SAFETY FIRST: Zac, Cameron and Sonya Ryan from The Carly Ryan Foundation in Bundaberg with Senior Constable Mick Gray.
SAFETY FIRST: Zac, Cameron and Sonya Ryan from The Carly Ryan Foundation in Bundaberg with Senior Constable Mick Gray. Mikayla Haupt

Mum's mission to help kids after predator kills child

DURING her visit to Bundaberg, Sonya Ryan and her team at The Carly Ryan Foundation reached 3000 students about cybersafety and now she's calling out to Queensland's Attorney-General.

Sonya's daughter Carly Ryan was killed at age 15 by an online predator.

Ms Ryan started the foundation to help educate and empower students, parents and communities about the dangers in the online space.

Carly's death in 2007 was the first of its kind reported in Australia and after a decade of tireless work, Carly's Law was passed federally.

The law enables police to take action against predators sooner and with greater consequences.

 

Carly Ryan was Killed by an online predator.
Carly Ryan was Killed by an online predator. Contributed

Now Ms Ryan is fighting to integrate a state-level law in Queensland like the one in South Australia.

She said they approached the Attorney-General in March to request a meeting about Carly's Law State, like the South Australian version.

Ms Ryan said the federal version covers any preparation to harm a child online with a sentence of up to 10 years.

The South Australian version gave police the opportunity to step in before a child has met with an online predator, which can prevent further harm.

"It essentially says if you lie about your identity and age to a minor, under 16, online and attempt to meet that minor, that in itself is the offence," she said.

"It removes the need for the police to have to prove intention to harm and we want that version in Queensland.

"Police are asking for it, specialised task forces are asking for it. They've said to me 'We can arrest people right now with that version of Carly's Law in Queensland'.

"I think it's really important that we meet with the AG as soon as possible to see whether it's a possibility to have this version of Carly's Law put in place in Queensland for the benefit of police but ultimately for the benefit of children in order to protect them."

Spending the week in Bundaberg, Ms Ryan and her team visited five high schools and held a community session at the Bundaberg Multiplex as part of a joint initiative with Bundaberg Police and the PCYC Safer Communities Program.

Ms Ryan said they have had positive feedback from the thousands of students they spoke with and a couple of disclosures - where they shared their own stories after the session.

She said it was so successful that they were trying to make it an annual visit.

"We really want to help prevent a child being taken advantage of either physically, emotionally or financially," she said.

Ms Ryan said rather than lecturing the students, it's about connecting and making the information relevant and that's achieved through Carly's story.

"Carly was a real girl with a family that loved her, with hopes and dreams and goals and that was taken from her," Ms Ryan said.

Throughout the team's visit to Bundaberg they discussed issues around bullying, privacy settings and sending nude pictures.

For Ms Ryan, it's also about reiterating self-worth and understanding that you are enough.

"If you believe in yourself you can do anything you want to do," she said.

"I'm kind of living proof of that, with the passion that I have around this message and my love connection with Carly."

Having taken Carly's Law around the world and influenced federal and state law, it goes to show, "I'm just a mum who loves her daughter and look at what I've done".

A spokesperson for the Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Yvette D'Ath said The Carly Ryan Foundation did request a meeting 12 months ago, but the Attorney-General was not able to meet with them at the time.

"Queensland's laws envisage the kind of behaviour that is often involved when an adult seeks to procure a young person to engage in a sexual act," the spokesperson said.

"Section 218 of the Queensland Criminal Code makes explicit provision for an offence, carrying a penalty of up to 14 years imprisonment, if someone uses a false pretence to procure a person to engage in a sexual act.

"Additionally, Section 218A of the Code states that any adult who uses electronic communication with intent to procure a person under the age of 16 years, or a person the adult believes is under the age of 16 years, to engage in a sexual act commits a crime with a penalty of up to 10 years' imprisonment."

The spokesperson said the adult is liable to 14 years' imprisonment if the offence involves the adult intentionally meeting the person or going to a place with the intention of meeting the person.

"Queensland police are at the forefront of ways to detect and prosecute adults who use the internet to prey on children," they said.

"If the police or child protection authorities were to advise the government that there was a need to strengthen or change current laws, the government would obviously consider that advice closely.

"The Queensland Government has acted in a number of areas to protect people, and in particular young people from those who would prey on them online, for example, in relation to the publication and distribution of child exploitation materials and 'revenge porn'."

For more information about The Carly Ryan Foundation visit www.carlyryan foundation.com or their social media platforms.

For more information about what kids do online, visit www.thinkuknow.org.au.



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