International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children Australia Ltd

ICMEC Australia News

In Pursuit of Protection: Shedding a light on collaborative solutions

October 31, 2023

When it comes to keeping children safe, it’s essential we pool our resources and capabilities to deliver our most robust response. In late October we hosted our inaugural Financial Symposium, which shone a light on the critical need for collaboration in the battle against child sexual abuse and exploitation. With nearly 100 key stakeholders joining together from various sectors of financial institutions, including financial crime, corporate affairs, and social impact teams, the event illuminated the pressing need for united action in protecting children.  

The Symposium featured expert speakers who delved into emerging trends in child exploitation crimes. They provided invaluable insights for financial institutions, outlining practical measures to implement protocols and risk mitigation in their organisations. The event underscored the complexity of fighting against child sexual exploitation and abuse, emphasising that this daunting task transcends industry boundaries and permeates all aspects of our community.

We have the right people here today to fill us with hope… and to help build a safer world for children through our already world-leading financial and payments services in Australia.

– Anna Bowden (CEO, ICMEC Australia)

Eliminating child sexual exploitation and abuse from our society, and keeping children safe, is a mammoth task. And this work extends beyond one industry. It has touch points across our whole society, requiring the facilitation of collaboration and information sharing to help key industry professionals protect children, a role that is central to our work at ICMEC Australia. This is especially true when it comes to following the online financial footprint of this crime. The regulatory obligations for financial institutions with respect to this crime are extensive. And for smaller financial institutions, it can be difficult to effectively apply their limited resources to best protect children at the same time as meeting reporting requirements. 

The Symposium provided a platform for professionals from diverse backgrounds across Australia to engage in important discussions. Witnessing this collaborative effort was a stark reminder that the fight against child sexual abuse cannot be won by a single entity alone, and we were inspired by the positive feedback and proud of the essential conversations taking place on the day. 

Operating under the Chatham House Rule, the event facilitated candid discussions among changemakers within the financial sector. All the presentations and panels emphasised a fundamental truth: children deserve the highest level of protection, and combating this heinous crime demands a robust collaborative response.

Throughout the day, we were confronted with the harsh realities of technology-facilitated child sexual exploitation, a topic often omitted from public discourse. The Symposium highlighted that behind every suspicious matter report, every image, and every video, there exists a real child whose life has been irrevocably altered. The responsibility to protect these vulnerable children rests on society as a whole, emphasising the urgency for unwavering commitment to this cause.

As a relatively new organisation with a small team of experts, we are acutely aware that we cannot do this work without the support of a considerable number of passionate and committed individuals. We are grateful for the efforts of many who lean into this work, and the Symposium was the perfect opportunity to launch our Illuminate Program. Aptly named because this is a crime that thrives in the dark, the program will serve to recognise those who go above and beyond to help shine a light and protect children from harm.

We launched the program by honouring our first ICMEC Australia Ally, Jeremy Moller, Senior Advisor and Lawyer (Special Counsel), Risk Advisory at Norton Rose Fulbright. Jeremy has contributed many hours in an advisory capacity and has been a key supporter of our journey for almost five years. Instrumental in the establishment of the ICMEC Australia office, Jeremy has been a constant advocate and contributor to our work since. The Financial Symposium would not have been the success it was without his considerable input. We thank Jeremy for his tireless efforts and for graciously accepting this inaugural position, which will see him continue to support our work into the future.

Our inaugural Financial Symposium ultimately served as a beacon of hope, uniting stakeholders in a collective pledge to prioritise a strong response to this crime and create a safer future for all children, everywhere. This inspiring day illuminated the complex path forward, one paved with collaboration, awareness, innovation and an unyielding dedication to the protection of our children.

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