Last week was National Child Protection Week so it was only fitting that it was ushered in by the 2014 National Protective Behaviours conference which was held September 4 and 5 at the Esplanade Hotel Fremantle.
The conference brought together professionals working in the child welfare sector from across Australia with local and international guest speakers and centred on the theme of ‘Awareness and Education: The Keys to Prevention.’
Protective Behaviours (PB) is a preventative, living skills programme which enables people of all ages to develop skills to help them deal with all forms of difficult and/or unsafe situations.
Developed by Peg Flanreau West, a pastoral care teacher in Wisconsin, PB was introduced into Australia to replace the Stranger Danger programme in the late 1990’s.
Conference participants gave a standing ovation to keynote speaker Hannah Baker, a young woman from Western Australia who bravely told her story of sexual abuse and gave a young persons perspective on the child protection systems in Western Australia. Hannah outlined many areas where there is room for improvement in the education, child protection, health and justice systems and inspired the audience to consider how in Western Australia we can learn from the children and young people we work with, seeking and listening to their feedback about the services they receive and involving them in decisions affecting their lives.
Hannah Bakers’s e-book can be downloaded from Smashwords and is essential reading for any one working with children and young people.
Other keynote presentations at this year’s conference were conducted by representatives from Protective Behaviours WA, WA Police, Parkerville Children and Youth Care, Constable Care, University of Queensland, Bikers Against Child Abuse (BACA) and others. Notable key note presenters were Erin Merryn, founder of Erin’s Law; Helen Milroy, Commissioner for the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse; and Jill Starishevsky, Assistant District Attorney, New York City and Author My Body Belongs to Me.
Two of the keynote speakers took time prior to the conference to visit Parkerville Children and Youth Care facilities while in Perth with Erin Merryn touring Australia’s first Child Advocacy Centre, the George Jones Child Advocacy Centre in Armadale and Koko the Clown entertaining children and staff at the Parkerville Campus in Parkerville.
Erin Merryn is a childhood sexual abuse survivor turned author, speaker, child advocate and activist and is the founder and president of Erin’s Law, which mandates that all public schools in the US teach primary school students anti-abuse education. In just a few short years, she has persuaded 19 US states to pass similar versions of the law. Illinois was the first to do so in 2011, naming the law after Erin, in honour of her efforts to protect children from sexual abuse. Read more about Erin and her work at www.erinmerryn.net or view the Community Newspapers interview
Parkerville Children and Youth Care currently delivers the Protective Behaviours programme in a number of WA schools in the Perth metropolitan area, for more information on Protective Behaviours and how you can access the programme please call (08) 9290 1200.