Today, Friday 4th April,  the Australian Communications and Media Authority’s Cybersmart program launches Australia’s first comprehensive package of cybersafety resources for Indigenous communities.

Tackling cyberbullying, sexting and digital footprint management, Be Deadly Online responds to Indigenous community leaders’ concerns about the impact of social media on family and community relationships and on young people themselves by offering positive, practical advice on playing smart online.

The program is made up of a series of short animations, posters and a behind-the scenes ‘making of’ video, all hosted on a specially-created portal within the Cybersmart website. It was created with major contributions from a number of Indigenous communities across Australia, including Yarrabah in Tropical North Queensland, regional Victoria and the Mid West Gasgoyne region in Western Australia.

Be Deadly Online is designed to start the conversations that will help young Indigenous people and their communities understand how online actions can easily have real-life consequences and that ‘online business is everyone’s business’.

To view one of the Be Deadly Online animations that focuses on sexting, please click here.

Maureen Moran with posters designed by teens in the Love Bites program. Photo: Fiona Morris

Teens take a stand against violence

An innovative education program is helping teens tackle the issue of sexual assault head-on.

A girl goes to a party at a mate’s house, gets drunk, goes to the bathroom and lies down in a stupor in the empty bathtub. A boy then follows her into the room and has sex with her where she lies. She blacks out and wakes to find him gone. Did he have consent for that act?

Immediately after this scenario is relayed to a group of high school students, the hushed room explodes into animated conversation.

”She shouldn’t have behaved like that,” exclaims 15-year-old Ellen* indignantly, her neat ponytail bobbing as she shakes her head. ”She should have taken responsibility.”

Michael*, 14 – perhaps surprisingly – disagrees completely. ”But he should never have taken advantage of that situation,” he says. ”That was wrong, wrong, wrong.”

The spirited debate in the clusters of 14-, 15- and 16-year-old students who’ve just been shown a DVD surges on, with some voices raised and others softly murmuring. Was the girl at fault, or the boy? Who was really to blame?

After 20 minutes, the 30 youngsters sitting in a common room at a school in Sydney’s south come up with their verdict: No, she was drunk and wasn’t capable of giving consent. The boy had no right to force himself on her; it was sexual assault.

The adult in charge of this session, Maureen Moran, smiles. This is the answer she was hoping for.

”A lot of young people believe that assault and violence is a normal part of a relationship,” she says later. ”They may have learned that from their own family dynamics or from their friends or from TV and films and Facebook. We know they’ve maybe not had conversations like this before about violence, and are often confused. So it’s great to get them thinking about these issues, and talking.

”It’s a very powerful way of starting to effect generational change in people’s attitudes in society.”

These young people are taking part in a revolutionary day-long program that’s been rolled out into schools, youth centres and juvenile justice facilities in 120 communities across NSW, Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia, and is just about to be exported into Victoria and South Australia.

Called Love Bites, it’s a prevention program for domestic and family violence and sexual assault, designed and run by the National Association for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (NAPCAN), and applauded by teachers, police and community workers alike. There are also associated programs for younger children, All Children Being Safe for four- to eight-year-olds, and Growing Respect, teaching seven- to 12-year-olds about respectful relationships.

The programs are becoming phenomenally popular among those who’ve experienced them, and have been recognised as so innovative, they have attracted funding from as far away as Switzerland. Canadian experts are now studying them, New Zealand has asked for a training program and Thailand is now running one in a number of its primary schools, and planning a major roll-out into many more.

In Australia, child abuse, assault and neglect have been constantly in the headlines over the past two years, from harrowing inquiries into child sexual abuse in various states and rows about a lack of child protection workers in NSW and Victoria, to the latest Australian Institute of Health and Welfare figures showing a 6.6 per cent rise in the national number of notifications of suspected child abuse and neglect on the previous year.

