‘It’s a Penalty’ report launches in the pacific

Wed 27-07-2022 09:29 am AEST

A new report has been launched that analyses aspects of Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (CSEA) across the Commonwealth of Nations, prompting a discussion on the reforms we can make to protect children in Australia and the Pacific.

Members from the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation (ACCCE), and AFP Child Protection Operations and Human Trafficking contributed to a whole of government response to the Australian chapter of the report.

ACCCE and Human Exploitation Commander Hilda Sirec was a panellist at the launch event on Wednesday 27 July 2022 and spoke about the prevalence of the issue in Australia.

“We have to keep PACE. We have to ensure we have Prevention initiatives in place. Continue to drive Awareness on this issue. Collaboration is key, and we need to Educate people that this a whole of community problem and needs a whole of community solution,” Commander Sirec said.

The event was attended in person and virtually by members of government departments including Home Affairs, Education and the Attorney General’s Department, as well as the Human Rights Commission, not for profit organisations and various corporate and law firms.

It’s a Penalty is a UK-based Non-Government Organisation working globally to end abuse, exploitation and human trafficking. The report is an output from their advocacy programme, CommonProtect, which focuses on delivering improved protection for children from sexual exploitation and abuse throughout the Commonwealth of Nations.

Working in collaboration with governments, civil society organisations, child rights champions and Commonwealth institutions, CommonProtect is the Commonwealth-wide movement to end impunity for child sexual exploitation and abuse, improve access to justice for survivors, and ensure better child protection.

Over the last two years, Special Council at Clayton Utz Miriam Azzo has been working with It's a Penalty, on the Commonwealth wide project to produce the report which analyses the criminalisation of CSEA; gaps in prosecution of CSEA offences; gaps in protection of child; and efforts made towards prevention of CSEA - across 21 Commonwealth Member States from Africa, Asia, the Americas and the Pacific.

“We are on track to send humans to Mars in the 2030s. But yet we can’t protect our children from abuse… We need to fight what is happening to them,” Ms Azzo said.

The findings throughout the report demonstrate that all Commonwealth countries can take steps to better protect children, whether through legal reform, improved implementation and enforcement, more comprehensive and fully-resourced child protection systems, or increased awareness and education—or all of the above.

Other panellists at the launch event included:

  • The Hon. Michael Kirby AC CMG, International jurist, Educator and former Judge;
  • Dr Michael Salter (Scientia Fellow and Associate Professor of Criminology at the University of New South Wales);
  • Professor Jennifer Burn (Director, Anti-Slavery Australia);
  • Bernice Lata (Legal Rights Officer, Fiji Women's Rights Movement);
  • Carol Ronken (Director of Research, Bravehearts);
  • Craig Hughes-Cashmore (Survivor of Childhood Sexual Abuse and CEO and Co-Founder of the Survivors & Mates Support Network);
  • Elise Gordon (Senior Research Analyst, Walk Free); and
  • a special address by the Commonwealth Secretary General, The Rt Hon Patricia Scotland QC.

For those who were unable to attend, you can register to view the launch here: ‘It’s a Penalty’ Common Protect Report