Michelle Lensink

Dr Freda Briggs

Acknowledging the contribution of Dr Freda Briggs.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: I rise to also commend this motion to the council and
to commend the honourable mover for her initiative in raising this matter. Freda Ackeroyd was born
in 1930 in Yorkshire and went on to become a pioneer as a child advocate, both in early childhood
development and also in child protection. It is almost exhausting having read through her history and
her list of achievements, but I think it just goes to show what an extraordinary woman she was that
she pursued these issues with so much passion and vigour, and right up until the end she was still
working on these issues.

In her formative years as a teenager she experienced her own attempts of abuse. As a
15-year-old clerk, the chief engineer at Imperial Chemical Industries engaged in sexual harassment
of her. She complained, and he was moved on. She was also an exchange student in Belgium, where
her host father tried to get into her room. She was successful in keeping him out and, feigning illness,
returned to the UK, so no doubt that made quite an impression on her at a young age.

In terms of her career in this field, she started her career as a child protection officer with the
London police at New Scotland Yard. She then moved into the fields of social work and teaching and
undertook extensive further studies in early childhood, teaching psychology and sociology. She
moved to Australia in 1975 to take up a position as the director of Early Childhood Studies at the
State College of Victoria, which is now Monash. In 1980, she and her family moved to Adelaide, as
she was appointed the foundation dean of the de Lissa Institute of Early Childhood Studies, which is
now the University of South Australia, which is where she introduced the first multiprofessional
tertiary entry course in child protection.

She helped many victims along the way. She was incredibly accessible to a range of
individuals, as well as organisations. She advised police in New Zealand, Correctional Services
across South Australia, was an expert witness in child abuse trials, gave evidence to many
parliamentary inquiries and delivered countless speeches and seminars, including to our own
women's council in the Liberal Party.

She advised numerous organisations, including the Scouts, the Christian Brothers, the
Anglican Church, the Catholic Church and the Australian Defence Force. She wrote protocols and
guidelines for child protection. As the Hon. Justin Hanson has alluded to, she debunked the myth of
stranger danger, in that most children are more likely to be groomed and subject to risk from people
they know rather than people they do not know.

She wrote some 20 books and advocated for a royal commission prior to one being
established. She also received very significant civil and academic awards. In 1998, she was the
inaugural recipient of the Australian Humanitarian Award, in 2000 she was the Senior Australian of
the Year, in 2005 she was made an Officer of the Order of Australia and, in 2009, she received an
honorary doctorate of letters from the University of Sheffield.

I was pleased to hear the comments of the honourable representative from the government
speaking about the support for a research scholarship. I certainly note that the University of South
Australia has established memorial funding to support that work. In 2004, the Australian Centre for
Child Protection was established in her name and received $10 million from the Howard government.
So, she has a huge record of work, and it is only fitting that this chamber should acknowledge that.

 

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