Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Minister for Communications Malcolm Turnbull, Minister for Citizenship and Communities Victor Dominello, Danish Minister for Cultural Affairs Marianne Jelved, Chairman John Bertrand, Dr. Judith Slocombe, and Walter Mikac, Founding Patron, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen.
Bullying is a serious problem with severe consequences for the long-term wellbeing of children. Its’ presence is not limited to certain countries or levels in society – bullying is a universal challenge. And with the transformation in our lives, as a result of the digital revolution, bullying now has a new platform on which to operate.
New devices and new technologies have enriched our lives but have also introduced new challenges. Children, in particular, face significant risks in the online world, including cyberbullying, identity theft and the threat of exposure to sexual predators.
Technology has extended the reach of bullying from the schoolyard to the home. Home is no longer a sanctuary. Bullying has moved from an issue confined to school hours, to an issue that can impact children every minute of every day.
How we respond to these new challenges is crucial.
The Alannah and Madeline Foundation has led the way in recent years with the development of the eSmart framework, a series of cybersafety programs designed to educate and empower both individuals and organisations to behave in a way that is smart, safe and responsible in the digital world.
The Foundation’s vision is that every child will live in a safe and supportive environment free from bullying and violence. In order to make this vision a reality, The Foundation is dedicated to a ‘whole-of-community’ approach – that means engaging all players in the solution. And in the context of the eSmart framework we are talking about; schools, libraries, homes and workplaces.
For children cyberspace is not a parallel universe, as it is for us adults, it is their reality.
During my visit to Australia in 2008, I participated in an event to generate support for the introduction of eSmart Schools, the first eSmart framework to be developed by The Alannah and Madeline Foundation.
This program is now in over 2,000 schools across the nation and is having a demonstrable impact in supporting thousands of students across the country to be safe online.
Three years later, in 2011, I was able to participate in the launch of eSmart Libraries. This innovative program was based on the recognition that while safe schools are crucial to protecting our children, in order to create an eSmart Australia, we need to work with the broader community.
Libraries were the obvious starting point as many disadvantaged children and their families do not have computers at home. These children often rely on libraries and other community settings to access technology and are particularly vulnerable online.
I am delighted that, thanks to the tremendous support of the Telstra Foundation, the rollout of eSmart Libraries is now well underway and on track to achieving the goal of reaching all 1,500 libraries in Australia over the next 6 years.
The next obvious focus for the eSmart framework is the home. And that is why we are here today – to take The Alannah and Madeline Foundation’s world-leading cybersafety program, eSmart, out into the wider community, into the home.
I have been very much looking forward to this event and I am pleased to be here today to support the launch of the eSmart Homes initiative.
eSmart is a world-leading system and one of which Australia should be extremely proud. I commend The Foundation for this new addition to the eSmart suite of programs that has done so much to keep children safe from violence online.
eSmart Homes is being developed by The Alannah and Madeline Foundation to provide peace of mind for parents and carers by guiding them to the information and resources they need to ensure children are smart, safe and responsible when they are online at home.
eSmart Homes will consist of:
• A simple framework, outlining all the steps required to create an eSmart Home;
• A short home ‘audit’, to identify the hygiene factors to ensure children are safe and secure when using technology in the home;
• Guidance to the best existing online resources, tools and guidelines, to support parents; and
• The eSmart portal will help keep parents and carers up-to-date with what is happening in the digital world with the latest news and tips for keeping families safe in the digital world.
Through eSmart homes, parents and children will be able to access the eSmart Digital Licence, a fun, interactive and challenging online test designed to stimulate dialogue between parents and children about technology and cybersafety. They will be rewarded with a Digital Licence, similar to the pen licence that I remember from our primary school days.
From its humble beginnings in 1997, on the first anniversary of the Port Arthur tragedy, the Foundation has grown into a flourishing organisation that has reached over a million Australian children.
My involvement with The Alannah and Madeline Foundation began in 2005, when I was approached to become the International Patron. I was honoured to accept this position and am very proud to be able to support the Foundation’s efforts to provide every Australian child with the basic human right of a safe and happy childhood.
I would like to take a moment to acknowledge the Founding Patron of The Alannah and Madeline Foundation, Walter Mikac, who is here today.
Walter, your courage and resilience is a tribute to you and an example for every Australian. I know that just a few months ago Madeline would have had her 21st birthday. You should be very proud of what you have created – the legacy you have created for Madeline and her sister Alannah and the positive impact it has had on the lives of so many Australian children.