National Child Protection Week – Debate

Paul Green Child Protection BRAVEHEARTS
NATIONAL CHILD PROTECTION WEEK

Debate resumed from 27 August 2015.

Reverend the Hon. FRED NILE [10.01 a.m.]: I support this motion moved by my colleague the Hon. Paul Green. National Child Protection Week takes place from 6 to 12 September each year, and this year marks its twenty-fifth anniversary. I am pleased that Bravehearts’ annual White Balloon Day is also held during National Child Protection Week. Friday 11 September 2015 was Bravehearts’ nineteenth anniversary of raising awareness and funds to enable the continued delivery of vital support, protection and prevention programs, and to give kids the confidence to come forward and break the silence. The key purpose of Bravehearts is to educate, empower and protect Australian kids from sexual assault, and it calls on the community to support National Child Protection Week and White Balloon Day.

In considering this motion I am reminded of the tragic disappearance of William Tyrrell. Yesterday the family drew more attention to his disappearance. The police are currently conducting extensive inquiries and searches to try to discover what happened to that young boy. It is a mystery how a small boy can just disappear off the face of the earth. No-one saw him being taken. He has disappeared without a trace, with no evidence pointing to a particular individual being responsible. Suspicions were directed at a local repairman who had visited the house but recently he made a public statement denying any connection with the disappearance of William Tyrrell. I urge the police to continue their thorough investigation to identify the individual who kidnapped William Tyrrell. I move that the motion be amended by adding the following paragraphs:

 

        (f) Where’s William? Week has been officially running from 12 to 18 September 2015 to generate awareness of William and support the work of the authorities and volunteers in their mission to return William to his family.

 

        (g) An event to support national Where’s William? Week in the New South Wales Parliament was held on Tuesday 15 September 2015 to coincide with the 12-month anniversary of William Tyrrell’s disappearance.

 

            (i) This event included addresses from a family spokesperson, Hetty Johnston, AM, chief executive officer of the campaign’s charity partner Bravehearts Inc., Hayden Tee and Peter Price, OAM, Crime Stoppers Australian Director, New South Wales Chief Executive Officer and Vice-President Crime Stoppers International.

 

        (h) Commends the NSW Police Force, the Australian Federal Police, Bravehearts Inc. and all other involved agencies for reaching out to the community to generate potential information that will assist police in the investigation of William’s disappearance.

 

        (i) This House stands in solidarity with William Tyrrell’s parents and family during this extraordinarily difficult time.

 

We all pray that William Tyrrell is still alive and that he will be returned to his family. Sadly, he may be in the hands of a child abuser and, tragically, it could come to a sad end. But we hope and pray that that will not be the case. I am pleased to move this amendment and to support the motion.

The Hon. COURTNEY HOUSSOS [10.07 a.m.]: I make a brief contribution to the debate and offer my sincere and genuine support of the motion, as amended. I welcome the inclusion of reference to the Where’s William? campaign in the motion. In a week when parliamentarians have come together to mark the tragic first anniversary of the disappearance of William Tyrrell, I think it is only appropriate that the motion should include a reference to him. I put on record my sincere and genuine support for Bravehearts and commend the organisation for its fantastic work. On the one hand, it is upsetting and distressing that such an organisation is required but, on the other hand, it does fantastic work in educating and empowering Australian children. I congratulate Bravehearts on its work, and I heartily support this motion.

The Hon. SARAH MITCHELL (Parliamentary Secretary) [10.08 a.m.]: I strongly support the National Child Protection Week motion and congratulate the Hon. Paul Green on moving it in the House. Last week we discussed the reasons we became members of Parliament. The Hon. Paul Green said that he sees it as his role to do everything he can to help protect children. It is a role he performs very well and we are fortunate to have such an advocate for children and organisations such as Bravehearts in this place. The Hon. Paul Green has a genuine passion for these issues, and I commend him for his stance. I agree completely with the amendment moved by Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile.