This month, a major study conducted by the Australian National University, Children, Communities and Social Capital, revealed that many children don’t feel safe in their community, are fearful and distrustful of strangers, are frightened of car-related aggression and violence, and feel vulnerable and scared when people are drinking alcohol.

In addition, a recent Fairfax Media investigation found that domestic violence is responsible for three-quarters of the deaths of women in NSW, and two in five of all homicides and assaults in NSW.

But amid all the misery, these new proactive programs to make young people aware of how to protect themselves and help prevent abuse – and to change their own attitudes to violence in the hope they won’t ever become assailants themselves – are providing real hope for the future.

At Engadine High School, for instance, where Extra watched its first Love Bites sessions, there was an assembly for year 10, 11 and 12 students that same week. The newly elected male school captain Kyle Richardson took the stage and invited all the boys and male staff in the audience to stand up and, with him, take the White Ribbon oath to end male violence against women.

Sitting in the front row of the audience, deputy principal Paul Owens felt a moment of panic. ”None of us knew he was going to do that, and my immediate reaction was, ‘Oh my god! What if no one stands?”’ he says. ”There was a moment of absolute silence. And then I could hear movement behind me and all the males in the audience rose as one. It brought tears to so many people’s eyes to see that happen.”

The next week, a group of 13-, 14- and 15-year-old girls came to his office and shyly asked to come in. Then, they told him about a friend they were worried about who was experiencing domestic violence. ”That was so heart-warming to see,” says Owens. ”One of the key parts of the program is about not staying silent on violence and pretend it’s not happening, so it was wonderful to have these students taking that message on board, and whereas once they might have let it slide, they were now taking action because, as the program teaches us, that’s what mates do.”

It’s those kind of results that have heartened those who’ve designed Love Bites.

Maureen Moran was a former school director and social worker anguished at never having enough resources to manage the growing number of cases of at-risk kids. She then collaborated with Women’s Health on the mid-north coast of NSW, and created the program in a bid to try to stem the tide of domestic violence and relationship abuse in the area, to develop and extend it. The pair were joined at NAPCAN by Leesa Waters to help implement and train more people to run the courses.

Waters had despaired, after 20 years in child protection, of the lack of inroads the system was making. It came to a head when she saw a father in a courtroom whose children were being taken away from him. Twenty years before, she’d been the one to recommend he be taken into care. She could see for herself the relentless cycle of family violence continuing unabated.

”It was so depressing to think I’d invested my life in trying to help children, yet it didn’t seem to be making a difference,” she says. ”The violence and child abuse was intergenerational. By the time we became involved, the damage had already been done. I felt there had to be an alternative.

”So these programs have the capacity to get in early and help empower young people, support them and educate them about what’s OK and what’s not. You watch young people going through these programs and the light bulbs go on; they might understand what’s happening in their own families isn’t right, and are able to seek assistance. They have hope. And it also allows all the various agencies to collaborate and work together to achieve successful outcomes in the future.”

Love Bites involves kids watching films about both domestic and family violence and sexual assault, talking about the issues, and taking part in a number of exercises to define what’s acceptable and what’s not. They also hear some of the shocking statistics of violence in Australia: nearly two-thirds of women reporting experiencing at least one incident of physical or sexual violence (Australian Institute of Criminology National Survey); violence against women as the leading contributor to death, disability and illness in Victorian women aged 15-44 (Vic Health); alcohol and drugs being a factor in 48.5 per cent of assaults (Bureau of Statistics); one in three young people experiencing physical violence in personal relationships (ABS).

Another session has them voting Fact or Crap on a number of statements, including the idea that violence is merely part of being a man, alcohol is the only cause of violence, and whether some women provoke men into hitting them. The message being hammered home is straightforward: Violence is always a choice – and it’s a bad one.

In the Northern Territory, where some communities have a very high level of intergenerational violence, senior project officer Ellen Poyner has seen first-hand the changes that can come about. One young man saw a film shown about a party in which a number of girls end up being assaulted, and approached her later.

