Innovative, interactive resources for abuse prevention education in the early years

Written by Holly-ann Martin, Managing Director of Safe4Kids

In Australia, up to 30 per cent of children experience some form of childhood sexual abuse and between 5 and 10 per cent experience severe abuse (Ogloff, Cutajar, Mann & Mullen, 2012). The AIHW’s Child Protection Australia 2013-14 publication reports that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children were 7 times as likely as non-Indigenous children to be receiving child protection services. These statistics reveal why child abuse prevention education needs to start with children as young as three.

While it is unrealistic to place the onus solely on children to protect themselves, it is impossible for trusted adults and family members to be with children at all times. It is therefore important that children are empowered and taught abuse prevention education. The Safe4Kids Protective Education Program, which will be formally released in October 2015, is a primary prevention, early intervention program with a holistic approach to child abuse prevention education. The program is culturally sensitive and children are taught basic, age-appropriate abuse-prevention education concepts, and given the opportunity to practise these new skills in a safe, controlled environment.

The Safe4Kids program has been designed for early years educators in childcare centres, family day care, and playgroups, and also for primary school teachers. The program has been linked to The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia and the National Quality Framework. The program is appropriate for children aged from three years, and for children with special needs.

The aim of the program is to empower and educate children to help ensure their own safety. It also aims to inspire and educate adults by providing them with the skills to help keep children safe. The program is more than an abuse prevention program. It is also a life skills program. It teaches children to be persistent, assertive and helps build resilience in children. The Safe4Kids program is based on 10 concepts, each delivered over a one-week period. One concept is taught every day for a week and the lessons take around 30 minutes to deliver each day.

There are five core learning objectives in the Safe4Kids program, which aim for children to be able to:

  • understand that we all have the right to feel safe;
  • better express their feelings and emotions;
  • identify their early warning signs and take action if they feel unsafe;
  • list five trusted adults for their safety team, be able to talk with them and persist in seeking help from them if required; and
  • use the correct anatomical names for their private body parts.

At the time of writing, there has been no evidence-based evaluation of the program. However, strong anecdotal evidence received from parents, educators and community members suggests that the program has been effective in teaching children abuse prevention strategies. Moving ahead, the Protective Education Program will include review questions for each concept, with educators encouraged to use a range of strategies to collect and interpret information about what the children are demonstrating in the learning experiences. At the completion of the program, a board game will be used to evaluate the children’s ability to understand the principles of protective education.

More information is available on the Safe4Kids practice profile on Knowledge Circle.

More information on the Safe4Kids Protective Education Program is available on the Safe4Kids' website.

A paper on the Safe4Kids Protective Education Program was presented at the 2015 SNAICC Conference. This article was published in collaboration with SNAICC as part of the Conference.

Further reading and resources


Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2015). Child protection Australia: 2013–14. Child Welfare series no. 61. Cat. no. CWS 52. Canberra: AIHW.

Ogloff, J., Cutajar, M., Mann, E., & Mullen, P. (2012). Child Sexual Abuse and Subsequent Offending and Victimisation: A 45 Year Follow-Up Study. Criminology Research Council.

The feature image is supplied by the author.

Comments (1)

As a teacher working in a Preschool within a Child Care Centre, I must say that this is long overdue. there are families who cannot access DECD Preschools so this type of "formalised" program has not been readily available to those children and families. It has been left to individual teachers and educators to do they best they could with minimal support. Another indication of a two tiered system, one for Teachers working within Child Care Education and another tier for those in DECD education.