Child safety hero

Child safety hero

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Armadale child safety advocate Holly-Ann Martin has been recognised for her work in child safety. Photograph – Richard Polden.

Armadale’s Holly-Ann Martin, a former education assistant and child safety advocate, has been awarded an Order of Australia Medal at the recent Queen’s Birthday Honours.
Ms Martin founded Safe4Kids, a child safety advocacy organisation, with her husband, Roger Cripps, in 2010.
Ms Martin says she recognised a need for resources in the sector after spending years working as an education assistant for children living with a disability, and finally made the decision to create Safe4Kids – a child safety and education advocacy organisation based in Perth.
“I started my career as a teacher’s assistant working with kids with special needs and had been teaching protective behaviours. In 2007 I saw a huge need for resources,” Ms Martin said.
“I took a huge lump out of my home and quit my job and have been doing it fulltime ever since.
“It’s a topic no one wants to talk about, but I don’t feel like there’s anything more important than dedicating your life to it.
“People say it was a big gamble but when you believe in something, it’s not a gamble,” she said.
Since then, Safe4Kids has gone from strength to strength, reaching up to 4500 children each year, as well as 1000 teachers and 1000 parents, carers and educators.
The program, which has been running for 30 years, provides the Safe 4 Kids Protective Education Program, lesson plans for teachers, education resources as well as a range self-published children’s books.
Ms Martin says that, with the introduction of the internet and social media, the child safety landscape has changed.
“As adults we think of the real world and cyberspace, but for children who have never known a world without the internet, it’s all one world for them,” Ms Martin said.
“Every kid is on tiktok, they’re all gaming, and perpetrators go where the children are.
“When I alert parents, ‘you know your children are on tiktok from aged three,’ they say, oh it’s OK, it’s just a dancing app.”
But Ms Martin says there are dangers lurking beneath the surface of the tablet screen, and that the key to reducing harm is through education and communication.
“Online grooming is up 122 per cent in the last two years because of the pandemic.
“They’re preying on them on games, offering children things for naked pictures.
“Kids won’t tell a parent if they see pornography, or if someone approaches them in the game, because they think, oh, my parent will take my iPad away.
“We cannot ban our way out of everything, prohibition never works for anything. It’s about educating what the dangers are, why it’s so addictive.
“Parents need to reinforce with their children: nothing you can ever tell me will stop me loving you. You can tell me anything.
“Open communication is the message that we try to get across to parents.”
Describing the shock of being nominated for the OAM, Ms Martin said the experience was humbling.
“It was mind-blowing to be honest, the thought that somebody went to all the trouble of writing out the application, to know my work was that valued is quite humbling.”