27 Sep 2019 newsparliamentMotion

Adjourned debate on motion of Hon. T.A. Franks:

That this council—

1. Recognises that White Balloon Day is on 7 September and is a day that raises awareness about protecting children from sexual assault;

2. Acknowledges that White Balloon Day is Australia’s largest and longest running child protection campaign dedicated to the prevention of child sexual assault;

3. Congratulates Bravehearts and White Balloon Day on their work that has helped to educate over 800,000 children across Australia about personal safety; and

4. Recognises that this is the 22nd year that White Balloon Day has been running and uniting communities to break the silence on child sexual assault.

(Continued from 19 September 2018.)

The Hon. E.S. BOURKE (16:23): I rise briefly to indicate the opposition's support for the Hon. Tammy Franks' motion to recognise White Balloon Day and the work of Bravehearts. The white balloon has become a symbol of hope for survivors of child sexual assault and encourages survivors to break the silence by speaking out. Bravehearts chose the symbol after 300,000 people gathered with white balloons in Belgium in 1996 to stand in solidarity with the parents of children who were the victims of a previously convicted and released paedophile.

The first White Balloon Day was held the following year in 1997 and the day is now held annually in National Child Protection Week. Over the last 23 years, White Balloon Day has rightfully highlighted the need for the community to protect our children from sexual assault. Bravehearts is a leading child protection organisation and the only charity in Australia dedicated to preventing child sexual assault. The organisation educates children and adults about safety to make Australia a safer environment for children.

More than 60,000 children are sexually assaulted each year in Australia, a staggering statistic and a statistic no child deserves to be part of. More can and does need to be done to keep all children safe in our community. Child protection is everyone's job; everyone in our community has a role to play when it comes to keeping children safe from harm.

Bravehearts not only educates children in the community, it also undertakes research so that it can lobby the federal and state governments on legislative reform to promote the safety and protection of children. Bravehearts actually participates in legislative review and reform and is involved in public debate on issues surrounding the sexual assault of children.

While we should not have to fight for what should be the right of every child, a community free of sexual assault, I thank Bravehearts for fighting to change the legislation and to be a voice for those who do experience sexual assault. One child experiencing sexual assault is one child too many.

The Hon. C. BONAROS (16:25): I rise to speak on behalf of SA-Best in support of the Hon Tammy Franks' motion acknowledging White Balloon Day. White Balloon Day, as we know, raises awareness about protecting children from sexual assault and, like the Hon. Tammy Franks, I would like to join in congratulating Bravehearts and White Balloon Day on their work, which has helped to educate over 800,000 children across Australia about personal safety.

I, too, recognise that this is the 22nd year that White Balloon Day has been running, uniting communities to break the silence on child sexual assault. The average sexual abuse victim takes 24 years to reveal their secret and disclosure is often the key to recovery, so I applaud Bravehearts for assisting survivors to speak their truth.

As you would know, Mr President, I have spoken on the issue of child protection more broadly in this place on a number of occasions now, with a number of bills introduced that address what I think are a number of gaps in the law, whether in relation to mandatory reporting of clergy or the setting aside of deed agreements between victims of abuse and institutions where it is just and reasonable to do so.

I was particularly pleased that, just earlier this week, the Criminal Law Consolidation (Child-Like Sex Dolls Prohibition) Amendment Bill was passed in the House of Assembly during government time after having been passed in this place in the last week of sitting. I take this opportunity to again thank the Attorney for working collaboratively with me on seeing the passage of that bill through the other place in such a speedy manner.

I am really pleased that these dolls are going to be banned in South Australia, and I think that goes some way towards highlighting or addressing the importance of child sexual assault. The passage of the bill marks an important day in the ongoing issue of child protection, and I am delighted that those laws were unanimously supported by all sides of politics. Again, I take this opportunity to thank everyone involved for its rapid progression through parliament.

I appreciate that this motion is about Bravehearts, the Hon. Ms Franks, but by way of an update I would like to let the chamber know that following the passage of the bill we have taken the liberty of writing to the Japanese Minister of Justice seeking a meeting and asking the Japanese government to take decisive action against manufacturers and suppliers of these dolls in Japan, regarded as the home of manufacturing what I refer to as 'sick objects', because I think we now have a firm and clear message that they have no place at all in our society. I have also written to state attorneys-general seeking that they introduce similar laws as South Australia, and look forward to their replies.

I also want to touch on the National Redress Scheme, which was, of course, created from recommendations arising from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses into Child Sexual Abuse. The scheme is far from perfect, and in many ways has strayed from what was recommended by the royal commission. For that the Morrison Liberal government is to be held accountable.

I have spoken in this place on myriad issues facing the Redress Scheme. We know that as at 30 August this year, the scheme had received over 4,800 applications and only 512 redress payments had been made, or just over 10 per cent. That is something that I consider completely unacceptable. We know that the average redress payment amount is currently over $79,700. The royal commission recommended a maximum cap of $150,000 in payments, but the Redress Scheme instead has a cap of $100,000. The government has not ever explained why the difference in cap amounts exists.

