Bravehearts Inc

The Hon. PAUL GREEN [6.17 p.m.]: Recently I had the privilege of attending the Bravehearts Inc. dinner held in Parliament House. It was a fantastic night and members of different parties took a great bipartisan approach, with about 59 different members of Parliament attending the dinner. It reinforced the message of Bravehearts, which is “Break the Silence” and childhood protection from sexual abuse. The evening was emceed by one of our Shoalhaven colleagues, the member for Kiama, Gareth Ward, and Evgeny, who gave us some wonderful renditions on the piano, did a wonderful job entertaining people as they came in for refreshments. Throughout the night we heard from a variety of speakers. One of those speakers was Sasha, who gave a chilling story of surviving child molestation. Apparently his story was on the television program Australian Story. It was incredible how a young man had made good after such devastating things had happened in his life.

Bravehearts Inc. has been operating in New South Wales for more than two years with its proven range of prevention and early intervention programs and activities relating specifically and holistically to the prevention and early intervention of child sexual assault. According to Commonwealth Government research, one in five children in Australia will be sexually assaulted before the age of 18; less than 70 per cent of the perpetrators will live in the same household as the victim; and more than 80 per cent of the time the offence will be committed by someone known and trusted by the child and their family. The crime crosses all socio-cultural demographics, with the well-documented symptomatic effects and co-morbidities reaching far into the lifespan of those affected. High correlations are found within the mental health system and the crime continuum, with incidences often occurring inter-generationally.

Statistically, today 325,063 children in New South Wales will be or have been sexually assaulted. That is more than 19,000 children every year, just in New South Wales. As the only registered charity in the nation specifically and holistically dedicated to addressing this issue, Bravehearts is well placed to provide effective education for children from three to eight years, and it dramatically reduces the incidents of child sexual assault in New South Wales. New South Wales is a signatory to the Council of Australian Governments agreement entitled “Protecting Children is Everyone’s Business—National Framework for Protecting Australian Children 2009 to 2020”. Bravehearts was involved in the development of the agreement’s framework and was successful in debating that child sexual assault must be dealt with separately and distinctly from child abuse and neglect—domestic and family violence—if ever we are going to reduce its incidence. Outcome Six of that national framework sets out the reason why it is both a policy and Treasury imperative for the States and Territories to now identify and provide for child sexual assault services distinctly and specifically.

Bravehearts has always had difficulty fitting into the funding allocations currently set by State governments. I was extremely disappointed with the Coalition Government’s first budget. I unwrapped the budget papers as if they were a Christmas present, searching for one word, “Bravehearts”. I then looked for the words “Ditto’s”, “Keep” and “Safe” but those words were not to be found either, and the Bravehearts program is not funded at this time. This is a tragedy, given that 59,000 children across Australia will be sexually assaulted this year. I, like many of the members who attended the dinner, am aiming to make New South Wales the safest place in Australia in which kids grow up. I seek the continued support of this House to find the money for the “Ditto’s Keep Safe Adventure” school-based personal safety program to be implemented in every school in New South Wales. By the time we have reached the halfway point in our political term, 236,000 children will have been affected by child sexual abuse across Australia. That is not good enough. Prevention is better than cure.