HIGH Country residents are preparing to play their part in raising awareness and funds for children in need as the countdown begins for Bravehearts annual White Balloon Day on September 6.
Hundreds of schools, day care centres, businesses, councils, sporting clubs, community groups and organisations around Australia are gearing up for the initiative, launching this week in Jindabyne.
Residents are encouraged to show their support and join the rest of the country in raising awareness and helping Bravehearts to make Australia the safest place in the world to raise a child by participating in local White Balloon Day events, or registering as volunteers.
Bravehearts is calling for volunteers, fundraising dynamos and event hosts with the most. Simply log on to the Bravehearts White Balloon Day website (http://www.whiteballoonday.com.au/) and get involved in this amazing cause. Bravehearts is calling on everyone around the country to wear white on the day to show their support for victims of child sexual assault and to generate awareness about this issue as it seeks to educate, empower and protect the most vulnerable members of the community - our kids.
The Australia-wide event is a key fixture during National Child Protection Week. With funds raised going toward education, prevention and counselling programs.
Government research shows 1 in 5 Australian children will be sexually assaulted before their 18th birthday - or 59,000 annually.
Equally as alarming is the fact that in 85 per cent of cases, the offender is known to the child and is a relative or a trusted friend.
Bravehearts founder and executive director Hetty Johnston said White Balloon Day is a symbol of hope for survivors of this devastating crime.
"White Balloon Day is about encouraging kids to come forward and break the silence, while we raise the necessary funds to ensure vital support networks and programs can continue," said Ms Johnston.
"Silence, secrecy and shame are the sex offender's best friends and the child's worst enemies."
We are asking the community to help us raise money to make Australia the safest place in the world to raise a child. It's about educating, empowering and protecting our children and their futures.
She said unless victims come forward, many other children remain targets for sex offenders.
"The truth is that it is only the victims who know who the offenders are. Sex offenders never offend only against one child, or just once. We are relying on victims to tell us who the offenders are so we can protect today's children from the same fate," said Ms Johnston.
"We are winning the battle one child at a time, but there's still a long way to go.
"Supporting White Balloon Day can be as simple as tying a white balloon to your letterbox or as grand as hosting a fundraising function."