I attended the Where’s William? Week event in Parliament a few days ago. Our Parliament works best when we act in a bipartisan manner on these issues. It was good to see the Deputy Premier, and Minister for Justice and Police Troy Grant, shadow Minister Jodi McKay, local member Leslie Williams and other members from across the political divide in both Chambers come together in support of the Tyrrell family. It really was an emotional event. Most of us in this place are parents. I am the mother of a two-year-old. The thought of something like the disappearance of a child happening in our families is too terrible to contemplate. William’s parents and family attended the event and we saw what they are going through. It is impossible to imagine what it would be like to be in their shoes. It is right to amend the motion to include William Tyrrell and his family, particularly this week. Subparagraph (i), which states that this House stands in solidarity with William Tyrrell’s parents and family during this extraordinarily difficult time, is incredibly important. It is fair to say that the entire country stands in solidarity with them. We hope that William is back with his loved ones very soon.

For 25 years the annual National Child Protection Week has provided a focus on increasing awareness and understanding of the importance of primary prevention to reduce child abuse and neglect in Australia. Each and every Australian has a role to play in helping children and young people to live in safety and grow into strong and happy adults. There is always more that we can do. National Child Protection Week serves as a timely reminder that we cannot rest on our laurels. The Play Your Part campaign is a reminder to us all of the role that we can play on a daily basis to support and care for children. Prevention of child abuse and neglect is a key priority, as is having a strong and responsive child protection system in New South Wales. Last year the Government began an important reform program to strengthen the child protection system, which is called the Safe Home for Life program. The investment of $500 million over four years represents the next step towards a more inclusive child protection system that streamlines how government and non-government agencies work together, and places children at the centre of decision-making.

As part of Safe Home for Life, the New South Wales Government has implemented legislative amendments and practical initiatives including parent capacity orders, parent responsibility contracts and family group conferencing. The reforms are aimed at promoting good parenting, providing a safe and stable home for children and young people in care, and creating a child-focused system. Wherever possible we want children to be able to remain safely at home with their family. The reforms prioritise working with families to achieve this goal. Unfortunately, even with support some families are not always able to do what is necessary to keep their children safe. In those cases, the reforms offer a range of options for permanency, including new guardianship provisions and open adoption. It is vital for government and non-government agencies to work together and place children at the centre of decision-making.

Organisations such as Bravehearts and the National Association for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect are important parts of the child protection system. I know that the Minister for Family and Community Services shares the thoughts that members have expressed in this Chamber in acknowledging the good work of all government and non-government agencies that strive so hard to keep our children safe. As I said at the outset, this is an incredibly important motion. As legislators we must do everything we can to protect children. I have no more important role in my life than being a mother. It is important we do all we can to ensure that every child in this State has a safe and happy childhood. I commend the Hon. Paul Green for moving this exceptional motion.

The Hon. MATTHEW MASON-COX [10.13 a.m.]: I join members in supporting the fine motion moved by the Hon. Paul Green. It is important to recognise National Child Protection Week in this Parliament. I also commend Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile for his amendment. Like a number of other members, I attended the launch of Where’s William? Week in Parliament House. It was an incredibly moving event—in fact, it was the most moving event I have attended in this place. It has had an enormous impact on me over the past 24 hours. I encourage everybody to do whatever they can to support child protection. I recognise the Hon. Paul Green for his leadership in this area. He has been a great advocate for the protection of children in this State.

Bravehearts and Hetty Johnston do wonderful work to protect children in our State. That work is acknowledged by this Parliament and by people such as the Hon. Paul Green and many others who demonstrate their support on White Balloon Day. There are some practical things that members can do, and it is important to note that the Government has introduced a range of initiatives to promote child protection. I am pleased that the Ditto’s Keep Safe Adventure education program toolkit has been distributed to approximately 1,600 schools in New South Wales. It is an important practical measure to ensure that teachers are able to communicate with children about what they need to do to keep safe. It is tragic that we need to have such a program in our communities, but we must talk to our kids about staying safe.

