International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children Australia Ltd


Examining Australia’s current legislation protecting children from harm

January 31, 2023

Responding to the sexual abuse and exploitation of children requires active collaboration and stringent reporting and regulatory mechanisms. Australia’s current legislative landscape in relation to the financial aspect of child sexual exploitation is largely covered by the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act 2006 (AML/CTF Act), and the Privacy Act 1988.

The AML/CTF Act was instrumental in establishing AUSTRAC (Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre) as the regulatory authority that works to shape the processes and patterns of activity with and among financial institutions in the response to the sexual exploitation of children. In December 2022, financial institutions were presented with comprehensive guidance on the risks associated with child sexual exploitation in AUSTRAC’s financial crime guide.

The financial incentive for child abuse is an insidious one, made more complex by the evolving typologies and methods facilitated by the internet. Although the internet didn’t create this problem, it offers many opportunities for offenders to engage with child sexual abuse materials repeatedly and anonymously. Every online image, video, or trace of a live stream of child sexual abuse could be evidence of a crime scene. Each re-distribution of material, viewing, and payment is a continuing harm to children. This is why legislation plays such an important role in the fight against child sexual exploitation in Australia and globally.

The effect of Australia’s legislation on the response to and process of the pursuit of the perpetrators of child sexual abuse is indeed positive, however there are still key opportunities for the CSE response ecosystem to advocate for change. In considering what works in other countries, such as the United States’ Patriot Act 2001, it may be that our own legislation can become more comprehensive and work to further protect children. Or that we could modify our interpretation and application of legislative-based processes to enable easier collaboration between sectors.

If you would like to access our comprehensive discussion paper, The intersection between child protection and Australia’s legislative landscape, that takes a deeper look at this complex area, apply to register for our member portal here.

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