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As an organisation Bravehearts is proud that our work has been recognised by many as successfully and effectively ‘Making a Difference in Child Protection’ since 1996.
For the record, Bravehearts has operated under two other names in our history; initially, we worked under the auspice of ASCA (Advocates for Survivors of Child Abuse) and then moved away from that arrangement and started our own group calling ourselves – PAACSA (People’s Alliance Against Child Sexual Abuse). We then changed to ‘Bravehearts Inc.’ Therefore in presenting the following letters of support, we have transposed the name ‘Bravehearts’ where previous names may have been used to describe the same charity.
We are incredibly proud of the wonderful volunteers, staff and community members and leaders in Australia who have supported this vital effort to protect Australian children – thank you. (Copies of the original letters from which the following quotes have been taken are available if needed).
Congratulations to Bravehearts on the success of White Balloon Day in raising awareness of the critical importance of protecting children against sexual assault. Congratulations also to all at Bravehearts for your ongoing work educating, empowering and protecting Australia’s children and adult survivors of child sexual assault through a very effective and impressive range of programs.
Your mission to stop child sexual assault in our society resonates with all Australians. All children should feel safe and protected but, sadly, we know that this is not the case. The Australian Government finds all sexual and physical abuse abhorrent and has great sympathy for those who have experienced abuse.
The National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2009-2020, endorsed by the Council of Australian Governments in 2009, is providing the foundation for national reform, with a focus on promoting the safety and wellbeing of children.
Building on this foundation, we can aspire to achieve your vision of making Australia the safest place in the world to raise a child.
– Previous Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard.
“I am delighted you are still working toward child protection and abuse prevention and wish you well for White Balloon Day. Unfortunately, 16 years after child sexual abuse came to the public notice in this country, many child victims still lack the facility to stop abuse. Despite living in a highly sexualised world, few schools or parents are providing the child protection education that we know to be vital for children’s safety. Please keep up the good work. Australia’s future adults need you to advocate for them now”.
Professor Freda Briggs, Senior Australian of the Year (2001)
“Child sexual abuse remains one of the most insidious threats to the wellbeing of our future generation. The energy and dedication required by professionals working in this area to empower this very vulnerable group of children often goes without reward, and community services are severely under-resourced, making he task even tougher. I hope the White Balloon Day is able to raise awareness and be a visible encouragement to all those involved in ‘Breaking the Silence”.
Dr Kerryn Phelps, Former Federal President, Australian Medical Association (2000)
“I write in support of Bravehearts because I am aware of the outstanding work done by this organisation to combat the scourge of sexual abuse of children in the Australian community. It is a sad fact of life in our society that the necessary work of Bravehearts continues to expand. However, it doesn’t bear thinking if Bravehearts were not there. The assistance given to many children and their families has been truly life-saving on many occasions”.
(Rev) John Woodley, Former Commonwealth Senator (2001)
The Ditto Keep Safe Adventure show was very visual, the students readily recognised and affiliated with the signs and actions. There was student participation, where children felt they were successful. It reiterated the “we all have the right” many times which the children responded to. Ditto was really good. The presenter had excellent control of the group and moved the presentation along whist gauging the needs and understanding of the students
Nelson Park State School
An essential part of every Primary School program. Enjoyable, entertaining and educational. Thank you Mandy and Ditto!
Geelong East Primary School (2012)
What a brilliant way to present a sensitive issue. The children and staff (including me) were engrossed in the Bravehearts presentation. I can’t think of any suggestions.
St Johns Lutheran Primary School (2012)
Last Tuesday Erica and Ben presented the “Ditto” show for our students, all of whom have moderate to severe intellectual disabilities. It must have been a challenging gig for them because the room was noisy and a few of the students found it hard to sit still. What thrilled me was that across all classes there were students fully engaged with the show. They listened attentively and participated in the songs and the simple repetitive message that was being presented. All of my staff agreed the presentation was really worthwhile and we hope to see Ditto again next year.
I would like to quote the message written to me the following day by one of the parents, a mother of a 5 year old boy with Downs Syndrome, who attended.
“Ditto was good – interesting sitting at the back and watching all the kids. They were all reacting very differently but I would reckon they all took away something from it. I’m really glad I saw it myself too, good tips on how to explain things and to have that common language.”
Clarke Road School, Hornsby
“I am currently serving a 12 year sentence for child sex offences. I am very ashamed of the crime I’ve committed. I am 40 years old and tell you straight I hate what I did and I really hate jail. Hetty, I see you and your organisation in the news and often say under my breath, why weren’t you and your organisation around when I was being abused.