I showed the Ditto video to my children. It was a wonderful way to open up the discussion. I encourage all members who are parents to speak with their children and raise their awareness. It is not an easy discussion to have but it is extremely worthwhile. Children need to get the message at a young age, and often we do not speak to them early enough. Obviously, parents need to exercise judgement as to what age is appropriate but it is important that they become aware of the message. It is amazing what young children absorb. The purity and wonder of children is always to be exalted, but we must not forget that those qualities can be taken advantage of by sick and evil people in our community.

I was pleased that the amendments to increase penalties for offences under our child protection legislation passed through Parliament this week. Increased vigilance on the part of the Government is an important part of our toolkit to address this heinous crime. I think all members would agree that child protection is one of the most important things that Parliament can work practically to address in order to ensure that our communities are as safe as possible. Many of our colleagues made first-class contributions during the Where’s William? Week event in Parliament House. I congratulate the Deputy Premier, the shadow Minister and the member for Port Macquarie on their poignant addresses that put the issue in perspective. Like the Hon. Sarah Mitchell, I was in awe of William’s parents, their strength and how they are coping. They shared their daily struggle—every day the sun comes up and every day the sun sets—through their spokesperson, Hetty Johnston. I do not think there was a dry eye in the room. Listening then to the wonderful song Bring Him Home from Les Misérables was incredibly moving.

The Hon. Paul Green is taking his children to see Les Misérables soon. He did not offer me a ticket, but I would have gone. Listening to Bring Him Home was one of the most poignant moments I have had the privilege to experience in this place. Again, it is wonderful to speak in support of this motion and the members behind it. I congratulate the Hon. Paul Green for moving this motion and the Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile for moving his amendment, which I support wholeheartedly. I hope that the message about the importance of child protection resonates strongly in our communities.

Mr DAVID SHOEBRIDGE [10.19 a.m.]: On behalf of The Greens, I indicate our strong support for this motion recognising National Child Protection Week. Too many children do not receive protection. Too many children are lost. I, like many of my colleagues in this Chamber, attended the event this week with William Tyrrell’s family. It was a deeply touching and moving event. It was a privilege to see the courage of that family and to witness their continuing resilience in the face of an appalling tragedy, which we cannot comprehend. They continue to be proud parents, to be strong parents and to do all they can for their little boy. They have my endless admiration for the work they do. For those reasons, we support the amendment that has been moved to the motion.

They, like so many victims of crime in this State, are extraordinarily fortunate to have the services of a wonderful police officer, Gary Jubelin. I cannot think of a better person to be on this case and to be providing not only strategic and policing advice but also the rock-solid emotional support that victims and their families need in these circumstances. I commend the work of not only Gary Jubelin but also the team behind him, both uniformed and non-uniformed. They support the work he does and all too often they are not recognised. It is not about Gary alone; it is about the team behind him as well. They are enormously dedicated men and women who in many ways have an awful job to do, given the nature of the crimes they deal with. I reiterate my admiration for them. National Child Protection Week and the commitment to the prevention of child abuse and neglect should unite us all, and today it is doing just that. I thank the mover of the motion for bringing it to the House.

The Hon. BEN FRANKLIN [10.22 a.m.]: I start by quoting To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, who wrote:

        They’ve done it before and they’ll do it again, and when they do it seems that only the children weep.

 

Today I will reflect briefly on two things. The first is the concept of pure evil. As public legislators, we in this Parliament have many responsibilities. We have the responsibility to provide good government and we have the responsibility to provide protections to the most vulnerable—and surely of those vulnerable people the most vulnerable are children. In our society we have always had a tiny minority of people who seek to do evil to children. To me, there is no greater sin and no greater crime that humanity can commit.

