of view. It can be easy to dismiss things or jump to conclusions, but it’s important to hear people out when they have an issue.

The third practical piece of advice is to invest time and do what you can; when something comes into your knowledge – act.

Some may feel that they are not in a position of authority, so they think they can’t do anything about the situation. It’s vital that people do what they can.

What makes you sad? What makes you laugh? 

What makes me sad is when people don’t give others the benefit of the doubt. Trust is a difficult thing to build. People who thoughtlessly jump to a conclusion make me sad.

I have a nephew who is only four years old, and he makes me laugh. I think it’s because he has no inhibitions and expresses himself so freely. That’s the beautiful nature of children. Every time I see a child confident enough to express themselves and without any inhibitions – that makes me laugh.



Wordpress (1)
  • William H. Beck 2 years

    Clearly Child protection is not a matter for lay men. 

    We’re becoming a church or lay women.