Safety House program closes the door for good

LEADING child protection campaigner Bruce Morcombe has described the demise of the state's Safety House scheme as "sad" but says it has been overtaken by technology and changes in society.

Queensland's Safety House Association will cease to exist from tomorrow after 31 years providing safe havens for children, teenagers and adults who fear for their safety.

Volunteers inside the designated properties, who had undergone background checks and stringent interviews, would contact police if alerted of a problem.

The participating properties were identified by a bright yellow smiling house symbol.

"It is sad, but I think father time has moved on and technology has moved on as well," Mr Morcombe, of the Daniel Morcombe Foundation, said.

"While we're concerned about potential abductions in the street and a flasher in the park, the biggest danger to children these days is actually online.

"Historically, nine out of 10 offences against children are committed by people the children know.

"The Safety House program, statistically, didn't help children in those situations."

Mr Morcombe said many Safety Houses were also no longer occupied by the people originally approved as appropriate volunteers.

"The yellow stickers might have a 10-year life, and often the tenant or owner-occupier would move, so the sticker would still be there but the new occupier would not have been vetted.

"The population today is more transient, people move around a lot more than they used to."

"It is sad, but I think father time has moved on and technology has moved on as well," Bruce Morcombe - Daniel Morcombe Foundation.

New technology like security camera systems were now more common in homes and businesses, but could not replace the need for vigilance and education.

"It's important that the community is observant and children are observant and that children recognise their body clues," Mr Morcombe said.

"When they feel nervous, or get goose bumps, or they think something seems creepy, the number one thing to do is run - run back home or run back to school, and once they are safe, report what happened."

"We hope that technology does help fill that void, but a camera can't help you, it can only capture what happens."

The Safety House program was launched in 1983. State treasurer Melody Whiting has spent recent weeks travelling the state to personally remove the signage from letterboxes and storefronts of participating homes and businesses.

She said she was sorry to see the program go.

"I think it saved lives."


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