Secondly, I share the reflections of all members who have spoken about the extraordinary event held to acknowledge the disappearance of William Tyrrell. Like Mr David Shoebridge, I cannot even begin to understand the turbulence that those incredible parents have been experiencing every day now for more than a year. The waking hours would be bad enough but what they must have to endure at night time is beyond comprehension. I commend strongly the motion moved by the Hon. Paul Green and his dedication and work in this area for many years. I absolutely commend the work of Bravehearts to ensure that children enjoy the innocence, the peace, the childhood and the wonder they deserve.

I am not blessed with children myself but last night I was privileged to have dinner with my godson, who came to the Chamber. He is four years old. If he was not protected and went through what poor William Tyrrell would be going through, I am not sure how I could deal with it. For the family and the police, every day must be the most incredible trial. They must be going through the most extraordinary turmoil. They must feel a sense of failure even though they are doing absolutely everything they can, and doing an extraordinarily professional job. We know that if William can be brought home safe, he will be. Like the other members who have spoken to this motion, I was incredibly moved by the event held here a couple of days ago. For me, there has been no more moving event during my time in Parliament. I entreat anyone who might be listening to or watching this broadcast to contact Crime Stoppers New South Wales if they know anything, if they have seen anything, if they have heard anything or even if they suspect anything—

Mr David Shoebridge: Anything at all.

The Hon. BEN FRANKLIN: Yes, anything at all—no matter how trivial or irrelevant they may think it to be. We were all deeply moved by the rendition of Bring Him Home, which has been adopted as the song for William Tyrrell, at the event a couple of days ago. To conclude, I will quote from the final verse in honour of young William:

Bring him peace,
Bring him joy,
He is young,
He is only a boy,
You can take,
You can give,
Let him be,
Let him live,
If I die,
Let me die,
Let him live,
Bring him home,
Bring him home,
Bring him home.

The Hon. SCOTT FARLOW [10.27 a.m.]: I had not intended to speak to this motion but, having listened to the moving words of other members, I think it is important to contribute to the debate. I thank the Hon. Paul Green for his motion on the importance of protecting children in our community. Picking up on what the Hon. Ben Franklin said, I think all members in this place were moved by the presentation for William Tyrrell in Parliament House this week during Where’s William? Week, which is focused on bringing him home. None of us can fathom what his parents are going through, and none of us want to fathom what William is going through or has endured while separated from his parents. We are all incredibly moved to do whatever we can to help.

While watching the video of William, which was shown as a community service announcement this week, and seeing William, who attended the same childcare centre as my son, walking down the path that I have taken my son along, it got me thinking about what I would do if I were in a similar situation to his parents. It must be dreadful for them, every single second of the day. None of us wants anyone to go through that. I think of that poor family and that poor boy. If anyone in the community knows anything, I encourage them to come forward and to give any information they have to the police to help bring William home.

This week is National Child Protection Week. As I said, I had not intended to speak to this motion but sometimes one is so moved by the debate that one is inspired to contribute to it, and I feel it is important to be open and honest. There is nothing worse than abuse of a child. Children are so innocent. My son is almost two years old. Like all children, he was born a perfect little blank canvas. It is the events of our lives that shape us. Sadly, some events take away children’s innocence and fashion their future lives.

I will share with the House something that I do not often speak about. When I was young I took part in childhood gymnastics, amongst other activities. One of my earliest memories in life, and it is a very sad one, is that one of my teachers did unspeakable things to some children involved in that activity. Luckily, I was not one of them. My parents and others had put their trust in that teacher. I remember at the age of four or five being called to Campsie Police Station where I was taken to a room and asked questions. I remember feeling that I had done something wrong. I was quivering with fear because the police were talking to me. I had done nothing wrong. Indeed, none of those children had done anything wrong but they were subjected to such an ordeal because of the evil inflicted by one man.The love and support of my parents allowed me to share what I had seen. Unfortunately, other children will go through this process in their lifetime and they too will think that somehow they have done something wrong. They will be reluctant to tell what has happened to them because of the fear of authority. We need to give every possible support to them. I agree with the comment of Bravehearts founder Hetty Johnson that we cannot accept one such instance to happen. As a society we cannot accept as a statistic that children will go missing. That sort of culture must not be allowed. A zero tolerance of any harm occasioned to children, whether physical or sexual abuse, abduction, hostage or ransom, must be maintained. Our society must say no.This heinous crime is the worst thing that could possibly happen to anyone because it robs that person of his or her life forever. We must protect and nurture our children for them to grow into the people they should be, not who they become as a consequence of this heinous crime. I thank all members for their commitment to protecting children, but we must continue to do everything possible to ensure that this sort of behaviour is not in any way acceptable in our society. I commend the Hon. Paul Green for bringing forward this motion and Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile for his amendment. I commend the motion to the House.

