Country kids face same stranger danger risks
ARE country kids just as at risk as city kids when it comes to stranger danger?
That's the question The Bush Telegraph posed to child safety advocates Bruce and Denise Morcombe when they visited Clifton State Primary School last Wednesday as part of their Darling Downs tour.
And the answer was most definitely yes.
The Morcombes addressed close to 200 children from Clifton Cluster schools who had been invited to take part in the special day.
Pushing their message, Keeping Kids Safe, the Morecombe's know first-hand the devastation of losing a child, having lost their then 13-year-old son Daniel to a predator back in 2003.
Every parent in Australia felt the anguish faced by this warm and down-to-earth couple and followed the heartbreaking journey to find their little boy.
Bruce Morcombe said they wanted to speak to as many students as possible to ensure the students got the second chance that Daniel didn't.
"Our son Daniel was 13 years old," he said.
"He was just like you guys, happy and confident.
"He was waiting to catch a bus to travel to the Sunshine Plaza Shopping Centre to buy some Christmas presents and get a haircut. It was 2pm, Sunday, December 7, 2003," Bruce said.
"In August 2011, a man was charged with many very serious offences, but much of what actually happened to Daniel is still not available to the public, and as such, we cannot talk to you about those details because the court case is still to be finalised," he said.
"However, what we know is that Daniel did not get a second chance. His legacy is that you can learn from this tragic event and make sure that it does not happen again. He has given you that second chance."
Bruce said that when Daniel left home that day, he did not know that within an hour he would find himself in a situation he could not control.
That is why Bruce and Denise developed their safety message which is as simple as three words... Recognise, React, Report.
"One thing that may have saved Daniel that day would have been if he had known to run to safety when he felt threatened," he said.
Denise Morcombe said country children were equally at risk as their city counterparts, as strangers were driving through country towns every day.
She said many children in rural and remote areas relied on Facebook more nowadays to communicate, which was an added danger.
"Kids just adding friends on Facebook that they don't know personally is very dangerous," she said.
"Children and their parents need to be more aware and get children to delete any Facebook friends that they don't know."
Bruce said he felt the public was more aware of stranger danger since Daniel was abducted nine and a half years ago.
"However, technology has changed since then, and everyone has a computer in their pockets.
"Technology is a good positive thing, but with the click of a button you're on to the devil's network," he said.
"We want to bring safety tips to children by relating back to Daniel's very real situation.
"Daniel was probably sitting in an assembly all those years ago and heard a similar safety message. Had he picked up that additional skill, it may have helped him on that particular day.
"Remember most people out in the community are good and would never hurt us, so do not think every car driver in the street is an abductor, but it is important to always be observant and to trust your instincts," Bruce told students.
Bruce and Denise were appointed Child Safety Ambassadors in September 2011, by then Premier of Queensland Anna Bligh and their quest is ongoing.
Bruce said they were very proud that Education Queensland had developed and launched in all schools the Daniel Morcombe Child Safety Curriculum. Material is available online for parents, teachers and students.
The curriculum was launched for prep to Year 2 last September, with Stage 2, designed for Years 3-6, released earlier this year.
The final stage, aimed at Year 7-9, should be rolled out next month.
Bruce said it would focus heavily on internet safety and safe use of Facebook and Instagram, as well as reinforcing the Recognise, React and Report theme throughout the program.
"The Daniel Morcombe Child Safety Curriculum is an initiative of Queensland Education in partnership with the Daniel Morcombe Foundation," he said.
"The Daniel Morcombe Foundation identifies this as the most significant achievement in keeping kids safe for 30 years."
Bruce and Denise's story is very much about how they reacted as a family after Daniel's abduction and how they stayed strong and focussed on finding the answers.
They earned the respect of the Australian community by having a voice and showing others that they would never give-up.
"We hope that you draw inspiration from our journey and you become the best person you possibly can, no matter what hurdles are placed before you.
"That's called resilience. It means never giving up, and this is important for your safety too."
Emotion filled the voice of Denise when she told of Daniel's 25-year-old brother Dean, who is a member of a heavy metal band and who has just purchased his first home, and Daniel's twin brother, Bradley, now 23, who is engaged to be married next year.
"Everyone still thinks of him as a little boy, but he has grown up"… something that Daniel will never get to do.