Bravehearts is Australia’s child protection charity that offers counseling for victims of child sexual abuse and their families. It aims to make Australia the safest place on Earth to raise children by countering child sexual assault. It was founded by Australia’s well known child protection advocate Hetty Johnston AM in 1997. This idea was flourished after much research and consultation with the schools, child protection and law enforcing agencies to reduce such occurrences in each state and territory across Australia.
One child out of every five becomes a victim to sexual assault before their eighteenth birthday, in Australia. That is more than 1000 children a week. Bravehearts emerged with the objective to lessen this number to half by employing government, business and community support. The organization was established in 1997 by Hetty Johnston with the perception of making Australia the safest place to raise a child. Bravehearts initiated a movement for change in how the matter of child sexual assault be dealt with by the government, law and people. Previously Bravehearts operated under the names, ASCA (Advocates for Survivors of Child Abuse) and PAACSA (People’s Alliance Against Child Sexual Abuse).
The story hidden beneath the foundation of Bravehearts as Hetty Johnston recalls is when she witnessed an incident of sexual assault on a child very close to her home in Queensland when she herself was young. This compelled her to speak up on the topic which was at that time a taboo subject, and moved it into the light to gain people’s attention and raise relevant concern. The beginning was not at all easy as no one was prepared to hear anything publically on the topic so conservative. Apart from financial challenges that the organization faced, there was severe criticism from the society at huge level. But it was high time to break the silence on the topic since Johnston had a vision, an idea in her mind that she wanted to make real. She wanted to make Australia free from this menace and targeted to lessen the number of victims to at least half of the existing count. For this, Johnston raised this issue in front of the community to gain their support and to make them aware so they may cooperate to make Bravehearts an influential lobby to convince the government to divert its attention to this cause.
Since its formation in 1997 and after facing many critical times, Bravehearts is now a registered charity that works in Arundel, New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and Queensland with around 50 staff members and many volunteers across Australia. It gained massive support of corporate and government sector alike and has managed to raise awareness on child sexual assault among a huge Snumber of people.
Mission, Vision and Guiding Principle:
Bravehearts’ mission is to stop child sexual assault across Australia.
Its vision is to make Australia the safest place on earth to raise a child by 2020.
The guiding principle is to ensure that the interests of child protection are placed before every other consideration without any compromise, fear or favor.
The 3 Piers to Prevention:
The Three Piers to Prevention is a strategic plan identified by Bravehearts to cut down the number of sexually assaulted children across Australia to half by the year 2020. The Three Piers are “Educate, Empower and Protect” that focus on teaching children personal safety strategies, raising awareness through workshops and campaigns, child counseling and ensuring the effective participation of community and government.
Personal safety strategies are taught to children to make them recognize the warning signs and to know what measure to take if they feel unsafe and insecure in a circumstance. It is done through lectures or interactive sessions conducted in classrooms in a way that is non-confronting and highly effective. In 2006, Bravehearts launched ‘Ditto’s Keep Safe Adventure’ program where children are educated about their privacy and taught to recognize unsafe situations so they may know how to act if needed. Another training launched was named ‘Ditto in a Box’ that is targeted for children in lower primary and child care houses.
It deals with the provision of therapeutic support to children under care of the organization. It provides training and workshops to children, teachers, community workers, health care professionals etc on topics relevant to child sexual assault. It has also designed on online training course for people in remote areas. Bravehearts arranges awareness campaigns for people to increase their participation in prevention of these acts through their engagement in group activities and response programs. It launched SADS (Sexual Assault Disclosure Scheme) in 2001that provides a platform to adult survivors to communicate in a non-confronting environment with the police.
Bravehearts ensure that victims of child sexual assault are given proper counseling by specialist psychologists and educators. It believes that the survivors must be given court support to establish criminal justice and for this it promotes efficient engagement of government and people. It advocates the case of victims to the police and agencies of government when they have difficulty in demanding criminal justice.
- It has been launching the annual White Balloon Day since 1997.
- White Balloon Day is launched at the Parliament House as a national event.
- It launched its Sexual Assault Disclosure Scheme (SADS) in 2001.
- In 2012 the Government announced a National Royal Commission into child sexual assault after years of lobbying by Bravehearts.
- It is now provided funds by the Federal Government to deliver training to therapists.
- It boasts the launching of its Court Support Program for sexual assault survivors.
- Its policy regarding child sex offenders is adopted by Queensland State Government.
- It secured a chair in the government’s working party on cyber safety.
- Bravehearts participates in the Federal Criminal Justice Forum.
- It received an Australian Crime and Violence Prevention Award in 2005 from Australian Institute of Criminology.
Bravehearts is proud that it is recognized in the world for making a difference in child protection for many years. It has received widespread acknowledgement for its work by survivors, parents, teachers, politicians, religious authorities, law enforcing agencies and community groups at large.