The Hon. JOHN AJAKA (Minister for Ageing, Minister for Disability Services, and Minister for Multiculturalism) [10.33 a.m.]: I speak in support of the motion moved by the Hon. Paul Green and congratulate him on moving it. It is an honour and a privilege to be elected as a member of Parliament. On days such as this when we are dealing with such an important motion I am reminded of that honour and privilege. I also support the amendment of Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile. This week is Where’s William? Week, so his amendment is particularly relevant. I also offer my support to the Bravehearts Foundation, which does such tremendous work. In my early days on being elected to this Chamber, Hetty Johnston was one of the first people to approach me as a member. She gave me a clear understanding of the great work performed by Bravehearts. Sadly, I realised even then that the foundation’s great work would have to continue for a very long time.In this world there are some incredibly evil people, men and women, who have absolutely no sense of justice for our young children. I find it difficult to understand or fathom how they could commit such evil acts. As a father and now as a grandfather, every day I thank God that I do not find myself in the same position as the Tyrrell family. Some 25 years ago my first child, who was two years old at the time, disappeared from our backyard. The gate had been left open. It was a stupid act on my part; I had been responsible for looking after her. To this day I still find it hard to speak about what I went through at that time. It took almost four hours to find her. She was playing in a park two kilometres away from our home. She had decided to take the next-door neighbour’s puppy for a walk. For those four hours I went through every conceivable, horrible thought, and I still shake when I think about it 25 years later. It is hard to imagine what William’s parents are going through: the continual hope that their child will be found, the continual prayers that he will be okay, but at the same time the continual dread of the worst that could have happened.Government does all it can—and I refer to government, not our Government—to try to stop this evil. I believe that all governments genuinely try to do whatever they can to protect our children. In this debate the Hon. Sarah Mitchell has clearly outlined the actions of our Government. But, as I have said on a number of occasions, it is impossible for government to do it on its own. Whatever action government takes it will never be enough. This issue requires all of us—government and non-government agencies, communities and families—to work together. As Mr David Shoebridge said earlier, our communities need to be our eyes and ears. People need to immediately report anything they see, hear or know to the authorities. Even small leads will help to eliminate this evil and protect our children. I again thank the Hon. Paul Green for bringing forward this motion and Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile for his amendment. I commend both to the House.

The Hon. MICK VEITCH [10.39 a.m.]: I associate myself with the motion moved by the Hon. Paul Green. Newer members may not be aware that my former wife and I were foster parents for 15 years, fostering nearly 50 children. The majority of those children had disabilities. So I speak from experience in this debate. In a regional community it is not just mums and dads who raise children, it is the community. One would hope that the community acts as the eyes and ears of our children, as the Minister for Ageing said in his contribution to the debate. The community plays a role in raising our children. It also plays a role at the end of our lives in looking after elders, but that is a debate for another day.

Regional communities are the eyes and ears of children who may find themselves in trying circumstances. When a transgression is committed against an innocent child, the regional community feels it deeply and will draw together to help. It impacts not just on the families but on the whole community. My former wife and I fostered 50 children in our home. We all have in our minds an understanding of the term “child”, from the age of a toddler up to a teenager. The children we fostered spanned that age range. Some of the teenagers who came through our place were seriously damaged individuals. They did not deserve the treatment that had led them to the position they were in. I hope that under our roof, for a little while, they experienced love, care and laughter. They also received guidance on how not to live life, because sometimes our house was not the perfect place.

