Three Australian foundations have been chosen to establish and run a new National Centre for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse, hoping to create a platform for change that is trusted by survivors.
The Blue Knot Foundation, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Healing Foundation, and the Australian Childhood Foundation were selected by the federal government to deliver the centre, which was a recommendation from the child sexual abuse royal commission.
This centre will focus not just on prevention, but also commissioning research, raising issue awareness, reducing stigma, and offering training to help improve responses to child sexual abuse victims.
Dr Cathy Kezelman AM, the president of Blue Knot Foundation, said the centre would build on the work of the royal commission, which delivered its final report in December 2017.
“The National Centre will [generate] trauma-informed, culturally-inclusive pathways to healing for all victims and survivors of child sexual abuse, while preventing child sexual abuse before it occurs,” Kezelman said.
“At Blue Knot, we could not be more delighted to drive the work of the national centre with our partners, which is just so fundamental to the social fabric of our nation, our community, and the health of us all.”
Kezelmansays it is very important to understand how pervasive child sexual abuse is, and the impact it has not just on the individuals but on families and the broader community.
She noted that while the royal commission focused on institutional abuse, the remit of the centre would be much wider – covering abuse in all settings including within families, in the home and online.
“We are not minimising the impact of institutional child sexual abuse or its scale. But this is looking at the issue more broadly and then looking at the way it impacts people across their lifespan,” she said.
“We want to know how to better intervene to support people and work out what are the areas of research that we still need to explore.”
Craig Hodges from the Healing Foundation has already been appointed the new centre’s CEO, while Dr Joe Tucci – CEO of the Australian Childhood Foundation – will serve as inaugural chair of the board.
Those running the centre will undertake a co-design process to decide the name of the facility – the current name is just a working title – and will focus on setting up the centre’s governance structures and recruiting staff etc.
The federal government has committed $22.5 million over five years to fund the operation of the centre, but Kezelman said a goal was to make the initiative sustainable so it was there “for the long term”.
She said she was hopeful the centre could achieve a lot in the next five years.
“We want to [establish] a centre that is highly respected, and is trusted by survivors, the people working in these sectors and government,” she said.
“We hope to create a platform for change… [that builds] much greater awareness in the community around child sexual abuse… and starts to make changes so that it’s a conversation that is not treated with so much stigma and discrimination.”
Dr Tucci said the Australian Childhood Foundation was proud to be working alongside the other partner organisations to realise the vision of the centre.
“There is so much for us to learn about how to improve the way we support survivors of child sexual abuse,” Tucci said.
“The trauma they carry needs to be recognised and validated in order for real healing to occur.”
The centre will be bolstered by The Healing Foundation’s work in the space, which utilises the knowledge, experiences, and wisdom of Stolen Generations survivors who pioneered strengths-based approaches to help people deal with distress.
The Healing Foundation CEO Fiona Cornforth said the organisation was humbled to be part of this important work.
“The national centre will educate workforces and sectors and the Australian people to bring about a shared understanding of trauma-aware and healing-informed practice that centres the voices of survivors,” Cornforth said.
“We will continue to hold stories we are entrusted with to drive the change needed to prevent further harm.”