An image from the ACCCE’s campaign in response to COVID-19
The ACCCE and the AFP remain concerned about online child sexual exploitation (OCSE) during the COVID-19 pandemic.
With many schools using online learning, children are online longer, where unwanted contact, grooming, personal image sharing and image based abuse (sexual extortion) may occur. Parents and carers working from home may not be able to supervise online activities. During self-isolation more child sex offenders may be online, or there may be more opportunities for contact-offending against children. These risk factors add up to a need for an increase in community awareness and education.
In response, the AFP and the ACCCE have intensified our outreach, prevention and deterrence initiatives, as well as supporting those of our partner agencies such as the eSafety Commissioner and the National Office for Child Safety. The AFP’s Online Child Safety Team’s ThinkUKnow program has new online safety resources for parents and carers, based around home learning activities.
Messaging focuses on raising awareness of key issues, prevention, and practical advice for parents on how to identify, report, seek help and support, while avoiding a ‘fear-based’ approach. Law enforcement stakeholders have been provided with media kits to facilitate accurate and consistent messaging. Engagement with the ACCCE's Child Protection Triage Unit ensures the messaging adapts in response to trending issues.
Visit www.accce.gov.au/covid-19 for more details on our initiative and resources.
After two years of intensive operational effort by Australian law enforcement and the United States Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), 16 people in Australia were recently charged with 738 child exploitation offences.
Following the HSI’s initial investigation in 2018 into an online website where users paid to access child abuse material, the HSI has been regularly referring matters to Australian authorities.
Operation Walwa involved officers from state and territory police working with the ACCCE and the AFP’s Joint Anti Child Exploitation Teams. As a result, Australian investigators executed 18 search warrants and authorities were able to remove four Australian children from further harm. For further details read the media release: ‘16 charged in national operation targeting web site selling child abuse material’
The ACCCE has released unprecedented research into the Australian community’s awareness and understanding of online child sexual exploitation.
The research found only 21 per cent of parents and carers think that OCSE could happen to their child. This is despite the ACCCE receiving almost 17,000 reports of online child sexual exploitation in 2019. Prevention efforts are also undermined by a stigma attached to the issue, with 21 per cent of parents or carers feeling the topic is too ‘repulsive’ or ‘sickening’ to even think about.
The findings highlight a need to further educate families to employ a more consistent and proactive approach to the online safety of their children.
Online Child Sexual Exploitation: Understanding community awareness, perceptions, attitudes and preventative behaviours is an integral step in tailoring effective, evidence-based prevention initiatives to the current landscape of understanding in Australia.
The ACCCE-commissioned research has been distributed to stakeholders and law enforcement partners for their awareness and will continue to inform the development of ACCCE prevention strategies. It is also being used by the ThinkUKnow program in the development of content aimed at preventing OCSE, and in other ACCCE and AFP awareness initiatives via traditional and social media.
Read Online Child Sexual Exploitation: Understanding community awareness, perceptions, attitudes and preventative behaviours, or for prevention tips visit the ThinkUKnow website.
An excerpt from the research report
On 5 March 2020, the Minister for Home Affairs, the Hon Peter Dutton MP and his counterparts from Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States launched a new set of voluntary principles designed to help digital industries to protect children online.
The Voluntary Principles to Counter Online Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse establish a base-line framework for companies that provide online services. The principles are designed to ensure there is no safe space for child sex offenders to operate on the internet. At the launch, major tech companies agreed to implement the 11 new rules on their platforms.
The Voluntary Principles were developed by the Five Country Governments in close consultation with six leading technology companies (Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Roblox, Snap and Twitter) and a broad range of experts from industry, civil society and academia. The principles cover the following themes:
The public launch of the Voluntary Principles was preceded by a closed roundtable at the US White House between Five Country Ministers, industry representatives and key non-government organisations. Participants heard the stories of nine members of the Phoenix 11, a group of online child sexual abuse survivors, and discussed opportunities for further cross-sector collaboration.
The Voluntary Principles are available on the WePROTECT Global Alliance website. You can also view the video footage of the ministerial launch in Washington on the US Department of Justice’s website.
Relevant companies, non-government organisations and global experts are encouraged to endorse or support the Voluntary Principles. If you would like to discuss becoming involved, please contact the Department of Home Affairs (email@example.com) or the WePROTECT Global Alliance (WePROTECTGlobalAlliance@homeoffice.gov.uk).
The public launch of the Voluntary Principles at the US White House
On 20 March 2020, new offences came into effect for failing to protect children from, and failing to report, child sexual abuse.
The offences apply to Commonwealth officers, and are intended to improve the way Commonwealth officers with responsibility for children proactively take steps to protect children from, and report, child sexual abuse.
The new measures were created by the Combatting Child Sexual Exploitation Legislation Amendment Act 2019 and action recommendations 33 and 36 of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse’s Criminal Justice Report.
