Screening of The Children in the Pictures
Good afternoon and thank you for the introduction.
I am pleased to welcome you to the screening of ‘The Children in the Pictures’ documentary and subsequent panel discussion.
I would like to thank Steve Baird and the International Justice Mission for the opportunity to partner with you for today’s event.
I’d like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet today, the Ngunnawal people, and pay my respects to their elders, past and present.
I also wish to acknowledge any victims and survivors who are here with us today.
It is encouraging to see so many people here this evening. I’d like to particularly welcome my parliamentary colleagues, agency heads, the eSafety Commissioner and our law enforcement colleagues.
I would like to also take the opportunity to acknowledge the film makers, Simon Nasht and Dev Akhim, here with us this evening, and we thank them for the opportunity to share this thought-provoking documentary with you.
The threat: Online child sexual exploitation and Abuse
As a society, one of our core values is to protect the most vulnerable.
The film you are about to see will demonstrate that online child sexual exploitation and abuse is becoming increasingly prevalent, organised and extreme.
This abuse has a devastating impact on victims and survivors, who are not only subject to sexual abuse, but are then re-traumatised every time the material depicting their abuse is shared online.
Although the documentary began filming several years ago, the issues it raises and the challenges for law enforcement are unfortunately even more relevant today.
While law enforcement methods have evolved, we continue to grapple with new and innovative technologies that facilitate and hide the sexual abuse of children.
Keeping pace with the threat is still our greatest challenge.
UNICEF estimates that worldwide, one in three children under the age of 18 is an internet user, and that one in three internet users is a child.
We know that society benefits from being online, through commerce, education and to connect socially, but criminal networks have also capitalised on this connectivity.
The internet provides a mostly unregulated space where adults and children can interact, resulting in considerable risks to child safety.
Enablers such as anonymising technologies pose significant challenges to law enforcement, making it even harder to detect and disrupt offenders and rescue children from these horrific crimes.
In addition, despite efforts through the Voluntary Principles to Counter Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse and the eSafety Commissioner’s Safety‑by‑Design, there is much more that the tech industry can do to protect the most vulnerable in our community.
Government has heard the call to action and remains committed to pursuing offenders and enablers, and protecting victims and survivors.
Australia’s National Strategy to Prevent and Respond to Child Sexual Abuse 2021‑2030 provides a holistic framework for preventing and better responding to child sexual abuse in all settings, including online.
Australia has a comprehensive and world-leading framework of offences relating to child sexual abuse committed online and by Australians overseas. However, the borderless nature of this crime demands international cooperation.
We are working closely with a range of international partners to enhance policy, criminal justice and law enforcement responses on a global scale - there should be no safe havens for offenders.
We continue to call on digital industry to step up their efforts to counter online child sexual abuse, and to deploy tools and resources to protect children online. Industry action must be commensurate with the threat.
The AFP’s world-leading Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation is at the forefront of combatting child exploitation in Australia and coordinates national efforts to prevent child sexual abuse.
Working in collaboration with national and international cross-sector partners, the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation is world leading in its technology and intelligence led investigative capability, victim identification, prevention and engagement efforts.
Through strong partnerships, the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation, AFP and state and territory police have achieved significant operational results.
I would like to acknowledge the incredible efforts of all our front-line workers; the value of your work cannot be overstated, especially given the personal cost this line of work can have on you.
I would like to make a special mention of one officer in particular, Detective Inspector Jon Rouse, Queensland’s Australian of the Year 2019.
You will see in the documentary that Jon has dedicated his career to protecting children from sexual abuse, and made significant contributions to advancing victim identification capabilities, and advocating for victims and survivors.
His upcoming retirement from Queensland Police is a significant loss to our law enforcement community, but he leaves with our gratitude and thanks for many years of dedicated service.
Following tonight’s screening, I urge you to consider your influence in your roles as policy and decision makers, and think about how you can steer this conversation in the public sphere and support global efforts to combat this crime.
It is our collective responsibility to take action together to keep children safe.