19 January 2021

Tania Maxwell MP has welcomed news that Australia’s first specialist unit to tackle child exploitation has been formed in Victoria in a bid to stop a rise in online child grooming.

The unit, which engages undercover police to infiltrate online gaming chat rooms, specialises in tracing offenders who prey on children. Recent figures released by Victoria Police, as reported in a 16 January Herald Sun article, show that at least 8.4 million files of child abuse material were in circulation on ‘dark-web’ networks in December 2020.

Ms Maxwell has previously highlighted in Parliament the revelation of the former Police Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton in 2019 that Victoria is facing a ‘tidal wave of violent child pornography material’. Ms Maxwell also raised similar matters in February and October 2020, seeking information about the work the Victorian Government was undertaking to target child pornography offenders, and calling for assurances that future sentencing for such offences will better reflect the gravity of these horrific crimes.

Ms Maxwell said that the recent COVID lockdowns, along with the increasing popularity of online gaming, have allowed perpetrators the opportunity to infiltrate online gaming chat rooms in an attempt to prey on children. She has also expressed serious concerns at recent figures released by the Victorian Joint Anti Child Exploitation Team (JACET) that the number of child abuse images and videos traded online in Victoria almost doubled in the year to August.

Ms Maxwell expressed her gratitude to all those involved in bringing alleged perpetrators to justice, including JACET, other Victoria Police officers and the Australian Federal Police.

Quotes attributable to Tania Maxwell

“There has been an astonishing explosion in child grooming activity during coronavirus lockdowns, with reports stating there has been a 30 per cent rise in the number of IP addresses sharing child abuse material online.”

“Recent figures regarding online child exploitation are staggering. We must fight for the rights of children and hold to account those who produce or view child exploitation material. The sentencing of these offenders must reflect the seriousness of their heinous crimes.”