”If I hadn’t seen that and talked about it, I wouldn’t have thought twice about doing some of that same disrespectful stuff,” he told her. ”But there’s no way I’d do that now!”

She was heartened. ”It’s very easy in a community that has a lot of violence to become focused just on supporting victims,” she says. ”But prevention is such a new field in Australia, and it’s amazing to be having these kinds of conversations with people and getting such great feedback about how confident young people can now feel about what’s a healthy relationship and what’s not.”

The young people on the program end the day by developing a piece of artwork or performance about what they’ve learned. The results have ranged from rap songs to poetry to posters. The images and messages can be both shocking, and liberating. ”Dumbestic Violence – It’s not smart,” reads one; ”We don’t dress for sex, we dress to impress” and ‘Hands Up, speak out against domestic violence”, read others.

”Working in violence prevention is about working in hope rather than despair,” says Bonnie Souter, who in her work at a women’s refuge in country NSW has taken the program to the refuge, schools and young offender centres. ”The day is all about the young people’s views and ideas being challenged, and they go straight in with honesty and sincerity. The program’s always been a success.

”They want to be good boyfriends and girlfriends, they want respectful relationships, and the program empowers them and enables them to … become the next generation of leaders.”

More than 92 per cent of 2500 comments so far say the teens have learnt something from the program.

For Michael and Ellen, their Love Bites day feels like a game-changer. ”It was good to get important things clear and help you decide where you stand,” says Michael. And for Ellen: ”I learnt a lot about sexual assault and the impact it can have,” she says.

Michael and Ellen’s names have been changed to protect their identities.


Program an eye-opener

There were moments during the Love Bites day when 16-year-old schoolgirl Maddie Kemlo felt quite emotional. Seeing the real-life story of a young woman who was beaten almost to death by her boyfriend, then the DVD of a party scenario where girls are abused, and following up with discussions of the issues with her schoolmates, was confronting at times.

”But it was really eye-opening,” says Maddie, a student at Engadine High School. ”I knew issues like domestic violence and sexual assault occurred but I had no idea how prevalent they are in society, especially for young people.

”It was upsetting, but we need to know about these things and both girls and boys need to understand our rights and responsibilities.”

Maddie lives in a very happy home, but she now knows the signs to look out for if things ever to go wrong for her in a relationship, so she’d feel confident about getting out of any situation that didn’t feel right. If anything happened, she also knows who to go to.

”They also showed us how to help other people who might be having problems,” she says.

”I think the program was very, very valuable for us.”

Read more:

Please click here to purchase tickets.

Equal access to healthcare is a basic human right. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people can expect to live up to 10 – 17 years less than non-Indigenous Australians.

Today, March 20 2014 is Oxfam’s National Close the Gap Day, the day aims to support Indigenous health equality by generating conversation and creating awareness about the importance of this critical issue.

Help to make this year even bigger and show your support by hosting a small event such as a morning or afternoon tea in your community, at home or in your workplace. This can be an opportunity to discuss our country’s health inequality issue with family, friends and colleagues and with support we can aim to close the health gap in Australia.

To get involved with Close the Gap Day, register your event now by clicking here.

To download Close the Gap Day resources, please click here.

The findings of the Children, Communities and Social Capital Research Report will be launched today by Megan Mitchell, the National Children’s Commissioner, at the International Symposium on Children and Communities in Canberra.

Excessive use of alcohol, aggressive drivers and the threat of violence make children feel unsafe in their communities, the study from the Australian National University and University of Western Sydney has found.

The report – Putting the pieces in place: Children, communities and social capital in Australia – is based on research with more than 100 children in six communities in eastern Australia.

It found safety was an important issue for children and was most acute for those living in disadvantaged areas, where children were less likely to feel safe in their neighbourhoods.

But it found the use and abuse of alcohol was the single issue highlighted consistently by children as the issue that made them feel unsafe.

