Australia launches national centre to combat child exploitation

By on 05/04/2018
Aerial view of Brisbane, where the new Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation will be based (Image courtesy: J Brew).

The Australian government is launching a new national centre to combat child abuse and exploitation.

The federal government will provide AUS$68.6m (US$53m) for the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation (ACCCE), designed to fight what it calls “a global epidemic of child abuse” and create a hub of specialist skills to “disrupt, prevent and investigate exploitation”.

Home affairs minister Peter Dutton said preventing child exploitation is a key priority of the Turnbull government, adding that the new centre will consolidate efforts to detect and disrupt such abhorrent crime.

“Anyone’s child can be targeted by paedophiles and child traffickers, and it’s our responsibility to stamp them out wherever we can,” he said.

Global links

The ACCCE, which will be set up in Brisbane by the Department of Home Affairs (DHA), will bring together expertise from home affairs agencies including the Australian Federal Police (AFP), the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, the Office of the Cyber Coordinator and the Australian Border Force.

It will also link with other federal departments, state agencies and NGOs that specialise in dealing with child exploitation, as well as international law enforcement agencies such as the US National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children.

Angus Taylor, minister for law enforcement and cyber security, said the ACCCE will strengthen the ability of Australia’s law enforcement agencies to tackle “revolting crimes”.

“It sends a clear message to the perpetrators of these crimes that we will track them down,” he said.

A growing problem

In a statement, the DHA stressed that the Federal-State Joint Anti Child Exploitation Teams that currently work in each Australian state have been very effective and will continue to operate, but said the problem of child abuse and exploitation is getting bigger.

“The scale and complexity of the challenge is compounded by technology and the continuing evolution of that technology for what is a borderless crime,” the DHA said.

“In the digital era, it has never been easier for perpetrators to contact children and share images of abuse and torture through global networks. The level of such material is increasing in volume and the nature of it is becoming more violent and extreme.”

Staged expansion

The ACCCA will be established in phases over two years by expanding the staff of the AFP’s existing Child Protection Operations division by around 30% over financial year 2018-19, and by a further 30% in 2019-20.

Law enforcement officials predict that more than 200 child victims per year will be identified and removed from harm by the ACCCA, which will be based in Brisbane because of the city’s “proximity to the Asia-Pacific and its status as a cyber-hub”, the DHA said.

About Liz Heron

Liz Heron is a journalist based in London, who specialises in international news. She worked on daily newspapers for 16 years, reporting extensively on both general news and education. She was Education Editor of the South China Morning Post in Hong Kong and has contributed to a wide range of British media including The Independent, The Guardian and the BBC.

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