Child sexual assault – preventing the preventable

Shadows of a child and adult. With the Royal Commission’s public hearing into the nature, cause and impact of child sexual abuse commencing next week, child protection advocate Hetty Johnston AM is calling for the Royal Commission to also examine Australia’s Family Law system, which she says is failing to protect our most vulnerable children. 

Founder and Chair of the Bravehearts Foundation, Johnston will make her case at the Inaugural Memorial Lecture for Emeritus Professor Freda Briggs, AO at the University of South Australia on March 30.

Honouring pioneering child protection researcher, the late Emeritus Professor Freda Briggs, the lecture will explore how Australia can create a collaborative system that will safeguard children from abuse.   

“We know how the carnage of sexual abuse manifests itself not only in the victims and their families, but also in our communities across every cultural and socioeconomic demographic,” Johnston says.

“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 and our society.”

Johnston says the current family law system is failing in its duty of care to protect Australia’s most vulnerable children.

“It is a broken institution driven by largely mythical and outdated philosophies and beliefs,” Johnston says.

“We need a Royal Commission into this system inclusive of the courts, police, child safety departments, lawyers, mental health professionals, the health and 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 to commit to prioritising the best interests of the child? We could prevent the preventable through a thorough investigation of the record of the family law system in relation to child sexual assault.”

The School of Education’s Inaugural Memorial Lecture for Emeritus Professor Freda Briggs will take place at UniSA’s Magill Campus H1-44, Amy Wheaton Building from 5.30pm-7.30pm on March 30.

For more information and to register to attend, click here.

Bravehearts has been actively contributing to the provision of child sexual assault services across Australia since 1997 and is dedicated to addressing the issues surrounding child sexual assault and protecting Australian children against sexual harm.

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Media contact Rosanna Galvin office (08) 8302 0578 mobile 0434 603 457 email rosanna.galvin@unisa.edu.au
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