The ACCCE social media channels – Facebook and Twitter – will play an important role in providing information in relation to the changing environment caused by COVID-19 and the way child protection efforts will need to adapt. Please follow these to keep informed on trending issues that may impact on child safety, and to support us in our mission to keep children safe online.
AFP Acting Commander ACCCE and Child Protection Operations, Paula Hudson
The Boxing Day Cricket test was a great opportunity for the Alannah & Madeline Foundation to tackle online bullying.
Cricketers Josh Hazlewood, Steve Smith, Pat Cummins and Tim Paine took the #PledgeNotToSledgeOnline to stamp out cyber bullying and encourage Australians to follow suit.
Cricket Australia’s Chief Executive Officer, Kevin Roberts, said it’s unacceptable that one in five young Australians report being cyber bullied. The Foundation’s research shows that kids who are bullied can suffer depression, anxiety and other mental health issues; some may even drop out of school. The effects can last for decades.
Australian cricketer, Josh Hazlewood said: “My advice to kids being bullied online is to only trust the words of the people you trust, such as your family, friends or team mates”.
The Alannah & Madeline Foundation’s CEO, Lesley Podesta said: “With the help and partnership of Cricket Australia, we are working together to encourage better online behaviours. No one should feel unsafe. Together, we can create a safer and kinder world for our children”.
The Alannah & Madeline Foundation working together with Cricket Australia to help safeguard our children’s future: (l-r) Pat Cummins, Steve Smith, Tim Paine
In February 2020, the ThinkUKnow program launched its latest update to coincide with the release of ACCCE-commissioned market research into community awareness and understanding of online child sexual exploitation.
The update focused on topics such as self-produced child exploitation material, online grooming and unwanted contact, image-based abuse and extortion, as well as how to get help, support and report suspicious behaviour online.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the increase in children and young people spending more time online, the AFP is currently undertaking work to make ThinkUKnow resources available in an online learning format to support parents, carers and teachers during this time.
For more information and prevention tips visit the ThinkUKnow website.
ThinkUKnow staff with members from Victoria Police, the AFP Online Child Safety Team and Wellington Shire Local Council
On 19 February 2020, the heads of three major Australian agencies came together to discuss how to counter child sexual exploitation and abuse.
AFP Commissioner Reece Kershaw joined the CEO of Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC) Nicole Rose and the CEO of Australia Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) Michael Phelan APM at the National Press Club to discuss the fight against online child sexual exploitation and abuse.
Of utmost concern are recent disturbing trends, including an increase in the severity of violence against children, victims being younger, and the escalating amount and dissemination of violent child abuse material.
The address emphasised that collaboration across law enforcement and intelligence agencies is imperative in combatting this insidious crime in and outside of Australia.
The Australian Institute of Criminology will soon release a paper, the first of its kind, which analyses data on payments that were likely made by Australians for child sexual abuse streaming based in the Philippines.
Commissioner Kershaw also praised the work of the ACCCE in driving multi-agency collaboration to counter the exploitation of children: “The ACCCE is working on an enhanced victim identification capability, at the national and international level, coordinating our fight and sharing the burden”, Commissioner Kershaw said.
“These investments are important because our people who police these crimes are doing a tough job. We owe them this: if they will do the worst job, we need to give them the best tools.”
AFP Commissioner Reece Kershaw joined Nicole Rose and Michael Phelan APM at the National Press Club address
Brisbane City Hall was lit up in red on 14 March 2020 for the Daniel Morcombe Foundation’s 15th annual Dance for Daniel. Bruce and Denise Morcombe and family were joined by The Hon. Michelle Landry MP, The Hon. Di Farmer MP, Queensland Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll, among many supporters including Superintendent ACCCE Operations Dan Evans and Rachael Hampshire from the ACCCE’s Covert Online Engagement team.
The annual Dance for Daniel raises vital funds for the Foundation to provide free personal safety education to children, counselling for young victims of crime, and support for the families of missing persons.
Guests were entertained by the evening’s MC, Steve Haddan, as well as enjoying performances from country star James Blundell and the Queensland Police Band of Blue.
Bruce and Denise Morcombe also announced the expansion of the Daniel Morcombe Foundation education team; tasked with creating an early intervention program to help identify children showing harmful sexual behaviours: “You cannot undo what is done, but we can certainly find ways to ensure it does not happen again”.
What a wonderful night for child safety!
The Brisbane City Hall lit up in red for the Daniel Morcombe Foundation’s annual Dance for Daniel
The ACCCE congratulates Assistant Commissioner Lesa Gale on receiving an Australian Police Medal on 26 January 2020, in recognition of her distinguished service in child protection and combatting human trafficking.
AFP Commissioner Reece Kershaw noted Assistant Commissioner Gale’s, “phenomenal energy and efforts on the frontline of child protection. She has forged important pathways for international cooperation to combat the exploitation of society’s most vulnerable”.