People need you and your organisation in our community. My hideous behaviour cannot and must not ever be overlooked. The best day of my life was the 21st of November 1995, as that was the day I was arrested. I cannot believe how I, prior to being caught, lived in a world of delusion. Honestly, I thought I was doing my victims a favour by being there for them. Recently you would have seen Rod Welford and Peter Beattie talking about Indefinite Sentencing for repeat sex offenders and those who refuse their courses or stay in denial. Hetty, I wrote to Welford last week and said in my opinion, if he and Beattie were genuine about protecting people, especially children, they should and would bring that into force immediately. The majority of prisoners in Wolston are sex offenders, many are repeat offenders. At least 85% of sex offenders claim to be innocent….The joke is that many sex offenders that claim to be innocent, have been in 3 & 4 & 5 times. I ask where do the chances stop and how many young and innocent lives have to be destroyed before this government get serious about indefinite sentences.
I applaud you and your organisation and say to you please never, ever give up your fight for something that you so strongly believe in. Society needs people like you. Also I know why they won’t have a Royal Commission into child sexual assault. Do you know how many organisations and high flyers it would bring down? Loads and Loads. Keep pushing. Victims deserve closure”.
Convicted paedophile in Prison in QLD – Name Withheld (2003)
I am in awe of what you have achieved and your unrelenting passion. Every parent in Australia will owe you a great debt when your job is done”.
Parent – Liz of Camp Hill Queensland (2005)
Dear Hetty, I am an SBS fan but rarely watch Insight. But last night I did and today, I would like to send you this brief note of support.
As a father of a five-year-old boy, I am concerned about the use of sexualised images for any commercial purpose. Let me say, I love art – deco, South Asian, Renaissance and am hardly a prude, but I feel strongly that once an image exists in the digital age, as a package of zero’s and one’s, it is completely delinked from context.
I thought that, under some pressure, you were able to get across a coherent view of your concerns. A terrific performance, measured and dignified. Best of luck for the future.
Tim – Parent
I commend the program for adressing the most significant barrier to responding to child abuse and neglect, matters not being reported.
Detective Senior Sergeant G.W.J Horan, Officer in Charge, Cairns District Child Protection and Investigation Unit (2012)
Bravehearts is instrumental in providing a practical and on the ground program to our precious and most vulnerable members of our society – our children and without such an organisation, children would be at much greater risk.
Detective Superintendent, C. Harsley, Child Safety Director, Queensland Police Service
“The Queensland Police Service supports the work undertaken by Bravehearts in encouraging victims of sexual abuse to speak out, which not only assists victims in dealing with the traumatic effects of abuse but also helps to reduce further incidents of sexual abuse”.
Detective Peter Crawford, Acting Superintendent, Queensland Police (2005)
“My unit has to date had personal dealings with the staff and services which are offered by Bravehearts for matters concerning children affected by sexual abuse within the local community. The services offered are professional, and positively looked upon by community members, and victims of abuse. Bravehearts are one of the few organisations which function independently within the local community, and provide a positive and supportive function for victims of child abuse”.
C I Harsley, Det Sgt, Queensland Police (2001)
“It is clear the week long media campaign which culminated in White Balloon Day 1999 was the primary factor causing a 514% increase in reported child abuse in the one region in which CSAIU is geographically located, that is, Brisbane”.
DJ Alcorn, Detective Inspector, Queensland Police (2000)
The Government understands the importance of preventing child sexual abuse, increasing understanding of child abuse and providing advice and support to survivors …… I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the important contribution your organisation makes in helping to keep Australia’s children safe.
The Hon Jenny Macklin MP, Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs (2009)
Greetings to everyone at Bravehearts involved in the important work of preventing child abuse and supporting the survivors of child sexual assault. Every child deserves the best start in life. Tragically, over recent years the levels of child neglect and abuse in Australia have increased at an alarming rate. We know that we all have a responsibility to make sure that children are safe and protected, including parents and families, communities, non-government organisations, business and governments. Protecting children at risk requires national leadership and a coordinated national response. For the first time in Australia’s history, we now have an ambitious, long term national approach to ensuring the safety and well-being of Australian children. The National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children 2009-2020 represents an unprecedented level of collaboration between all levels of government and non-government organisations to protect children. Organisations such as Bravehearts, with twelve years of valuable work in counselling, raising awareness, research and advocacy, have a key role to play in our efforts to prevent child abuse and support those who have been abused. Reducing child abuse and neglect and supporting the survivors of abuse is not an easy task, but by working together we will help ensure that Australia’s children have a safe, healthy and happy childhood.