The Hon. Dr Peter Phelps: No-one’s is.

The Hon. MICK VEITCH: That is right. Hopefully, we were able to provide nourishment for the individuals who spent time at our place. We saw some damaged individuals and we also fostered toddlers. The pain inflicted on toddlers leaves as much of a psychological scar as it does on teenagers, but in a different way. It is difficult to reconcile ourselves to the fact that there are individuals in our society who inflict pain and damage on children. Fostering is rewarding, but it is difficult. From time to time I am asked to speak to potential foster parents. I encourage people to become foster parents but I tell them that it is not something everyone can do. It can be difficult.

Some children were in our care for a short while, for three or four weeks. We would have a collective cuddle with our children and a chat about the impact of events on them, as well as on us. Every child who came through our house had a story and every child who came through our house left an impression. We always tried to find the good in the kids who spent time with us. We tried to provide direction so that they could draw on the good. Today we live in a “me, myself and I” society. Mentorship, guidance and leadership are missing, particularly for adolescent boys. Primary school-aged children also need a trusted adult other than mum and dad to talk to. Many teenagers feel—and my teenage children were no different—that there are matters they cannot discuss with mum and dad and they need a trusted adult to talk to. It is really important for them to be able to do that.

As parents, my former wife and I tried to identify trusted adults with whom our children could develop a relationship so that if ever they needed to they could talk to them, away from us. That option is not available for a lot of children in foster care, particularly those who move from home to home, as foster children with disabilities tend to do. That is sad and an indictment on society. In a fair, just and rational society our kids would be able to run free. Parents would be able to leave the back gate open and know that their children would be safe. Our children would be able to grow and explore, as they are meant to. Some of those freedoms have gone. Parents put up barriers to protect their children, even though they know their children need to explore and develop their independence and decision-making abilities.

Mr David Shoebridge: Get out of the helicopter.

The Hon. MICK VEITCH: That is right, but it is a difficult thing to do as a parent, particularly with teenagers. We hope that our children will be able to enjoy life as much as we did when we were their age, but society has changed. National Child Protection Week draws attention to not only the plight of children in our society but also society’s role in raising and protecting our children. We all benefit when something causes us to focus on a topic, and National Child Protection Week does that. There has been a lot of talk in the Chamber today about the sad case of young William Tyrrell. My heart goes out to his parents and his community. Unfortunately, there are other children in similar situations.

We must be the eyes and ears of our children and protect them at arms’ length so that they can grow up safely in society but also be able to explore, develop and mature in the way that they were meant to. We do not want them to live in an over-protective society. I say again that fostering is not for everyone but it is very rewarding. Although it is difficult, I encourage people to think about doing it. My former wife and I are still foster parents; we still take kids into care. We have experienced wonderful moments from fostering children. I commend the Hon. Paul Green for his motion.

The Hon. SOPHIE COTSIS [10.47 a.m.]: I thank the Hon. Paul Green for moving this motion relating to National Child Protection Week. I know that he is passionate about this issue. Over the many years that we have been in this House together he has been a strong advocate for child protection. He constantly raises this important issue with Ministers and Opposition members. I thank him for bringing this motion forward and I thank members who have spoken in the debate. Everyone in this place has a story to tell. We are all distressed when we hear stories of child abuse and learn of cases that have been brought before the royal commission. It is distressing when we hear about the murder or disappearance of a small child. Over the past year we have been hearing about William Tyrrell. We want to find out what has happened to William, and to other children as well. I commend the Hon. Mick Veitch and his family for fostering 50 children, some with disabilities, over many years. That is hard work and a big job. It requires a big heart to embrace and love those children. I commend him and the thousands of other foster parents who do it every day.

