Commander Hilda Sirec is the Manager of the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation - a national multi-agency commitment by the Australian Government to prepare, prevent, pursue and protect children against harm.
I’m so proud of my job. And my people. Every day we come in, working to rid the world of abusers and allow kids to be kids.
I work with a vast range of people on a daily basis - our national and international law enforcement partners, NGO’s, parents, teachers, carers – almost everyone has a part to play in child protection.
Part of my role is to provide a platform for people to speak up. Law enforcement provides avenue to report abuse, tell the secret, start the conversation.
We are here as the governing legal body, but also as members of the community. A child safe society is our top priority – and we all work tirelessly towards the goal of having zero online child sexual exploitation.
The AFP and the ACCCE are regularly seeing cases involving children and young people being targeted by online child sex offenders through social networking, image or video sharing apps, or instant messaging to self-produce online child sexual exploitation material.
Offenders are also targeting parents or carers for access to children. Sometimes parents or carers are being offered free products, or their children being asked to model clothing, which can unfortunately lead to the grooming of their children.
A child can be approached in a matter of minutes and some grooming operations are quite sophisticated. Police have seen offenders using multiple platforms, with multiple identities to groom as many children as possible.
So many messages are sent out around child abuse and reporting. I like to keep it simple;
- Know the signs
- Educate yourself and your children about personal safety
- Talk to your child about online safety
- Ask who your child is talking to online
- Know what your child is doing online
- Ensure privacy settings are up to date
Online child sexual exploitation can be reported to the ACCCE at https://www.accce.gov.au/report or to call Crime stoppers on 1800 333 000.
The ThinkUKnow program has a number of resources for Kindergarten/Prep to Year 12, encouraging critical thinking and learnings to prevent harm, to identify safe or unsafe situations and know when and how to seek help. https://www.thinkuknow.org.au/
Parents and carers play an important role in protecting children from harm. The most important thing that parents and carers can do is to start the conversation about online child safety with children from an early age, and to continue talking with them regularly throughout all stages of their lives.
My aim? That police will one day not have to pursue this crime type, because it won’t exist. We are not there yet… but we are working on it.
Come on Australia, it’s time to talk about child exploitation