The University of South Australia, School of Education Presents the ‘Inaugural Memorial Lecture for Emeritus
Professor Freda Briggs, AO,’
By Guest Lecturer Hetty Johnston, AM, GAICD Founder & Chair of
Bravehearts Foundation, Australia’s leading child protection advocate.
Child Sexual Assault: Preventing the preventable.
We know that one in five children will be sexually assaulted in some way before the age of 18. We know how that carnage manifests itself, not only in the victims and their families but also in our communities across every nook and cranny of our nation - and across every cultural and socio economic demographic. We also know that this is, for the large part, preventable.
The challenge is changing the culture of ignorance and denial that chooses to minimise, dismiss and ‘turn the other cheek’ to what can only be described as a growing crisis facing our kids; the culture of indifference that refuses to tackle this issue head on.
The Family Law system of Australia has a key role to play in protecting our must vulnerable children but it is failing in its duty of care. It is a broken institution driven by largely broken, mythical and outdated philosophies and beliefs. We need a Royal Commission into this system inclusive of the courts, police, child safety departments, lawyers, mental health professionals, the health & education providers and family relationship services.
Together these bureaucracies, and others, collaborate in a systemic chorus of discoordination, dysfunction and indifference - unwittingly embedding and defending the gaps through which the safety of our children is forsaken.
We have come a long way but with so much further to travel it must be asked……what will it take for those with the power to protect our kids and commit to prioritising the best interests of the child to prevent the preventable through thorough investigation of the record of the family law system in relation to child sexual abuse?
Hetty Johnson, AM,Is the founder and Chair of Bravehearts Foundation, Australia’s leading child protection advocate. A born lobbyist, Hetty is a woman of passion and determination who has succeeded in Highlighting the crime of paedophilia and child sexual assault to media, families, schools and the general community both nationally and internationally. Hetty established Bravehearts in 1997, an organisation with a Vision to make Australia the safest place in the world to raise a child by 2020 through Bravehearts model - the 3 Piers to Prevention: Educate, Empower, Protect.
“She was the champion everyone wants on their side - dedicated, intelligent and brave – a force to be reckoned with.”
(1 December 1930 – 7 April 2016)
Professor Freda Briggs, AO, through her roles as educator, author, scholar and ambassador, ceaselessly and passionately worked towards her vision to provide a safer and more caring world for children.
Across her career she has worked as a consultant/advisor, teacher/educator and policy development expert in areas as wide-ranging as providing advice on how foster parents can best support children who have been victims of abuse, right through to advising international governments on the best systems to support early childhood teaching and learning.
She has been an expert witness in child abuse trials, advised the Scouts, the Christian Brothers, the Australian Defence Force (cadets) and the Anglican and Catholic Churches on the development of child protection protocols and guidelines, contributed to Senate enquiries and addressed the Australian Parliament.
In 1998, she was the inaugural recipient of the Australian Humanitarian Award, but many more were to follow. In 2000, she was the first woman and only the second person to be appointed Senior Australian of the Year for her pioneering work for child protection education and the protection of children. She received the national Centenary Award for outstanding services to the nation and in 2005, she became an Officer of the Order of Australia. In 2004, in recognition of Professor Briggs’ multi-disciplinary research and expertise, Australian Prime Minister John Howard awarded a $10 million endowment for the provision of a National Child Protection Research Centre at the University of South Australia.
Starting out as one of the first female police officers in London, Freda was confronted with vulnerable children as part of her day-to-day work. She later undertook teacher training at Warwick University and embarked on an academic career. As a lecturer, she trained educators to identify children who were victims of abuse or neglect.
She immigrated to Melbourne in 1975 to take up a pioneering position as Director of Early Childhood Studies at the State College of Victoria. Briggs later moved to Adelaide and rose to the position of Professor of Childhood Development at the University of South Australia. She became Dean of the Institute of Early Childhood and Family Studies in Adelaide in 1980 and established a world first multi-professional course in child protection, assisting universities in the US, Hamburg and Brazil to create similar courses.
*Information and photo from the Emeritus Professor Freda Briggs AO Memorial Fund