Morcombes’ new project to identify the next Brett Cowan
DETERMINED to continue their work keeping children safe, Bruce and Denise Morcombe have announced a groundbreaking program to identify and redirect the "next Brett Peter Cowan" down a better path.
Changing Futures will focus on the professional development of frontline workers, so they can recognise, identify and respond appropriately to children who might be displaying harmful or problematic sexual behaviours.
Mr Morcombe said the program aimed to divert potential offenders down a better path, and therefore reduce the number of victims.
"It's a process of not supplying an ambulance at the bottom of a cliff, but supplying the fence at the top," he said.
"Cowan was offending against children when he was 10 and you can't help but wonder if someone had grabbed him and said, 'sit there, we are going to get some help for you,' what would have happened.
"We would like a program that will identify the next Brett Cowan … so we have stopped the offending before it started."
Scheduled to launch in August, the project, funded by the Criminal Proceeds Confiscation Act 2002, will include webinars with guest presenters, workshops, new resources and forums that aim to start conversations surrounding solutions for the complex issue.
Daniel Morcombe Foundation national education manager Conrad Townson said the lack of research about young children with concerning sexual behaviour made Changing Futures a groundbreaking project.
"Our focus of this project is on eight to 12-year-olds … the older a young person gets the harder it becomes to redirect, because behaviours and patterns have become more set," he said.
Mr Townson said being able to identify harmful sexual behaviours in different age groups would help frontline workers feel comfortable enough to take action.
"In some communities, some people will rather not deal with it and think the children will grow out of it and that's not a responsible approach to take," he said.
"But we understand when people are faced with difficult situations that they're not equipped to handle that can often be the response.
"You might get children exposing themselves inappropriately for their age - for a child between zero and four well that's not unusual, however when a child is eight to 10 years old that's a concern."
He said online factors made the project extremely important.
"Children's exposure in the online world is opening up all kinds of problems … so the hope is that this has a far and wide reach because we are seeing more and more children come through that are displaying harmful behaviours as a result of the current landscape," Mr Townson said.
The webinars, workshops and forums will be held online until COVID-19 restrictions ease.