The Hon Kevin Rudd MP – Former Prime Minister of Australia (2009)
“I am pleased to provide a message of support for White Balloon Awareness Week.
Children need the love and support of their families and communities in order to grow and develop into the leaders of the future. However, some children’s reality is very different from the ideal. Child sexual abuse has a profoundly damaging impact on children’s lives and often has serious repercussions throughout later life.
The Australian Government is helping to tackle issues of child abuse through early intervention and prevention approaches which complement the efforts of the state and territory governments. The Australian Government has been working on several initiatives which will help foster a national approach to the prevention of child abuse including uniform national checks for persons working with children, development of a National Framework for Creating Safe Environments for Children and funding for the National Child Protection Clearinghouse. These initiatives will help reduce the risk of child abuse and harm.
I send my best wishes to all participants in this year’s White Balloon Awareness Week activities”.
John Howard – Former Prime Minister (2005)
“Since the Australian launch of White Balloon Day in 1997, Hetty Johnston has been the driving force behind Bravehearts campaign to raise public awareness of a dreadful tragedy that touches too many of our children. Now the one-deafening silence on child abuse throughout Australia has been broken and I congratulate Hetty and Bravehearts for the work they have done and their determination to break the silence on child abuse throughout Australian and the world. Bravehearts gives hope to survivors of abuse. Because of the tremendous work done by this organisation, abuse victims now know that they are not to blame, that they did nothing wrong and that they have the support, assistance and encouragement they need to break the silence that has for too long protected their abusers. The white balloon is Bravehearts chosen symbol to raise awareness of child abuse and White Balloon week is now a very successful annual event that deserves the full support of the community, business and government. I congratulate Bravehearts for their vital and ongoing work. It is also my pleasure to send my best wishes to your patrons, Denise and Bruce Morcombe, Hetty Johnston and everyone associated with Bravehearts”.
Kim Beazley, Former Federal Labor Leader (2005)
“I imagine you have received letters from the many people who support your work or who just want to put a stop to child abuse… I wanted to offer my own personal words of support to you… I look forward to your ongoing involvement in the activism and debate around child safety in Queensland”.
Peter Beattie, Former Qld Premier (2005)
“Congratulations on the development and production of the interactive CD which tackles the very difficult and complex issue of children’s personal safety…I commend Bravehearts for its endeavours to address the issues of children’s safety and feelings in the context of child protection and broader public safety…”
Robin Sullivan – Former Commissioner for Children and Young People (2003)
“I recognise the efforts of Bravehearts and especially the White Balloon Day campaign, towards raising awareness about child sexual abuse and aiming to protect children from this form of abuse. I wish you all the best with the campaign and with your ongoing work in this extremely important issue”.
Former Senator Natasha Stott Despoja (2001)
“In terms of levels of reporting of child sexual assault, in terms of affirmation and acknowledgment of survivors, and in terms of heightened public awareness, White Balloon Day has been a very significant success. To the organisers and volunteers who make White Balloon Day possible, my thanks and admiration”.
Former Brisbane Lord Mayor Jim Soorley (2001)
“I was honoured to be able to attend the National Launch of White Balloon Day at Parliament House. As a member of Parliamentarians Against Child Abuse, a bi-partisan committee of Members of Parliament and Senators, I have been able to speak out against child abuse. I congratulate Bravehearts on its contribution to our community”.
The Hon Craig Emerson MP, Federal Minister for Small Business (2001)
As Mayor of Gold Coast City and as both a representative and member of the community, I’m pleased to be able to write in support of the valuable work done by Bravehearts Inc.
Founded in 1997, this organisation is now renowned as Australia’s leading child protection advocate and has branches on the Gold Coast, Sydney and Margaret River in Western Australia’s south-west.
Extending therapeutic support and advocacy services to survivors of child sexual assault, Bravehearts Inc provides counselling to children every week and responds to their telephone calls and emails. As well as these services, Bravehearts Inc operates early intervention and research programs relating to child sexual assault, and runs a preventative educational program through primary schools.
The strong demand for its services has seen Bravehearts Inc outgrow its present head office in Brisbane’s Springwood, which it will vacate in early 2008 to move to new headquarters on the Gold Coast.
And with this, the true spirit of lending assistance to a deserving cause becomes apparent, as the new Bravehearts Inc head office has been completed at no cost to the charity. This has been possible through the generosity of 26 corporate and government agencies (including the Gold Coast City Council) that have provided either financial or in-kind support to the project.
