What drives us to work for change
Earlier this month, Australia recognised National Child Protection Week. It was a key reminder for us all that every child, in every community, deserves a fair go. For ICMEC Australia and our stakeholders, every week is about child protection. Keeping children safe is at the heart of the work that we do collectively across the child protection space.
Our National Child Protection Week campaign involved a series of resources highlighting aspects of a new book by Madonna King called Saving Our Kids, which delves into the difficult crime of online child sexual exploitation (CSE) and was published late last month. It’s a powerful book that sheds light on the darkness of this crime, sharing how important our response is to saving children from harm. Written in collaboration with ICMEC Australia Non-Executive Director and retired Detective Inspector, Jon Rouse APM, the book features several ICMEC Australia team members and shows how this crime is escalating with the aid of rapidly evolving technology.
As a team we’re collectively passionate about protecting children from harm, each of us combining our individual skills to further our mission to support our industry stakeholders to fight this crime. We all have deeply personal reasons for wanting to make a change, below we examine why some of our key team members are compelled to do the work they do.
Offenders are continuously working to manipulate any mechanism or online platform that enables their ability to harm children. In the 2021-22 financial year, the ACCCE Child Protection Triage Unit received more than 36,000 reports of child sexual exploitation. The sexual exploitation of children, facilitated online, has real life consequences and cannot be ignored.
However, the true extent of this crime may never be known. It impacts so many young people, many of whom are unable to report at the time of their abuse. On average, it takes 24 years for a victim-survivor to disclose, which is why it’s so important to keep the victim-survivor voice at the centre of navigating our response.
This is a guiding light for ICMEC Australia’s CEO Anna Bowden. A victim-survivor herself, Anna continuously emphasises the importance of supporting survivors, and that our work must centre around preventing children from being abused and exploited.
“I am driven to help give victim-survivors a voice where they can’t find their own. The man who abused me is now behind bars decades later, but it wasn’t my voice who put him there. Our work helps to find the evidence that speaks on behalf of the victims of this horrific crime.”– Anna Bowden, CEO, ICMEC Australia
Understanding the extent to which children are abused and exploited is shocking and confronting, but this means that our work as a response community is critical. One in four Australians have experienced child sexual abuse (ACMS 2023). We cannot ignore the extent of this crime. Research shows that on average, 26% of victim-survivors of child sexual abuse never disclose the abuse.
ICMEC Australia’s Head of Capacity and Prevention, Dannielle Kelly, understands this from her many years working in the child protection space.
“I speak out for all the little people who can’t. If we don’t fight for them…who will?”– Danielle Kelly, Head of Capacity and Prevention, ICMEC Australia
This is what drives Dannielle’s work with stakeholders in Law Enforcement, NGOs and academia. By working collaboratively, and supporting the work of other organisations in the sector, we can create a more comprehensive response to this crime.
ICMEC Australia’s work focuses on supporting cross-industry data and technology solutions to help prevent technology-assisted child sexual exploitation. By facilitating our stakeholders to build their capacity in fighting this crime, we can help to improve the reporting, detection, prosecution and prevention of child sexual exploitation. Our Head of Child Protection Fund, Tiphanie Au, who is experienced in social impact investing, is particularly drawn to disrupting this crime through data-driven solutions.
“All social problems are hard, but when children are involved, it pulls on the heart. Child exploitation is very confronting and until I began working in the field, I was not aware of the scale of the problem. Now it’s what gets me up in the morning and drives me to work so hard in this role.”– Tiphanie Au, Head of Child Protection Fund, ICMEC Australia
To help financial intelligence teams pinpoint more transactions linked to child sexual exploitation and shift the needle on protecting children, the ICMEC Australia Data Products team is developing a first of its kind product in Australia. This product will help enhance the detection of suspicious transactions of child sexual exploitation as they leave their financial footprint across the internet.
Our Head of Data Products, Warren Bulmer, has had a formidable career in law enforcement and product ownership that’s an incredible asset to our work. His experience on the frontline fighting this crime, alongside law enforcement officers from all over the world, has seen many victims identified and children rescued from harm all over the world.
Our data-driven solutions can only contribute to the enhanced detection, reporting, prosecution and prevention of CSE with the support of our stakeholders, in particular in financial crime. Our Head of Collaboration, Rosie Campo, works tirelessly with key leaders in financial institutions to ensure that we understand their needs and can facilitate the right solutions to help them with their work.
“I am working to protect children as I believe we should protect the vulnerable from a crime that ultimately destroys their innocence and childhood. Every child deserves to grow up being a kid and we have the opportunity to help them have that by working together to fight CSE.”– Rosie Campo, Head of Collaboration, ICMEC Australia
The team at ICMEC Australia is dedicated to making the world a safer place for young people by partnering to protect children from sexual abuse and exploitation. And we know that no one organisation can do this alone.
Let’s continue working together to fight against this heinous crime and keep our children safe.