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Monday, 17 September 2012
Page: 7117

Senator POLLEY (TasmaniaDeputy Government Whip in the Senate) (21:51): I recently attended and had the pleasure of representing the Honourable Julie Collins MP, the Minister for Community Services, at Bravehearts' White Balloon Day Ball in Launceston, Tasmania—an exhilarating and successful event. Bravehearts was established in very sad circumstances. Hetty Johnson founded White Balloon Day in Brisbane during Child Protection Week in September 1997. White Balloon Day was created in response to the revelation that a family member was a paedophile. A brave disclosure by a seven-year-old led to the realisation that this much loved family elder had preyed on innocent children and their trusting parents for 40 years. Compounding this strategy was the fact that this 40-year reign of terror had never been disclosed, let alone reported. Whilst this sounds difficult to believe, this is a very common pattern.

Australian government statistics suggest that one in five children is sexually assaulted at some time before they are 18—that is 59,000 per year. If we look at Facts and stats compiled by Bravehearts, we get information that would lead you to believe that the comments of Dr Bill Glaser are undeniably true. He wrote Paedophilia: the public health problem of the decadeand said:

Imagine a society afflicted by a scourge which struck down a quarter of its daughters and up to one in eight of its sons. Imagine also that this plague, while not immediately fatal, lurked in the bodies and minds of these young children for decades, making them up to sixteen times more likely to experience its disastrous long-term effects. Finally, imagine the nature of these effects: life-threatening starvation, suicide, persistent nightmares, drug and alcohol abuse and a whole host of intractable psychiatric disorders requiring life-long treatment. What should that society’s response be?

I will cite a few statistics of the frequency of this abuse. Children are most vulnerable between ages of eight and 12. The average age for first abuse is 9.9 years for boys and 9.6 years for girls. For every child who does report to authorities, three to five cases are not being reported. The most common age for sexual abuse to begin is at age nine. Most sexual abuse is reported by teenagers, but they have usually been victimised for many years before finally reporting the abuse. Most sexual abuse, particularly that involving a continuing relationship or incest, starts before the child reaches puberty.

Children rarely lie about or imagine sexual assault. In 98 per cent of cases their statements are found to be true. However, at the other end of the spectrum are these research findings from 2010: one in three Australians would not believe children if they disclosed they were being abused; one in five lacked the confidence to know what to do if they suspected that a child was being abused or neglected; and 90 per cent of adults surveyed believed that the community needs to be better informed about the problem of child abuse in Australia. Unless they come face-to-face with the issue, collectively Australians rate petrol prices, public transport and roads as issues of greater concern than child abuse. Eighty-six per cent of Australians believed that Commonwealth and state governments should invest more money in protecting children from abuse and neglect.

If we look at just one case, we can see the extent and impact one paedophile can have. Queensland children's commission reported in1997:

Brisbane Court and Hansard reporter Clarence Henry Osborne who gassed himself in his car on September 12, 1979, was found to have committed sexual assaults against 2,500 under age boys-not one of them had reported him to the police.

Although Bravehearts is a relatively young organisation, their achievements are considerable. I will list just a few. In 1999, White Balloon Day was launched as a national event at Parliament House, Canberra. In that year the Queensland Police Service reported a 514 per cent increase in disclosures as a result. In 2000, Bravehearts advocated for survivors' rights to speak publicly, resulting in inclusion of section 189 in Queensland's Child Protection Act 1999. In 2001, Bravehearts launched the Sexual Assault Disclosure Scheme in Queensland. In 2002, Bravehearts successfully lobbied for children's rights to civil compensation in Queensland. In 2003, Ditto's Keep Safe Adventure child protection CD-ROM was launched. In 2004, Bravehearts expanded into Western Australia. In 2005, they launched the Ditto's Keep Safe Adventure school based personal safety program. In 2005, Bravehearts received an Australian Crime and Violence Prevention Award from the Australian Institute of Criminology.

In 2006, Bravehearts launched Supporting Hands workshops for people working with children. In 2007, they officially opened an office in Sydney, New South Wales. In 2008, they received funding through the Family Violence Prevention Legal Services, in the Indigenous Law and Justice Branch of the federal Attorney-General's Department, to establish an education branch in Cairns, Queensland. Further, in 2009, Bravehearts participated in the development of the National Child Protection Framework, endorsed by COAG on 30 April 2009. This ensured that child sexual assault would be understood and dealt with separately to other forms of child abuse and neglect.

In 2010, Bravehearts was provided with a funding grant through the Launceston City Council, in my home state, to provide free professional development training to psychologists, counsellors and other mental health practitioners in Tasmania, and training and information workshops to child protection workers and those working with children generally. In 2011, Ditto's education program launched in Tasmania. In March this year, the 200,000th child saw Ditto's Keep Safe Adventure show.

Bravehearts has now released The 3 Piers to Prevention—a strategic plan that aims to halve the number of Australian children sexually assaulted by 2020. The three piers—educate, empower and protect—are solid foundations identified by Bravehearts to fulfil its pledge to make Australia the safest place in the world to raise a child by 2020. The three piers are: educate—all children to receive effective personal safety education; empower —all adults are trained, aware and motivated; and protect—all systems of community and government.

It is the culmination of 16 years of intensive research into how to reduce the incidence and, ultimately, prevent the occurrence of child sexual assault across Australia. This is a fully researched and budgeted strategic business plan, which has been developed by Bravehearts in consultation with thousands of schools, child protection agencies and police in each state and territory. Bravehearts estimates that it will cost $8million per year to deliver on its pledge, while saving $5.22 billion each year and preventing around 28,000 children from enduring sexual harm.

Other than the vigour, enthusiasm and effectiveness of this organisation, I am particularly impressed by the fact that only 13.2 per cent of their income is spent on fundraising and 81.4 per cent is spent on their direct service delivery. That so much of the funds are spent on fulfilling their aims and objectives is truly impressive. Clearly Bravehearts is dedicated to the prevention of child sexual assault, and I congratulate them on their impressive work. I would like to take the opportunity to congratulate the team leaders in Tasmania on the excellent work that they are doing by bringing this issue to the fore in our community, and I commend their work.