2018 - Protecting children from online grooming

Theme: Protecting children from online grooming

The QFCC Research in the Round forum on Protecting children from online grooming was held in Brisbane on 29 November 2018. Two academics, Associate Professor Michael Salter, and Professor Mark Kebbell, and a key member from Taskforce Argos, Detective Sergeant Chris Creedon, presented on their research and knowledge gained from many years working in this area.

Sonya Ryan, the CEO and Founder of the Carly Ryan Foundation also attended the event as a panel member and explained the greater protection to children and benefits to policing of the introduction of Carly's Law in South Australia.


Panel Members:



Associate Professor Michael Salter

Associate Professor Michael Salter is a Senior Lecturer in Criminology at Western Sydney University where he leads a team of researchers in the area of violence against children and women. He specialises in the study of organised child sexual abuse and complex trauma. His 2013 book, Organised Sexual Abuse, was the first study of multi-perpetrator child sexual abuse published in Australia. His second book, Crime Justice and Social Media, was published last year, and it examines online sexual harms against children and young people on social media.

Associate Professor Salter is an Associate Editor of 'Child Abuse Review', which is the peer-reviewed journal of the British Association for the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect. Associate Professor Salter sits on the Board of Directors of the International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation, which promotes treatment and recovery for survivors of severe child abuse. This year, the ISSTD awarded him the Morton Prince Award for Scientific Achievement. Current research projects include a study of multi-sectorial responses to complex trauma and an evaluation study of a Sydney-based sibling incest treatment program.

Associate Professor Salter's presentation was: Risk factors for online grooming: Implications for prevention.

Associate Professor Salter's presentation (PPTX, 5.37MB)Associate Professor Salter's presentation (PDF, 1.38MB)Associate Professor Salter - Research Summary (DOCX, 306KB)Associate Professor Salter - Research Summary (PDF, 280KB)

Detective Sergeant Chris Creedon

Detective Sergeant Chris Creedon is a Senior Investigator at Argos, Queensland Police Service (QPS). Detective Sergeant Creedon joined the QPS in 2001 before commencing work in a Child Protection and Investigation Unit in 2005.

In 2010 he transferred to Argos where he has worked in the various teams conducting proactive and reactive investigations into internet facilitated crimes against children. Detective Sergeant Creedon facilitates training in this crime type for other investigators working in this field.

The title of Detective Sergeant Creedon's presentation was: Our children are being groomed: Issues, trends and barriers in policing the online exploitation of our children.

Professor Mark Kebbell

Professor Mark Kebbell is a Professor of Forensic Psychology at the School of Applied Psychology. His expertise and research is in the area of Investigative Psychology particularly with regards to risk assessment and the investigation and prosecution of serious crime. He is Queensland President for the Australian and New Zealand Association for Psychiatry, Psychology and Law.

His previous work has included writing the guidelines for police officers in England and Wales (with Wagstaff) for assessing witness evidence, and developing risk assessment methods for suspected sex offenders for the Australian Federal Police and the Queensland Police Service.

He has worked on more than seventy criminal cases, principally involving murder or serious sexual assault, and has given expert evidence on numerous occasions including uncontested psychological evidence in an Old Bailey appeal case. He is a Registered Psychologist in Australia and a Chartered Forensic Psychologist in the United Kingdom.

Assessing future risk of sex offending is a difficult process. In his presentation the basic components of risk assessment were outlined generally and with regards to online grooming specifically.

Professor Kebbell's presentation was on: Assessing the risk of future sex offending for people who have engaged in online grooming.

Panel members

Ms Sonya Ryan

Ms Sonya Ryan - Carly Ryan was 15-years-old when she was murdered by an online predator. It was the first crime of its type in Australia, occurring in 2007 when social media was a new phenomenon and paedophiles were really starting to infiltrate the online space. Determined to help prevent harm to other innocent children and families and to help them navigate their online journey safely, Carly's mum Sonya incorporated The Carly Ryan Foundation (CRF) in 2010.

The CRF is a certified online safety program provider under the Office of the eSafety Commissioner and delivers online safety and healthy relationship seminars to students and parents. The organisation also provides a range of services and support in the areas of internet safety and crime, cyberbullying, connection to resources and counselling and contributing to law and policy reform.

The harm-prevention charity is based in Carly's home state of South Australia but presents its education program 'Project Connect' nationally. Its small team will deliver in excess of 200 seminars throughout the year while balancing its political advocacy and support for victims of sexual abuse.

In 2017, 'Carly's Law' was introduced into the Commonwealth Criminal Code after seven years of lobbying by Sonya and CRF supporters. Carly's Law outlaws any act in preparation to harm a child, including lying about age to a minor online.

In 2018, a stricter version of Carly's Law passed in South Australia. This version makes it illegal for an adult to lie about their age or identity to a child and then attempt to meet that child. The CRF is lobbying all states and territories to follow South Australia's lead and introduce Carly's Law into their criminal code.

The CRF is a member of the Online Safety Consultative Working Group and contributed to the establishment of the Office of the eSafety Commissioner. In January 2018, the organisation was invited to join the new eSafety and Mental Health Steering Group.

Sonya Ryan has been recognised through numerous awards for her vision and leadership, including: SA Australian of The Year 2013; South Australia's top 20 most Influential people; Madison Magazine Australia's top 100 inspiring Women; and 2017 Human Rights Medal Finalist. In 2018, she opened a United Nations conference in Bangkok. In November 2018, Ms Ryan was awarded the Mother of the Nation award at the Interfaith Alliance for Safer Communities: Child Dignity in the Digital World Forum held in Abu Dhabi. This award was in recognition of her distinguished efforts in supporting mothers and children.

Ms Ryan accepted the award in honour of her daughter's legacy and was grateful for the opportunity to represent Carly on a world stage.

Mr Toby Dagg

Mr Toby Dagg is manager of Cyberreport, the eSafety Commissioner's team that oversees Australian regulation of certain kind of internet content, including child exploitation material.

Mr Dagg served eight years with New South Wales Police, mostly in criminal investigation as a Detective, followed by three years working with the New South Wales Justice Department in youth policy. In 2013, he joined the online content team, combining his passion for child protection with technical and investigation expertise. He holds degrees in global security studies and politics, and is finalising a post-graduate law degree through the University of Technology, Sydney.

Ms Hayley Stevenson

Ms Hayley Stevenson is the Acting Assistant Director-General for State Schools - Operations in the Queensland Department of Education. Ms Stevenson leads the development and implementation of statewide policy in relation to Child Safety, Suicide Prevention, Mental Health and Student Learning and Wellbeing.

Ms Stevenson started her career working in a clinical setting supporting adolescents with mental health concerns before joining a national Youth Suicide Prevention Strategy focusing on early intervention and building the resilience of young people.

This led her to the Education sector where she has worked since 2002.

Ms Stevenson has experience working across a range of health and wellbeing policy areas impacting children, young people and their families and is deeply committed to improving the life outcomes of every child. 


Ms Cheryl Leavy

Ms Cheryl Leavy - The session was facilitated by Ms Cheryl Leavy, Deputy Commissioner of the QFCC who joined the Commission in June 2017. Cheryl is passionate about promoting and advocating for safe, caring and connected communities and reducing the over-representation of First Australian Children in the child protection system.

Cheryl has enjoyed a notable career working with both the private sector and across state and federal governments in the health, taxation, education and transport portfolios. She has served on several boards including as a representative of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community. Cheryl has deep experience and expertise in engaging with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and organisations.

A Kooma Traditional Owner, Cheryl's country is in southern inland Queensland between Cunnamulla and St George.

Photos from Research in the Round