Speech by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

White Balloon Day Breakfast Launch ‘Break the silence on child sexual assault…It’s ALL WHITE to say No’

Location: Canberra

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Thank you for inviting me along for breakfast and to acknowledge an important day in our calendar – White Balloon Day.

Today also coincides with National Child Protection Week , which has as its theme this year – help bring child abuse out in the open.

It’s all about speaking out to break down the walls that hide abuse.

The rates of child abuse and neglect have doubled over the past 10 years.

In 2007-08, there were 5,491 substantiated reports of child sexual abuse in Australia.

We know this is only the tip of the iceberg.

Many children are too frightened or ashamed to speak out.

Today is the day when we give survivors of child sexual assault a public voice.

White Balloon Day began following a massive public demonstration in Belgium in 1996, in recognition and support of victims of child sexual assault.

It is great to see this powerful display of recognition continuing here in Australia.

Now in its 13th year, White Balloon Day has grown to become a successful annual campaign of raising awareness of child sexual assault.

This years theme – ‘Break the silence on child sexual assault…IT’S ALL WHITE TO SAY NO – goes to the heart of the problem.

That’s why we are so pleased to support White Balloon Day – with $147,191 for this year’s event.

For Bravehearts every day is White Balloon Day.

Raising awareness of the tough issue of child abuse and bringing it to the attention of all Australians.

Encouraging everyone to speak out.

Since 1997, Bravehearts has helped thousands of children.

Over the years, Hetty and her team have provided much needed counselling and support for children and young people who have been abused or are at risk of being abused.

Your involvement in education, prevention, early intervention and research is increasing public understanding.

Bravehearts and other concerned organisations advocated strongly for specific strategies to both increase the detection of child sexual abuse.

And to prevent child sexual abuse in our homes and communities.

They were central the Government’s National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children.

This Framework represents an unprecedented level of cooperation and commitment between all levels of government and non-government organisations.

It recognises that child sexual assault is distinct from other forms of abuse and requires a specialised response.

The Framework includes dedicated strategies and actions to address child sexual abuse and exploitation.

For example, Bravehearts is providing workshops with training for child protection specialists to help them respond effectively when survivors come forward.

Yesterday I announced another important element of the Framework.

The Information Sharing Protocol, started in January this year, was initially between Centrelink and state and territory child protection agencies.

This protocol formalises the processes for sharing Commonwealth information with child protection agencies, including the circumstances under which information can be requested and provided.

Medicare Australia will now be involved in the Information Sharing Protocol.

With the inclusion of Medicare, important medical information can now be shared.

For example, if a child is placed into the care of a child protection agency their medical and immunisation history and Medicare number can be accessed quickly and efficiently.

It can also assist in investigations of serious medical neglect cases by allowing child protection authorities to access a child’s history of doctor visits.

Information sharing is a real example of how we can work collectively to help protect vulnerable children and families.

Thanks for the opportunity to be here to launch White Balloon Day.

I’m sure tomorrow will continue to raise awareness of child sexual assault in our community, support the survivors and help them tell their story.

And break the silence.