As previous speakers have said, nothing is more important than keeping our children safe. Many members in this place are parents and grandparents; Minister Ajaka spoke of his grandchildren. We all love and adore our kids and grandkids. As a mother, I know there is nothing more precious than our children. Sometimes, with helicopter parenting, we smother our kids and wrap them in cotton wool. I get deeply distressed every time I hear a terrible story of families whose lives are torn apart when their children have come to harm. We ask ourselves how did this happen and what can we do as legislators to stop such terrible things happening again.

I commend those who are strong advocates on this issue, such as Hetty Johnston, Chief Executive Officer of Bravehearts. For many years, she has been pushing governments to bring in tougher legislation. We have introduced legislation but we have more to do. Every day we hear stories of child abuse. We must be strong and tough in our actions. Yesterday the Opposition in the other place moved a motion and called on the Government to support the Opposition and introduce tough new penalties for those who commit violent offences against children. The Opposition gave notice of motion to introduce the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Amendment (Protection from Serious Offenders) Bill 2015.

Under that proposed legislation, a parent or guardian previously convicted of murder or manslaughter of a child would have any future children automatically removed at birth. The new laws Labor is proposing would also apply to those convicted of serious violent offences against their own children. Any person convicted of the murder or manslaughter of or a violent offence against a child would be prohibited from caring for or living with a child or young person. In developing the bill, the Opposition consulted widely with a range of stakeholders through the Child Protection Reform Discussion Paper and the Child Protection Roundtable, which included frontline service providers, legal experts and non-government organisations.

The Opposition also worked closely with Jannice Florendo, whose daughter, Ikicia Leach, was tragically murdered at the age of seven weeks by her own father. The New South Wales Leader of the Opposition, Luke Foley, also met with the maternal grandparents of Bailey Constable, who was killed by his stepfather Nathan Forrest at four years of age. Yesterday this House debated the Child Protection Legislation Amendment Bill 2015. I know that Minister Hazzard is listening and will look closely at the bill proposed by the Opposition. As many speakers said in the debate yesterday, we are part of an adversarial system and debate is part of our robust democracy, and is important to improving our community. But it is also important on issues such as child protection to listen to each other and to experts and to work together in order to strengthen child protection laws.

I urge Government and crossbench members to talk to the Minister for Family and Community Services about the bill that the Opposition will bring before the Parliament. National Child Protection Week is now in its twenty-fifth year. This year’s theme was “Protecting children is everyone’s business”. That statement could not be truer. Last week Bravehearts held a number of events across New South Wales and Australia. I know that many members participated in the annual White Balloon Day. I did, and I saw a number of my colleagues on the steps of Parliament House promoting White Balloon Day to our communities and our supporters. Bravehearts put out a media release that stated:

 

        White balloons adorned the streets of towns like Bega and were the focus of more than 700 awareness and fundraising events in schools, child care centres, churches and businesses in towns across Australia as a symbol of hope for the 1 in 5 children sexually harmed before their 18th birthday.

 

        Battery World gave the day plenty of charge fundraising money at each of its stores—

 

and I commend Battery World for its involvement—

        while Affinity Education Group held white morning tea activities … Brisbane played host to Bravehearts’ annual White Balloon Day lunch which acknowledged and celebrated the “children’s champions” helping to make Australia the safest place in the world to raise a child.

 

I again commend Hetty Johnston from Bravehearts and her team and the many advocates and champions across New South Wales. Bravehearts runs a fantastic education program called the Ditto’s Keep Safe Adventure Show. I quote again from the Bravehearts’ media release:

        The purpose of “Ditto’s Keep Safe Adventure Show” is to teach children personal safety in a non-confrontational, fun and engaging fashion. Bravehearts’ Education Teams deliver the show’s messages into schools, day care centres, shopping centres, sporting clubs and other facilities … to provide students, parents, teachers, carers and the general community with specialised child sexual assault awareness and education.