The scheme is moving too slowly and is bogged down in unnecessary bureaucracy, only serving to add to the trauma of abuse survivors, something that most of us have to agree is appalling. Australians can be proud of what the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse accomplished, but I do not think there is much to be proud of in terms of the performance of the National Redress Scheme to date.

I will use this opportunity to call on the Morrison Liberal government to work with the state governments around the country to fix that scheme because we know that we must and we will do everything we need to do—whatever is needed—to protect children from all forms of child exploitation and correct wrongs for abuse victims. In doing that, we rely on groups like Bravehearts and we rely on raising awareness through events like White Balloon Day.

We certainly stand resolute in our commitment to prevent the exploitation of children and, of course, support the invaluable efforts of Bravehearts and White Balloon Day in their efforts to break the silence on child sexual assault. With those words, I would like to thank the mover of the motion, the Hon. Tammy Franks, and commend her for bringing this most important motion to this place.

The Hon. T.J. STEPHENS (16:31): I rise to congratulate the Hon. Tammy Franks on the motion before this council. I would like to reiterate the enormous importance of protecting all children from sexual assault. Beyond our support, we must acknowledge and bring awareness to the shocking pain and suffering endured by those who have been subjected to sexual assault in their lives. White Balloon Day is a campaign raising awareness of the crime of child sexual assault, encouraging our community to take an active role in protecting children. Most importantly, White Balloon Day encourages survivors of child sexual assault to speak out and break their silence.

The first official White Balloon Day was held in 1997. It is astonishing that just two years later, senior police revealed a staggering 514 per cent increase in disclosures of child sexual assault to Queensland police headquarters, labelling the White Balloon Day campaign a phenomenon. With such enormous figures, it is important that we recognise that historical child sexual assault crimes are no less heinous than those which are current. We must strive to support those who have been living and battling daily with the lasting psychological and physical effects of such soulless crimes.

Sadly, as a result of the stigma surrounding child sexual assault, many who have been subjected to these awful acts do not come forward. They fear not being heard, not being believed, or being perceived as damaged by the experiences they have endured. Child sexual assault, whether it be current or past, is an atrocious and unforgivable crime. Adequate penalties must be applied to perpetrators of these offences. We all need to do everything we can to raise awareness to support and protect our children. I commend the mover and the motion.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (Minister for Human Services) (16:33): I move to amend the motion as follows:

Paragraph 1—

Leave out '7 September' and insert '6 September'

Paragraph 4—

Leave out '22nd' and insert '23rd'

I rise to support this motion and thank the Hon. Ms Franks for bringing it to the parliament. I also move some amendments to the dates, which are standing in my name. I would also like to echo the comments of previous speakers in relation to the horrendous crimes that are committed against children who are incredibly trusting, vulnerable individuals who deserve to be nurtured and protected, not abused.

In commending this motion, I would like to particularly commend White Balloon Day and Bravehearts, an organisation which was founded by Ms Hetty Johnson after discovering the horrendous crimes against her own child back in 1997. Probably our understanding of how to protect children was less advanced than it is in this day and age. Historically, crimes against children have been hidden, in large part, because children have not necessarily had the tools and had been convinced that somehow it was their fault and that revealing the circumstances would lead to repercussions.

Bravehearts offers a number of services, which are very useful. We also have our own curriculum in South Australia, which is consistent with this in terms of teaching children about how to be safe. I commend the motion to the house.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (16:36): I really thank the honourable members for their contributions today. The Hon. Emily Bourke reflected particularly on the history of this quite significant event. White Balloon Day started back in 1997 and has been going now for 23 years. I think those balloons were a symbol of hope at a time when voices were far too often silenced.

In 1997, Hetty Johnson was an incredibly brave woman, who decided to call out child abuse and paedophilia when she saw it. She has been pilloried, she has been ignored, but from my perspective she should be admired. I think her work has been incredibly important in the Australian context for promoting action against paedophilia. She was known to me: I knew her more than she knew me when she worked for the Democrats back in the 1990s. I have watched her, her courage and fortitude and her commitment to children who are either survivors or, indeed, who do not survive child abuse in this country.

I thank the Hon. Connie Bonaros, and I do not think that you have to apologise for talking about pieces of legislation that we have just seen moved that will protect children in this country. And I was a bit teary before I even started, Michelle, so it wasn't just you. I thank the Hon. Terry Stephens, who I know is incredibly staunch in his commitment to outing paedophilia and standing by those abuse survivors who have taken action and finally found justice through our courts, in particular the masked brothers, who have stood not just for themselves but for generations who have gone and, unfortunately, for generations who are to come.

Hetty is described as not one to hope that things will change in course, and the reality is things will not change in course. Just a few short years before Bravehearts was formed, Sinead O'Connor ripped up a picture of the Pope on Saturday Night Live. It brought her condemnation from around the globe and yet her revelation of child sexual abuse today stands vindicated. It is people like Hetty Johnson and it is organisations like Bravehearts that should be noted and supported in this place. What were once lone voices are now joined in chorus. It should not be brave to call out child abuse and paedophilia.

With those few words, I thank, in particular, the minister for her ongoing commitment and support in these areas previously and no doubt into the future. I indicate that I certainly support the amendments, and commend the motion to the council.

Amendments carried; motion as amended carried.