Every child is “Elizabeth Grace” in the recently-published safeguarding children’s storybook, God gave Elizabeth Grace the Right to Feel Safe from the Archdiocese of Perth.
Launched on Sunday 13 September, following the Child Protection Mass at St Mary’s Cathedral, Perth, the book was written by Safeguarding Director Andrea Musulin in collaboration with Catholic Education WA Child Safe Consultant Justine O’Malley and illustrated by Safy Tashkandy from Brand Partner.
The book, targeted towards children aged 5 to 11, tells the story of a girl named Elizabeth Grace, whose encounter with an adolescent boy has left her felt unsafe and uncomfortable.
The book also tells the journey that she takes to be able to disclose her experience to her parents.
Present at the launch in the Cathedral Parish Centre were Perth Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB, Auxiliary Bishop Donald Sproxton, Vicar General Fr Peter Whitely, Episcopal Vicar for Adult Faith and Education Fr Vincent Glynn, CEWA Executive Director Dr Debra Sayce and Tony Borromei, Deputy State Chairman at Knights of the Southern Cross – the key sponsor for the project.
In his brief opening address, Archbishop Costelloe noted that the likes of “Elizabeth Grace” are well-known, not only in WA, but “right across our country and possibly beyond”.
“I am thrilled to officially launch this book, which is going to make an enormous contribution to the safety of children, especially the younger ones, but I think even older people who read this will get the message as well,” he said.
Some Safeguarding Officers attended the event along with Sechelela Sarota, Year 6 student at Santa Clara School in St James, who had the opportunity to name the book after winning the Safeguarding book title competition earlier this year.
“I was inspired to come up with this title because [in the previous book] we were learning about having the right to feel safe, and no-one else can take that right away because it was a gift from God,” Sechelela said.
“I am honoured and grateful for the opportunity to name the book. I enjoyed the message in this book, and I think it will help many students to have faith and learn an important message about the guidance and love of God.”
Speaking to The eRecord, Mrs Musulin said she had the idea to write the storybook for a long time; the process began a year ago when she talked to Mrs O’Malley.
“It is not just a storybook, we wrote it to educate children on the use of pornographic images, done in a fairly soft way,” Mrs Musulin said.
“It is also in response to an increasing number of complaints to police concerning pornographic images and the use of pornographic images to groom children, both online and offline.
“We have chosen to go with an older child in this storybook as the number of adolescents offending younger children have been increasing recently. I spoke to the Sex Crimes Unit of the WA Police, and they have confirmed that there was a clear spike during the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions period,” she continued.
While it can be daunting for parents to introduce sensitive topics to children and young people, Mrs Musulin believes the book is an age-appropriate resource for parents and teachers to use.
“It is developmentally appropriate, aligns with Catholic teaching and written based on credible research for the need to teach children about sex education and the use of pornographic images as it is prolific in our society.”
Mrs Musulin also hopes the book can provide the knowledge for children on how to respond to inappropriate sexual conducts from adults and older children, as well as education on how to deal with any negative experiences they may have encountered.
“While there is no foolproof system for protecting children and young people, my law enforcement experience has taught me that the best offence is a great defence,” she stated in her speech during the launch.
“I truly believe that the greatest defence is education. The book is a tool to support respectful conversations about safety and ensure we create a culture that listens to the voice of our children and keeps them safe so they can thrive.”
The authors dedicated the book to 230 Safeguarding Officers and all those who care for children within the Archdiocese.
To Read the book, Click Here
By Theresia Titus. Reproduced with permission from The Record, the news publication of the Catholic Archdiocese of Perth.