“For many of the children, experiences of adult aggression and violence associated with alcohol and cars posed an on-going threat to their sense of security and everyday safety,” said Dr Sharon Bessell from the ANU Crawford School of Public Policy, who led the research with Emeritus Professor Jan Mason of University of Western Sydney.

“The Children were acutely aware that adults become highly unpredictable when drunk, and this made them feel vulnerable.

“These feelings of vulnerability were particularly acute at disadvantaged sites where the majority of children had witnessed drunken behaviour in public places.”

The study examined what children thought about their communities and what the children would like to change.

The findings paint the most detailed picture yet of how decisions taken by adults impact the lives and feelings of the youngest members of the community.

Other issues highlighted by the children include:

• The importance of a good physical environments including proper footpaths and areas free of litter, alcohol and cigarette smoke;

• Feeling disconnected from the adults in their communities because of long working hours and financial pressures on parents;

• ‘Adult solutions’ are not always solutions for children. An example was the provision of children’s rooms in many clubs and venues. A significant proportion of children found these rooms boring and exclusionary, something to be endured while the adults had fun.

The project was funded by an Australian Research Council Linkage Grant and carried out in collaboration with The Benevolent Society and NAPCAN.

A copy of the full report is available here

When: Thursday 13 March & Friday 14 March 2014 9am – 5pm
Where: Springbank Room Level 1, JG Crawford Building 132, Lennox Crossing, ANU, Canberra
This event is free and open to the public.

Although children are thought to benefit from strong communities, we know very little about their views on what makes a community strong and supportive. The symposium aims to provide an answer to this question as well as discussing the place and roles of children within Australian communities.

Organised by Children’s Policy Centre, Crawford School of Public Policy at the Australian National University (ANU), the symposium will present the findings of the Children, Communities and Social Capital research which explored what children (aged 8-12) think about their communities, how they experience ‘community’ on a daily basis and what vision they have for their communities. The findings of this research project, undertaken in partnership with the Australian National University (ANU), The University of Western Sydney (UWS), The Benevolent Society and NAPCAN, will be formally launched at the symposium by the the National Children’s Commissioner, Megan Mitchell.

The lead researchers of Children, Communities and Social Capital, Dr Sharon Bessell from ANU and Emeritus Professor Jan Mason from UWS, will be speaking at the event, as well as many other prominent researchers from Australia, the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Germany.

For a full list of symposium speakers and to find out more, download the flyer by clicking here.

To register for the symposium, please click here.

NAPCAN’s Angela Walsh with Bowraville preschoolers. The preschool receives support from UBS Optimus Foundation which ensures children are safe and ready for their future.

Article by Damon Kitney printed in The Weekend Australian, September 21, 2013:

THE plush 16th-floor offices of Sydney’s Chifley Tower, home to the Australian headquarters of investment bank UBS, boast stunning views of Sydney Harbour.

There, some of the nation’s most powerful bankers wine and dine the elite of corporate Australia with five-star cuisine and do deals that transform the business world.

They are a world away from the tiny town of Bowraville.

The picturesque community in the NSW mid-north coast hinterland, midway between Coffs Harbour and Kempsey, may have a pretty main street with its grand old pub, restored stone courthouse building and a fine chocolates shop.

Yet the pleasant facade has long masked a deep darkness. Bowraville has been renowned in official statistics as the fourth most poverty-stricken town in NSW, where vandalism and alcohol and substance abuse are rife in the community. The town also was the site of the Bowraville murders, a series of killings between 1990 and 1991, when three local Aboriginal children were abducted and murdered.

The initials UBS mean nothing to most of the locals or those in the Aboriginal mission on the outskirts of the town.

But at the local Central School and preschool, they now represent a lifeline.

The UBS Optimus Foundation is the little-known philanthropic arm of the global investment bank. It is a charitable grant-making foundation funded by its clients and dedicated to ensuring children around the world are healthy, safe and ready for their future.

For many years, in true Swiss-style, it has quietly flown under the radar.

