Opinion  |  

Let's take child protection seriously

Abused as a boy, Neil Minton wants to prevent other children being harmed

“I was groomed as a kid,” Neil Milton tells Eternity. “And the child that groomed me is only a couple of years older than me.

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“My abuse happened for a few years. And it happened because I was one of those kids without a lot of relationships or connections.

“Recommendations from the Royal Commission have highlighted several key gaps in how we approach child safety.” – Neil Minton

“This person really groomed me, connected with me and then the abuse began. It took me 20 years to realise I was abused. The Royal Commission found similarly that it takes people 20 years before someone realises the abuse.”

Milton is alive to some of the hardest issues regarding child abuse: the young predator that defies the stereotype of older paedophiles, the vulnerability of the loner kid, and how long it can take to come to terms with abuse.

Today he is the spokesperson and Business Development Leader for ChildSafe, a national child harm prevention charity birthed out of Scripture Union.

Established for 12 years, it has more than 100 organisations using its training, policy and child-safe policy development and culture-forming skills. ChildSafe is touring Australia this year to enable organisations, businesses, charities and churches to improve their child safety systems, in light of the recent Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

“The recently issued recommendations from the Royal Commission have highlighted several key gaps in how we approach child safety, and every organisation needs to sit up and take notice to ensure we learn from mistakes of others,” says Milton.

“A big thing that a lot of organisations miss is that their policies and procedures and code of conduct need to be child friendly. That means that a child needs to be able to read them.”

Milton makes it clear that child protection is not just a matter for adults. It is not just risk management, as important as that is. “They need to have the child in mind, and it needs to be in ‘child language.’” It’s about relationships of trust – and children need to know what to expect. He underlines to Eternity that this is one of the messages from the Royal Commission.

“Another thing the Royal Commission asks for is transparency – transparency with the local community. They need to actually advertise their policies and code of conduct to the local community so that parents can bring their children knowing that these things are in place and be free to ask the right questions.”

Milton makes it clear that child protection is not just a matter for adults.

Asked to suggest some practical steps that might have helped a child like him today, Milton says “often grooming begins with social media – often on Facebook, especially for kids seeking some kind of connection.

“So my encouragement is to have a mutual Facebook page, where interactions can happen and have a policy in place that the youth pastor or youth leaders are not friends on Facebook with the youth.

“This means everyone can see what each one is doing.

“Another is that a youth leader does not take a youth home with them in their car unless there are two youth leaders in the car.”

The highly trained ChildSafe team will visit each state and territory throughout 2018, ranging from Darwin, to Perth, to Hobart and most major centres down the east coast.

This roadshow will include low-cost public information sessions, in each of the almost 35 locations, intended for local organisations to bring their questions about what they can be doing to improve their safeguards against harm to children. Many regional centres also feature as the team travels to Alice Springs, Ballarat, Tamworth, Batemans Bay, Katherine and Cairns, among many others.

The first stop on this national roadshow is Canberra, ACT, on March 19 and the tour will conclude in Katherine, NT, on October 29.

Visit ChildSafe for more information, including about the national roadshow.

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