An important lesson in child safety from the Morcombes

Published 11:00am 10 August 2023

An important lesson in child safety from the Morcombes
Words by Ashleigh Howarth

Students from Hercules Road State School have learnt important safety tips on how to protect themselves in real life and online with a representative from the Daniel Morcombe Foundation visiting the school this week.

Michelle Cole from the Foundation dropped by on Wednesday morning and spoke to students from Years 3-6 about the Morcombes' Recognise, React and Report program.

The program has been designed to help children identify the skills they need if they find themselves in an unsafe situation, such as recognising and listening to their body clues, how to react and run to a safe place when they feel unsafe, and the best way to report the incident to a trusted adult.

During her presentation, Michelle first spoke to the children about Daniel Morcombe, who was abducted on December 7, 2003, from a bus stop on the Sunshine Coast.

“This talk is not about frightening you, but it is about providing you with some skills that will help to keep you safe,” Michelle says.

“When Daniel left home that day, unfortunately he didn’t know that within an hour things would go from safe to unsafe very quickly.

“Daniel didn’t have the skills he needed to keep safe - he wasn’t able to recognise potential danger, he didn’t know how to react, and he didn’t have the opportunity to report it.

“That is why we want to help you learn how to trust your instincts, stay in control, and really trust yourself to keep yourself safe.”

During her presentation, Michelle also spoke about the importance of students having a safety network of five adults they could trust (two of whom should be outside their household), why they should always tell an adult where they are going and what time they will be back, creating their own family password, and tips on how to stay safe on the internet.

The Morcombes, along with representatives from the foundation, have made it their mission to attend as many schools as possible to spread their message.

Daniel’s disappearance prompted his parents, Bruce and Denise Morcombe, to establish the Daniel Morcombe Foundation in 2005, which is committed to providing child safety education to children and young people to prevent abuse and promote lifelong health and wellbeing.

Following an incredible undercover police investigation, Daniel’s remains were found in August 2011.

An important lesson in child safety from the Morcombes

Remembering the three Rs

Michelle hopes the students who attended the presentation will remember the three Rs for the duration of their lives, saying you are never too old to care about personal safety.

The three Rs used in the program stand for:

RECOGNISE: encouraging students to be aware of their surroundings and to recognise body clues in situations where they don't feel safe.

REACT: helping students consider choices that may keep them safe or help make them safe again as quickly as possible.

REPORT: encouraging students to report unsafe incidents to an adult.

Tips to keep children safe online

Michelle also chatted to the students about why it was important to remain vigilant and protect themselves from strangers online.

She used the example of an adult posing online as a teenager to get her message across.

“The online world is a brilliant place to be, but there needs to be some additional things we think about to keep us safe,” Michelle says.

“I have spoken to a lot of kids this year, and what I am hearing, especially from those in years 5 and 6, is ‘Michelle, you don’t understand the online world, you’re old’.

“But regardless, it’s a different world and sometimes us adults will see it differently, but staying safe online and staying safe in the real world are both equally important.

“Please don’t accept friend requests or messages from people you don’t know.

“If anyone is talking to strangers online and you don’t know them in the real world, I would really love to think every single person here will delete them.

“And if you think your friend is actually the real deal, show someone in your safety network and ask them what they think.

“Also, please don’t post photos of yourselves in your school uniform online, because that can make it easy to identify where you go to school and what area you live in.”

An important lesson in child safety from the Morcombes

Day For Daniel

Held annually on the last Friday of October, Day for Daniel honours the memory of Daniel Morcombe.

It is Australia’s largest child safety education and awareness day, with parents, carers and educators encouraged to start a conversation with children and young people about personal safety.

On this day, the foundation asks everyone to wear red, which was the same-coloured T-shirt Daniel was wearing when he was abducted in 2003.

Day for Daniel is the Daniel Morcombe Foundation’s biggest fundraiser for the year. Money raised from the event helps the foundation continue developing free resources and programs which teach children how to stay safe.

Money from the day also goes towards supporting young victims of crime.

To find out more about Day for Daniel, and how you can be involved, visit the website.

Find out more

The Daniel Morcombe Foundation website has several safety resources and videos on its website which are available for everyone to access. These include conversation cards, fact sheets, activities, lesson plans and videos.

The foundation also recently launched its latest eSafety Challenge called That’s Suss. This free resource provides children aged between 8-12 the skills they can use to recognise red flags, react to their body clues and learn how to report online grooming and suspicious behaviour.

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