The Road Ahead : August 2014
ABC'S AWARD-WINNING AUSTRALIAN Story series has a history of producing amazing and powerful television viewing, but the episode that screened on October 20, 2003 was, for many, one of the most compelling. It was the story of the Queensland family of Ian, Hetty and Kayleen Johnston, whose lives had been torn apart by the incidence of child sexual assault that happened chillingly close to home. To see and hear their brave and open disclosure on prime time television was to understand why they had been moved to form Bravehearts, Australia's leading child protection advocacy organisation, six years earlier. Their initiative moved this once taboo subject out of the shadows and into the light. "Eighteen years ago, you couldn't even say the words 'child sexual assault' -- people would scatter like cockroaches when a kitchen light is turned on," is how Hetty put it during our interview. "No-one was prepared to hear it, let alone discuss it. There are three words that are the child abusers' best friend -- silence, secrecy, shame -- and our children's worst enemy. Breaking the silence was the first port of call." At the risk of gross understatement, the formative years of Bravehearts were far from easy. As well as projecting their lives into the glare of the public spotlight forever, the family faced ongoing financial challenges, scepticism and even criticism. "It was costing a lot of money to run this place," Hetty said. "We weren't getting any financial help from anywhere. My husband funded things early on, but we're past those days now." Very much so. Today, Bravehearts Inc. is operated by a board of management and is assisted by a professional advisory committee. It is a registered charity, employing more than 50 staff across nine offices in New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania and Queensland with its headquarters at Arundel on the Gold Coast. Even so, Hetty Johnston, as the founder and executive director, remains very much the 'face' of lifestyle LIFESTYLE NEWS: SEA LIFE CELEBRATES 16 TECH & GADGETS COMPACT CAMERAS 24 DOLLARS & $ENSE: UNDERSTANDING BONDS 26 the beat of a braveheart STORY BARRY GREEN I PHOTO FOTOFORCE MEET CHILD PROTECTION ADVOCATE, RACQ MEMBER HETTY JOHNSTON.
June July 2014