 

        [The program] aims to continue communicating essential personal safety messages and works tirelessly to reach children across Australia.

 

I commend Bravehearts and its volunteers and educators for running this program. The program reached its 300,000th child in August 2013. That is a huge number of children. It is promoted to children at childcare centres and at schools. Bravehearts says:

        The shows’ main contents address:

 

          · Yes and No Feelings

 

          · Warning Signs

 

          · Scared and Yucky Feelings

 

          · Private Parts and Privacy

 

          · It’s OK to say NO if you don’t feel safe

 

        · What to do if you feel unsafe or unsure.

That is important information for our beautiful children: it increases their awareness and tells them that if they are affected to go to the authorities. We are talking about this issue; it is out in the domain. Media commentators are writing and talking about it. We always need to be vigilant. I commend those who have been very strong champions and advocates for ensuring tougher laws. I commend this motion and I thank the Hon. Paul Green for bringing it to the House.

The Hon. PAUL GREEN [10.58 a.m.], in reply: I thank the Hon. Sarah Mitchell, the Hon. Courtney Houssos, the Hon. Matthew Mason-Cox, Mr David Shoebridge, the Hon. Ben Franklin, the Hon. Scott Farlow, the Hon. John Ajaka, the Hon. Mick Veitch and the Hon. Sophie Cotsis for their contributions. I also thank my colleague Reverend the Hon. Fred Nile for his amendments to the motion. This is the sort of motion that every member can contribute to because it basically reflects what is in their heart. I am absolutely committed to ensuring that her child and the child of the Hon. Courtney Houssos reach their full potential. I want them to have the best opportunity to thrive, succeed, grow and contribute to our world. However, we will not be able to do that if our children have been broken, stolen from us emotionally and ripped off sexually by evil people. I reflect on the Bible, which says:

      The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?

As long as we leave people to their own devices, our children will never be safe. We must educate our children in order to protect them. To that end we can use educational programs such as Ditto’s Keep Safe Adventure Show. I give credit to the Government because, after a bit of convincing, that program has been rolled out across the 1,600 schools in New South Wales. But there is more to do. Teachers have to be trained in how to implement the program in the education of our children. The Hon. Sophie Cotsis spoke about that fantastic program.

I always say that one can tell the Government’s priorities by its cheque book. The Government can write a cheque for any cause across New South Wales that it thinks appropriate, but what sort of cheques have been written for child safety protection and education? I spoke about this last night during the debate on the Child Protection Legislation Amendment Bill 2015 and the Working With Children Check. The Government has written a $4 million cheque for the next four years for child protection, but there is so much more to do. If the Government does not help children to help themselves and to identify when the wrong thing is being done to them, we are letting them down. I am committed to helping our children in this way. The Government and members of Parliament are committed to dealing with this terrible crime that is being perpetrated upon so many children. Of course, the internet is now complicating that matter.

The amendment relating to William Tyrrell and his parents broke my heart the other day. Most of us attempted to say something, but we did not know what to say. Our words simply could not reflect the weight of the grieving and loss of William’s family. I think of that wonderful song Bring Him Home and, as a father, I know that there would be nothing more devastating than not knowing where my child is, where they are sleeping or how they are being treated. In the song Bring Him Home, the father says that he would give his life to enable his child to have the opportunity to live a fulfilled life. The Hon. Mick Veitch said that William Tyrrell is the face of the many missing people and of friends and family who suffer the dire situation of wondering where their loved ones are, what they are doing and what has happened to them. I am proud to be a member of a Parliament and a cross-parliamentary team that has committed to increasing the opportunities to protect our children and to ensure that they have the future they deserve.

I will conclude with the poignant moment when Jesus, as the disciples tried to move the children away from him, said, “Suffer the little children to come unto me.” There was a great moment for humanity—that God himself, in Jesus, wanted the children to receive the love that he had intended for them. That should be the goal of this House, this Parliament and this nation. I commend the motion to the House.