Communities from all across the country have signed up to #takethechallenge for the 20th annual White Balloon day - one of Australia’s biggest child protection awareness days, held by Bravehearts child protection organisation.
Held annually during Child Protection Week (September 4-10), thousands of people work together to help raise awareness and prevent child sexual assault - a crime which affects more than 60,000 children every year.
“In Australia, 1 in 5 children before their 18th birthday will be sexually assaulted in some way.”
Bravehearts Founder, Hetty Johnston says White Balloon Day encourages Australians to play their role in creating child-safe communities.
“White Balloon Day is about encouraging people from all corners of the community to step up for these kids, raising awareness and funds to enable the continued delivery of vital support and prevention programs, while giving kids the confidence to come forward and break the silence,” she said.
“Protecting kids is everyone’s business and by stepping up and taking the challenge, everyone can play a role. Communities, churches, police, government, big business, schools, child protection organisations, the media and everyday people all committing to create child-safe communities is an incredibly powerful force and I encourage all Australians to donate and participate, while helping to celebrate this significant 20-year milestone.”
Money raised throughout the campaign will go towards education and training programs as well as specialist support for kids and their families.
Funds raised in 2015 helped to educate around 106,000 kids with personal safety and support 3750 kids and their families with specialist counselling services.
Sue-Anne Hunter, a Director of SNAICC (National Voice for our Children) says it's a conversation that needs to be had.
"I think it’s one of those topics no one wants to talk about, but in saying that, more and more recently, it’s been confronting us, and it’s especially highlighted the suffering Indigenous groups that need more help," she said.
"We need more education around what is sexual abuse, how to look for signs of it and how do we get children to disclose. How do we make community aware of signs it is happening."
Bravehearts is offering this year’s biggest ‘children’s champions’ - the school, organisation and individual who accepts the challenge and raises the most funds - the opportunity to have the ‘Ditto’s Keep Safe Adventure’ delivered to a school of their choice.
Here children are educated, empowered and protected, with the 3 piers to prevention of sexual abuse. Children are taught when to say ‘no,’ about their private parts and how to speak to people they trust about their feelings.
Hunter, a Wurundjeri woman and the state wide manager of healing services at VACCA (Victorian Aboriginal Child Care Agency), says the only way to empower the children is through education, awareness and support.
"I think it’s brilliant (Ditto's Keep Safe Adventure) to be able to empower children to be able to know what's right and wrong in that area especially around sexual abuse. That’s the start of prevention," she said.
I'm not only speaking from a community member's perspective, but a mothers as well - If something was to ever happen to my daughter, I know that the most important thing for her to know is that it's not ok, my body belongs to me and that I can say no... we all need to work together and not only raise awareness but help heal our community."
There's been a wave of support on social media for White Balloon Day, with prominent members of society sharing their pictures, thoughts and videos with the world, about getting excited for a day that protects our little ones.
Australia's Larrissa Miller, an artistic gymnast who represented her green and gold country at the 2012 and 2016 Summer Olympics uploaded tweets saying "Protecting Aussie kids from child sexual assault is EVERYONE'S business!" Meanwhile her cover photo on Twitter also promotes White Balloon Day.