Europe to follow Australia’s lead in online child protection

Mon 28-02-2022 13:00 pm AEST

Members of the European Parliament’s (EP) Intergroup on Children’s Rights visited the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation (ACCCE) in Brisbane last week (24-25 February). The visit was a two-day information exchange following the group’s strong interest in Australia’s online safety and countering child exploitation initiatives.

Hosted by the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and the eSafety Commissioner, the study visit was an opportunity to showcase how the AFP, ACCCE and our partners are leading the way in the fight to protect children online, no matter where they are in the world.

The group included the Hon Caterina Chinnici and the Hon David Lega who are Co-Chairs of the Intergroup as well as Mr Emilio Puccio, Secretary-General of the Intergroup.

The Intergroup represents the first formal body in the EP that will mainstream children’s rights and assess the impact of legislative and non-legislative work on children. Its mission is to ensure the EU legislature develops clear rules and specific obligations for Electronic Services Providers to uphold in order to ensure appropriate protection for the wellbeing of children using the internet.

The visit offered an opportunity to advocate in support of a robust, child-centred approach to combatting child sexual exploitation and abuse in forthcoming European Union legislation. In particular, to include some of the world-leading tools and unique features of the Australian system. There was great interest in Australian best practice initiatives, noting consistency in its proposed Digital Services Act with Australia’s approach and as such, advice was sought on resourcing and operational matters.

On day one, the delegates attended the virtual Digital Industry Engagement event hosted by Home Affairs. The event invited industry partners and discussed tackling the livestreaming of child sexual abuse. Assistant Commissioner Northern Command Lesa Gale was a panellist for the event, along with eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman-Grant.

A tour of the ACCCE was led by Commander for ACCCE and Human Exploitation Hilda Sirec, showcasing the purpose-built facility and inviting the group to ask questions of our subject matter experts from Covert Online, Victim Identification, Child Protection Triage Unit and Prevention and Engagement teams.

A Q&A session in the afternoon allowed the group to learn more about how the ACCCE was established and what challenges law enforcement face going forward in the fight against online child offenders.

MEP Lega expressed his gratitude and awe of the members for the work they do. He thanked them for their time and for sharing their experiences with the group.

“Your energy and endurance to keep fighting for children is amazing and inspirational. How proud I am to have met you all.”

The sentiment was extended by MEP Chinnici, who agreed sincerely.

“Thank you for everything you do for children.”

On day two, the group were invited to discuss research into ‘What we know about child sexual abuse live streaming, offenders, victims and facilitators’ with Research Manager for the Australian Institute of Criminology, Sarah Napier.

The delegation were then invited to sign the ACCCE vision board to show their commitment to children being free from exploitation.

Commander Sirec thanked the group for the valuable exchange in ideas and was pleased to have formed partnerships, noting the expanse of work to be done in this space going forward.

“The ACCCE is all about valued partnerships and I look forward to offering assistance in any way we can,” she said.