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Canberra women contributing to global efforts keeping women and children safe online

Emma Macdonald

An Australian initiative to promote and protect the rights of children will draw experts in law and human rights from around the globe.

It will also hear from two Canberra experts on the forefront of keeping women and children safe online.

The World Congress on Family Law and Children’s Rights will be held in Dublin, Ireland, from June 4-7. The conference will bring together 1000 delegates from around the world to focus on the issue of commercialised sexual exploitation of children, as well as internet pornography, cyberbullying, international best practice in family law and violence against women.

Australian initiatives will be at the forefront with our very own Canberrans, Assistant Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police, Deborah Platz, and Commander Lesa Gale, Manager of Victim Based Crime, leading a special session on Cybersafety for Women and Children.

Lesa Gale

Commander Lesa Gale, Manager of Victim Based Crime

Canberra maternal health charity Send Hope Not Flowers is also one of the organisations whose work helping more women give birth safely in developing countries will be highlighted during the congress.

Held every four years since it was conceived by a group of Australian family law experts and convened in Sydney in 1993, the congress is now considered the premier global forum for issues pertaining to child justice.

With past patrons including former First Lady Hilliary Clinton and Her Royal Highness Crown Princess Mary of Denmark, the congress now attracts global attention to issues affecting the rights and welfare of children.

According to board member and Canberra-based Executive Officer of the Family Court of Australia Leisha Lister, it provides a platform for leading academics, judges, lawyers and human rights advocates to share best practice, strengthen collaboration and to achieve change.

Profesional Photo LeishaLister

Executive Officer of the Family Court of Australia Leisha Lister.

Leisha notes that has always sought to be “result orientated” and not simply a talk fest – with outcomes including shining an international spotlight on human rights abuses, developing practical resolutions, building partnerships and funding projects which uphold the rights of children. Globally, the congress has helped fund initiatives ranging from improving Cambodia’s provincial court system in its treatment of children, to providing educational scholarships for Indonesian children among the country’s poorest single-mother families, and building schools in Central America.

Past topics include the rights of children of same-sex couples and children conceived by surrogacy, children of war, child labour, trafficking and international child abduction.

Deputy Chair of the congress is Australian lawyer Sally Nicholes, whose involvement began in 1997 when, as an “enthusiastic young lawyer specialising in international child abduction” Sally committed to delivering a paper at the next 2001 conference. By 2005 she was a board member and her passion for the congress relates to “its ability to create change by sharing best practices on an international scale between all the key stakeholders on such issues as family violence”.  Sally’s firm, Nicholes Family Lawyers, has developed a significant pro bono component including The Alfred Help Program (pro bono assistance for those who are critically ill) and a legal clinic for the Women’s Information and Referral Exchange in Victoria.

She notes some of the World Congress’ most enduring achievements have been the promotion of laws subsequently enacted by the Australian Parliament which operate extraterritorially and which outlaw offences committed by Australian residents in abusing children overseas. This model of legislation has now been echoed in legislation passed in many countries throughout the world.

The conference has also encouraged the adoption of voluntary child labour codes of conduct among multi-national corporations regarding the employment and treatment of children not only in their respective enterprises, but in enterprises supplying their manufacturing. The Congress sought to encourage this form of self-regulation and its work continues on this task.


Emma Macdonald

Emma Macdonald has been writing about Canberra and its people for more than 20 years, winning numerous awards for her journalism - including a Walkley or two - along the way. Canberra born and bred, she’s fiercely loyal to the city, tribally inner-north, and relieved the rest of the country is finally recognising Canberra’s cool and creative credentials. More about the Author