That so many local organisations have been keen to lend assistance to this worthy project is testament to the value of Bravehearts Inc’s work in both the short and long term, and to the importance that this work be continued and extended in line with our population growth.
May I extend my congratulations to Bravehearts Inc on the success and growth of their programs over the last ten years and my admiration to those entities that have made possible the establishment of this new head office here on the Gold Coast.
Ron Clarke – Former Gold Coast City Mayor (2007)
I am delighted to be able to provide a message in support for the work of Bravehearts.
There can be no more precious group in our society than children. All of us, as individuals, and as a community, must do everything possible to protect our children from harm, and to provide a happy, healthy and safe environment in which they can learn and grow.
Child sexual assault steals away childhood and can have devastating consequences that last a lifetime. It is a scourge on our community and must be stopped.
The prevention of child sexual assault would be impossible without the wonderful work of Bravehearts, and other organisations like it.
The staff and volunteers at Bravehearts are at the frontline in the battle against child sexual assault, and for their hard work, dedication and unwavering commitment we owe so much. Their work could not be more important I would like to acknowledge and thank all those businesses and individuals who have given so generously to Bravehearts – whether through a donation of money, equipment or time. In particular, I would like to extend my thanks to all those people and organisations who donated towards Bravehearts’ new head office on the Gold Coast. Every part of the new headquarters was donated – testament to both the tremendous generosity in our community which too often goes unrecognised, and to the outstanding work that
Bravehearts’ staff and volunteers do every single day.
The Hon Brendan Nelson MP – Former Federal Opposition Leader (2008)
“Just a short note to thank you for all your support. You are a unique person Hetty. Not may people would have done what you did. A million thankyou’s from myself and my son”.
Survivors Kym & Son – Western Australia
“To all at Bravehearts. For all the time and tears but most of all, the love. Thank you for ‘Breaking the Silence’ for all of us but special love from me”.
Survivor – Jenny
“I wish to offer my full support to the work of Bravehearts and to encourage your organisation to continue to fight for those poor children. I am an Aboriginal woman who was placed in foster care in my early years and to this day, I remember the sexual abuse and feelings of humiliation and fear. I used to wonder why no one would help me or see what those people were doing. Please continue to fight for all of those little boys and girls. You are amazing, you are pure strength and truth”.
Name Withheld by Request
“Child sexual abusers, rapists and so on are no different to Terrorists, and anyone harbouring or protecting or playing down the seriousness of these crimes would find their match if I get my message out to the people of Australia. That is so they can understand the real damage that is caused by each abuse and rape. That damage no country in the world can afford to live with”.
Survivor: Mr Udo Bartschat (now deceased) Margate
“I wish to congratulate you on your campaign of justice seeking for innocent children who have suffered and have to live their lives with this hanging over their heads on a daily basis. Just ask me, I am one of those children, although I am almost 58 years, one never forgets. I have been watching you both in the press and on the television and really reading everything you say. Hetty, you have never put a foot wrong, you have spoken wonderfully with full control, you know your subject and you come over as a most sincere person. This must be at a personal cost to yourself and your family. Congratulations to yourself and your helpers and may you have strength in carrying out your fight for social justice so that good may eventually come out of bad”.
Survivor ‘J’ – Tarragindi QLD
“We honour your tireless work – your commitment to White Balloon Day is an inspiration to us all. Thank you from the children, survivors and everybody who cares…
A group of survivors
Good Morning, I have just spoken with one of your counsellors (Tanya) and I would like to say thank you from the bottom of my heart. You have made me feel worthy again and have brought back the fight in me. What would I have done without your service, I would hate to think. THANK YOU VERY MUCH. I was feeling so low, and now I have hope.
I’ve only recently heard of Bravehearts and I contacted your organization, who informed me, that part of what you do, is bring awareness to children through your school based safety program called “Ditto” and as I write this, I think about the children, that have grown up now who, through no fault of our own, but for fear, intimidation, lack of self worth, mistrust and the shame and guilt of abuse, that won’t ever be able to say, “I was lucky, that never happened to me”. I’m also thinking about all the children, who now, through Bravehearts will be able to say” I was lucky, that it never happened to me”.
Thankfully though, I somehow found the courage to confront my abuser and by doing so, realised that I had given myself a gift. The shame and guilt that I’ve carried from childhood, lifted from me and was placed precisely, where it always belonged, on him! It was never mine to carry in the first place.
Thank you for what you do, you insight, your foresight, your courage and determination, your strength, your understanding and your heart.
Thank you for Bravehearts.