Does Australia need a National Child Safety Curriculum?
The parents of Daniel Morcombe, who was tragically abducted and murdered in 2003 while waiting to catch a bus, are seeking to have the Daniel Morcombe Child Safety Curriculum (Curriculum) rolled out across Australia as part of the national curriculum, currently under review.
In the wake of prominent child sex abuse cases, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that the Morcombes were at Parliament House in Canberra to urge federal decision makers to adopt the Curriculum. The Curriculum is already being considered by the Review of the National Curriculum, conducted by a panel appointed by the Federal Minister for Education.
The Curriculum was developed by the Queensland Department of Education, Training and Employment in partnership with the Daniel Morcombe Foundation. It is aimed at children in Prep (Kindergarten) to Year 9 to teach these children three key safety messages:
- recognise – warning signs, and be aware of your surroundings;
- react – appropriately; and
- report – incidents to adults.
These safety messages are developed and taught appropriately at each age level. The Curriculum is currently being taught in Queensland schools, and goes beyond child safety in aiming to teach children about personal awareness, as well as cybersafety and phone safety. The Morcombes are quoted by the Sydney Morning Herald article as saying that the skills taught to children who study the Curriculum could also help to prevent instances of sexual abuse, such as those committed by singer Rolf Harris.
A national child safety curriculum has been argued for in submissions to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (Royal Commission). The Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW) endorses the Daniel Morcombe Child Safety Curriculum as a good example of a child safety education program that could be administered nationally. The AASW views teaching the Curriculum as a strategy that will address, prevent and respond to institutional sexual abuse. A further submission from Bravehearts Inc, stresses the importance of government funding and support for groups such as the Morcombe Foundation, to help them increase the impact of their awareness campaigns which target young people with preventative and early intervention messages.
Child abuse a constant threat
Although the recommendations of the Review of the National Curriculum are not due until the end of this month, the revelation this week of a horrific case of child sex abuse which occurred at a South Australian Government-run residential care facility serves as a further reminder of the magnitude and prevalence of the issue of child protection and the importance of introducing measures to try and prevent it. Specific details of this latest case have not yet been revealed, however an employee of Families SA, which ran the facility in question, has been charged with sexually abusing at least seven preschool children while at the facility. South Australian Premier Jay Wetherill has said that he has ordered a Royal Commission into child abuse as a result of this latest case. If the teachings of the Curriculum could help to prevent any further violation of child safety and protection then its importance can’t be underestimated.
Do we need the Daniel Morcombe Curriculum to be taught nationally?
About the author
Peter Fu is the Assistant Editor – School Governance. He can be contacted here.