Speech at Alannah & Madeline Foundation’s eSmart luncheon in Broadmeadows

Offentliggjort lørdag d. 26. november 2011

Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Premier of Victoria Ted Baillieu, Chairman John Bertrand, Dr. Judith Slocombe, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen

As the International Patron of The Alannah and Madeline Foundation, I’ve been very much looking forward to this important occasion – taking the Foundation’s eSmart project into the wider community.

My involvement with the Foundation started in 2005.  It was clear back then that the Foundation’s work made a real difference.  And today, through their innovative programs and initiatives they are keeping even more children safe from violence – not only in the real world but, also in cyberspace.  This is one of the most important responsibilities that we as a society undertake. The importance of providing them with the most basic human right of having a safe and happy childhood cannot be underestimated.

I’m proud to be able to support the dedicated team and the professional and caring work of the Alannah and Madeline Foundation.

I would like to spend a moment touching on some of the Foundation’s programs and initiatives that all aim to fulfil the Foundation’s vision of keeping children safe from violence:

The Care Program provides counselling and long-term case management support to help children, who have witnessed or are exposed to violence, recover from their trauma and build resilience. 

By the end of this year, the Foundation will have delivered a total of 25,000 Buddy Bags.  These bags are packed each fortnight by a team of volunteers and distributed to 230 women’s refuges.

The Buddy Bags Program reaches out to children in emergency accommodation as a result of violence.  Often the children arrive at these refuges in the middle of the night with nothing but, what they are wearing. Buddy Bags contain basic items such as a toothbrush, pyjamas, socks, underwear and also a book and a teddy bear to provide comfort in an extremely difficult time.

The Alannah & Madeline Foundation identified early on that the most common cause of violence in children’s lives is bullying.  Sadly the terrible impact of bullying has moved to cyberspace.  Research also suggests that those who are bullied in school are also most likely to be bullied on the net – the problem follows you.

Children are on the internet every day and disturbingly they are exposed to many other online risks such as accessing inappropriate content, identity theft and online sexual predators.

Like face-to-face bullying, cyber bullying can have a devastating impact on the lives and the future wellbeing of these children.

In 2002, the Foundation established the National Centre Against Bullying.  This body is made up of Australian and internationally recognised experts in the field of bullying, cyber-bullying and cyber safety.  It works closely with Government agencies, industry, academics, educators and psychologists to reduce bullying and to minimise its harm on young people.

With respect to bullying in schools the Foundation runs two programs that are aimed at prevention, behavioural change and teaching children fundamental values, what it means to be a good mate and caring for others.

The first one is the Better Buddies Program which has proved to be very successful and is now used in more than 800 Australian primary schools. 

This program has also been a source of inspiration to me. Bullying is a universal challenge and today through my own foundation, the Mary Foundation, we run a project in cooperation with Save the Children Denmark, which is called it in Danish “Fri for Mobberi” (Free of Bullying).

Free of Bullying has proved to be very successful and is now in more than 1.300 preschools and 450 schools in Denmark. This means that over 100.000 Danish children are learning the importance of being a good friend, caring for each other, valuing differences and respecting others.

And today we are able to share our expertise, developments and ideas to benefit the programs in both countries.

The reason we are all here today is to talk about the second program - The Alannah and Madeline Foundation’s cyber safety system, eSmart.

During my visit to Australia in 2008, I attended a dinner at the National Gallery aimed at gaining support for the development of a system for schools to help them address the growing issue of cyber bullying.

This framework is today known as eSmart and is helping thousands of young people across Australia to be smart, safe and responsible online.

With funding from the Commonwealth Government, the Foundation was able to pilot eSmart in 159 schools across Australia. The pilot produced exceptional results.

In June this year, the Foundation launched the national roll out of eSmart. The vision is to reach all 10.000 schools in Australia.

The Foundation is now working together with the Victorian Government as part of its Stamp out Bullying program to progressively roll out eSmart to more than 1.800 schools over the next four years.

And together with the Queensland Government the Foundation is working to introduce eSmart into all Queensland state schools. Schools are just the start. The program needs to go beyond the schoolyard and into the broader community to help disadvantaged children.

There are many children who do not have computers at home and some that cannot be reached through the schooling system. These children often rely on libraries and other community settings to access technology and are particularly vulnerable to online risks.

There are more than 10 million people who belong to libraries in Australia, a key place where thousands of Australians access the internet.

The Alannah and Madeline Foundation’s vision is to develop eSmart libraries and eSmart community centres in order to ensure these young people access and responsibly use technology, and develop the skills to become smarter and safer online. 

I will be attending a luncheon today with the Prime Minister, the Premier of Victoria, business leaders and philanthropists to discuss potential strategies for the introduction of eSmart into libraries.

eSmart is a world-leading system and one which Australia should be very proud of.

I wish the Alannah and Madeline Foundation together with its’ partners every success in achieving their important goal of creating eSmart libraries throughout Australia.

Thank you.

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