It first had links with Australia in 2006 when UBS partnered with the National Association for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect in its Kids Can National Awards, awarding a $25,000 grant for the Love Bites program that educates young people on sex, consent, power and control in the relationships.

Two years later UBS Optimus forged a partnership with NAPCAN to protect children from violence and sexual abuse, including backing the Growing Respect and Respectful Relationships programs that work alongside communities to strengthen their capacity to support children and young people to have healthy and respectful relationships.

The children at Bowraville preschool and the town’s Central School are now part of those programs, which have extended to 130 sites across Australia

Forty per cent of the children at the Bowraville preschool are indigenous.

To NAPCAN’s general manager of programming, evaluation and growing respect, Angela Walsh, the support and the impact it is having has meant some are now giving Bowraville a new name: “Bowradice”.

“It has been very easy for us to work with both the pre-school and the school because Bowraville is such a partnership community and people do work together because it is the right thing to do. In relation to the “Respectful Relationships” program, we have always had a vision it should start in pre-school.

“If you can have consistent language from kinder through schooling, you have the building blocks of respectful relationships.”

The school’s principal, Malcolm Mcfarlane, says he is confident the program is changing Bowraville from the town a Nine Network 60 Minutes documentary described in 2009 as the place young people were desperate to leave. “Like any community there is a limit to what improvement will be created organically here. But the families are involved now. My belief is that when you have families understanding what is happening within the school and they know that they are a part of that, it is not a case of the children talking about just school talk. It is reinforcement and it feeds off itself,” he says.

Jackie Bradshaw, a director at the pre-school who has worked there for three years and watched it double in size over the past two, says the funding from UBS Optimus — through NAPCAN — has been vital. “The backing is essential because you are constantly looking for your next grant to be able to continue to build on to your program.”

She claims the fact the program is engaging the whole community means it will be successful.

NAPCAN has also been backed previously by the CAGES Foundation, a philanthropic group set up in 2009 by the Salteri family to fund initiatives that work with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families both at home and in pre-school spheres.

“We came in with the surety of knowing NAPCAN had the partnership with UBS and that it had been through the Optimus evaluation process,” said the foundation’s executive officer Rachel Kerry, who was formerly with Perpetual.

UBS Australia separately supports a range of philanthropic programs including a five-year partnership with the Nura Gili Centre for Indigenous Programs at the University of NSW.

But the NAPCAN-UBS Optimus partnership, now worth more than $1.5 million over six years, forms part of a major Asia-Pacific push by the bank’s philanthropic arm: 45 of the 127 projects it supports globally are in Asia.

In May, Optimus opened a regional office in Hong Kong to spearhead and expand its operations in the Asia-Pacific, using it to nurture interest from Asian families seeking philanthropic opportunities that focus on improving the lives and the potential of children.

“We’ve been looking at Hong Kong for a long time. Hong Kong has had enormous wealth growth and we are finding that a huge part of what clients are asking for, they are very interested in this issue,” says Zurich-based Optimus chief executive Phyllis Costanza.

“In particular, the awareness of social issues is very high, because people in Asia are living with an enormous wealth divide. They see poverty everyday.”

She says right now is an exciting time to be in the China region because the philanthropic landscape is changing dramatically.

“The older generation is still doing traditional philanthropy — giving back to the communities they grew up in and focusing on charities. But the younger generation want to take a much more business-like approach to philanthropy — not only philanthropy in general but funding social entrepreneurs,” Costanza says.

She says the younger generation in families is more international in their outlook and prepared to fund a wider array of things.

“Not just tools like social entrepreneurs, but other areas not necessarily in their communities, like job generation, the environment. And they are keen to know whether their money is going to have an impact.”

But rather than dividing families, she says the changes are uniting them.

“Often parents come to us and say, ‘I really want to get my child engaged in something we can do as a family’. So they have their son or daughter work directly with the Optimus Foundation to develop a project together,” Costanza says.

“It is fascinating the way it is used as a way to help engage the next generation.”

