Legislative Council: Tuesday, November 28, 2023


Carly Ryan Foundation

The Hon. R.P. WORTLEY (15:09): My question is to the Attorney-General. Will the minister inform the council about his recent meeting with Sonya Ryan and the Carly Ryan Foundation and the fantastic work that the foundation has been doing both in Australia and overseas?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (15:09): I thank the member for his question. At the outset, I want to pay tribute to Sonya Ryan and the work that is done within the Carly Ryan Foundation. I have met with Ms Sonya Ryan OAM a number of times, including very recently. Many will remember that she is the public figure, advocate and founder of the Carly Ryan Foundation.

Carly Ryan, Sonya's daughter, was 15 years old when she was murdered by an online predator. It was thought to be the first of this type of crime in Australia, occurring in 2007 as social media was developing and child sex offenders were starting to infiltrate the online space. Sonya, determined to help prevent harm to other innocent children and families and to help them navigate through the online safety journey, founded the Carly Ryan Foundation in 2010.

A law, commonly known as Carly's Law, is the result of the tireless crusade by Sonya Ryan in trying to prevent such tragedies from reoccurring. Sonya and the foundation have been key advocates in getting parliaments here and elsewhere to adopt this law. Legislation was passed recently to strengthen Carly's Law.

The Statutes Amendment (Child Sex Offences) Bill amended section 139A of the Criminal Law Consolidation Act to strengthen Carly's Law to ensure that people communicating with a fictitious child (i.e. an undercover police officer) can still be prosecuted if they believed they were communicating with a real child. Sonya, I know, was most grateful for this change in SA that has been operating since October 2022.

It was particularly good to hear from Sonya in my recent discussions. She is in the United States at the moment, doing work there to take the message of online safety not just around Australia but around the globe. Sonya has been engaging with mayors, members of government and ambassadors to try to ensure that eventually online safety becomes more important and that action is taken in jurisdictions right around the world.

Beyond the advocacy in the US, the foundation has been continuing its work here by rolling out information resources for children in schools, raising awareness of the risks of online grooming and distributing media guidelines to ensure accurate and sensitive reporting of matters of child sexual abuse. The Carly Ryan Foundation has recently been incorporated as a foundation to add further to their highly acclaimed work. There is much more work being undertaken by this government to better protect children from child sex offenders and we look forward to continuing this work in this parliament and in the community.