Assistant Commissioner Gale joined the AFP in 1987, and a significant portion of her career has been dedicated to roles within child protection, including overseeing significant reform in combatting child exploitation, particularly in the South-East Asia region.
As Assistant Commissioner Northern Command, the ACCCE now falls within Assistant Commissioner Gale’s remit. We look forward to working with Lesa as she continues her work to improve outcomes for vulnerable children.
Welcome to Acting Commander Paula Hudson
The ACCCE is pleased to announce that on the 3 March 2020, Paula Hudson commenced acting long-term as Commander ACCCE and Child Protection Operations.
During her 25 year career in the AFP, Acting Commander Hudson has combined significant expertise in transnational investigations, international operations and Counter Terrorism investigations, with key leadership appointments within the AFP. This included leading the delivery of transnational and international crime outcomes across AFP Regional Offices in Melbourne, Brisbane and Canberra and internationally with a 4 year deployment to Vietnam as Counsellor Police Liaison.
Acting Commander Hudson holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Justice Studies, Intelligence and National Security, is a graduate of the Asia Region Law Enforcement Management Program and the International Management of Serious Crime Program. In 2018 she was awarded the Wakefield Scholarship to undertake a Master of Studies in Applied Criminology and Police Management at Cambridge University.
Acting Commander Hudson’s passion for child protection and community safety has been admirably demonstrated throughout her career and recent time in the ACCCE, and we look forward to her continued leadership as Commander.
The ACCCE congratulates Senior Constable Danielle Leske on being awarded AFP’s Detective of the Year on 14 Feb 2020.
Danielle was nominated for managing Operation Bayldon, a Joint Anti Child Exploitation Team investigation into one of Australia’s most heinous child sex offenders.
As a result of Danielle’s investigation, the offender was convicted of 51 counts of the most serious child sex offences, and sentenced to more than 40 years imprisonment; the longest sentence ever handed to a child sex offender in Australia.
Danielle used innovative technical solutions and a victim-centric approach to review more than 900,000 images and videos of child exploitation to map the offender’s network, resulting in the arrest of several prolific offenders and the rescue of over 50 children.
Danielle was presented with her award by AFP Commissioner Reece Kershaw and AFP Deputy Commissioner Investigations Ian McCartney.
AFP Commissioner Reece Kershaw with Senior Constable Leske at the awards
The ACCCE Mental Health Plan was endorsed on 20 December 2019, providing staff with a proactive and holistic strategy that addresses the health and wellbeing risks of working in this crime type.
Following consultation with ACCCE Team Leaders, representatives from the ACCCE Online Child Sexual Exploitation Wellbeing Dialogue, and AFP Organisational Health, core principles were developed that actively recognise the unique nature of each business area of the ACCCE, and the need for varying guidance.
The plan will contribute to member wellbeing and health, today and in the future, providing a foundation for ongoing initiatives to improve organisational health.
The ‘Face of the ACCCE’ introduces you to the ACCCE team; their roles, responsibilities and personalities!
ACCCE Operations Manager Detective Inspector Jon Rouse APM
We spoke with Jon...
What was your previous role?
I started working in child protection in 1996 at the Child Abuse Unit in Queensland Police Headquarters. In 2001, I moved to Task Force Argos (a task force focussed on historical and institutionalised child sexual abuse), where I set up the proactive covert online capability (initially with a team of four, now sitting at 40). I was seconded to the ACCCE in July 2019.
What interests you most about working at the ACCCE?
The proactive approach employed by the ACCCE using covert operations and victim identification means that, rather than waiting for the activity to be reported, the abuse of very young children can be detected and stopped. That’s what has kept me working in this field for 24 years.
What would you like to achieve in the next 12 months within the ACCCE?
That support takes several forms – facilitating a coordinated Australian response to major operations, driving training and capability development to achieve consistent skills across the country, hosting a world-leading Victim Identification Team, having an embedded multi-agency Intelligence Fusion Cell, and prevention/outreach to ensure that the community, non-Government agencies, and industry are engaged and driving strategies to protect our children.
What makes the ACCCE unique?
Hosting all of the different child protection capability areas under one roof will be world-leading – there isn’t a national centre like this in the world.
If you could invite one person to work at the ACCCE who would it be?
Anders Persson is a retired Swedish police officer who I met at INTERPOL in 2005 where he was on secondment in the Crimes against Children team. He changed my life and inspired me. He’s the acknowledged ‘father’ of the INTERPOL International Child Sexual Exploitation (ICSE) image database which changed the global law enforcement view about this crime type.
Favourite song? Baker Street by Gerry Rafferty.
Only by working together can we combat the online exploitation of children.
If you think a child is in immediate danger call Triple Zero (000), Crimestoppers on
Visit www.accce.gov.au/report if you have concerns about inappropriate behaviour towards children online.
.Ask the ACCCE a question, provide feedback or suggest content for future newsletters at www.accce.gov.au/contact-us.