Earlier this year researchers at the Queensland Institute of Medical Research, the University of Queensland and Hunan Institute of Parasitic Diseases received 1.5 million Swiss francs from Optimus to expand their “Magic Glasses” education campaign into rural China. The program centres on a cartoon DVD promoting hygiene, featuring a small child who puts on “magic glasses” that can suddenly see worm eggs and larvae in bright colours.

Optimus is now looking at options for partners in mainland China and in Singapore.

It is also working with NAPCAN on a partnership in Thailand with the long-established Mercy Centre, which works to help the children and communities in the slums of Bangkok.

Optimus has funded an innovation project for 12 months, which is creating a child protection curriculum and programming for primary and preschools in the bustling Thai capital.

Angela Walsh believes it is only the beginning of what is to come in the region. “Historically Optimus ran out of Zurich. It was very Zurich-centric. But Optimus have now set up their office in Hong Kong. And I think there will be stronger regional links,” she says.

“I would hope that we will start to build those relationships across Southeast Asia. They are keen to take the work we are doing in Bangkok to Cambodia and other countries.”

See article at the Weekend Australian

John Elferink, NT Minister for Children and Families, Launches Childrens Week in the NT.

Press Release:


18 October 2013

Minister for Children and Families John Elferink today helped kick-off Children’s Week celebrations at the official launch.

This year’s Darwin launch host was Maddison Cocker, aged 12, who also hosted the event last year. Children’s Week runs from 19 to 27 October.

The week is a national event to celebrate the right of children to enjoy childhood and is a time for children to demonstrate their talents, skills and abilities.

Mr Elferink said the theme for Children’s Week this year is taken from the United Nations Charter on the Rights of the Child Article 31: ‘The right to play and participate freely in cultural life and the arts’.

“As part of this focus, NAPCAN NT has encouraged organisations across the Territory to talk with children about their favourite play activity and to then share this information with parents and communities,” Mr Elferink said.

“Children are the future and we must provide them with the opportunity to be nurtured and grow.

“All children have a right to a safe and happy childhood, regardless of race, colour, sex, ability, religion, nationality or social origin.

“The Country Liberals Government will support families to see children grow in a positive environment – now and into the future.

“Children and their families are invited to attend a wide range of events and activities held throughout the week.

“This is a time of celebration and I encourage everybody to get involved.”

The full lists of Children’s Week events across the Northern Territory can be found at: 

Media Contact: 

Danielle Lede 0404 515 414

Children’s Week is an annual event celebrated in Australia during the fourth week in October. In 1996 it was decided to adopt a permanent theme: “A Caring World Shares” as a reflection of Children’s Week aims while at the same time acknowledging the designated year on national posters and other printed materials.

Children’s Week celebrates the right of children to enjoy childhood. It is also a time for children to demonstrate their talents, skills and abilities. For more information please visit the Childrens Week website here

In the Northern Territory NAPCAN is the local coordinator of Children’s Week.

Please register your local Northern Territory event here and NAPCAN will publish it from our website via a link to go here.

Across the Northern Territory

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 Darwin Children’s Week Activities

(Click on the graphics to download complete flyers)

NAPCAN NT Children's Week 2013 Invite


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Alice Springs Children’s Week Activities

(Click on the graphics to download complete flyers)

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Alice Springs Pool Party Children's Week 2013


Katherine Children’s Week Activities 

(Click on the graphics to download complete flyers)

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Palmerston Children’s Week Activities

(Click on the graphics to download complete flyers)

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Download the Children’s Week Poster

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Children’s Week Logo

Childrens Week Logo

The Children’s Week logo may only be used in association with Children’s Week activities and events coordinated by each state or territories official committee. Cases falling outside these specifications require permission from their state or territory body. Please see here for more information on use of the Logo.

NAPCAN’s highly successful community service video which has been viewed over 10,000,000 times on youtube across a number of NAPCAN and partners accounts.