Ten years after her murder at Horseshoe Bay by a 50-year-old pedophile, Carly Ryan’s legacy in the form of a new law will give police more power to protect young people from online predators.
The Criminal Code Amendment (Protecting Minors Online) Bill 2017 – more commonly known as Carly’s Law – makes it an offence if someone uses a carriage service to prepare or plan to cause harm, to engage in sexual activity with, or procure for sexual activity, children under the age of 16.
The Bill passed the Senate on Thursday, June 15.
A huge amount of education and campaigning for stronger laws by Carly’s mother Sonya, who heads up The Carly Ryan Foundation, led to the Nick Xenophon Team throwing its support behind the cause.
Ms Ryan said children and their parents should be able to use the internet without worrying about their wellbeing.
“To actually get this legislation passed to protect children is huge and a real step in protecting our innocent, vulnerable, beautiful kids that are just trying to connect to the online space and should be able to do so without having to worry about being taken advantage of or hurt or worse by a criminal trying to infiltrate their lives,” Ms Ryan said.
“I’m so proud, I’m so proud of Senator Xenophon, of Senator Skye Kakoschke-Moore, they have never given up on my vision for Carly’s Law. They have stood by my side for all these years trying to get this heard, trying to get this up on the table.”
She said Friday was an “emotional” day, knowing her work now gave police “power to intervene before a child is harmed”.
“It’s very difficult to describe in words, how this feels. This is just incredible, all I can think about is my beautiful daughter and what she would think,” she said.
Senator Xenophon commended Ms Ryan for her hard work and dedication to protecting young people from predatory behaviour.
“Many people would’ve been consumed with grief, consumed with hatred; instead Sonya was consumed with a love for her daughter and not to leave her death to be as senseless as it was, that something good could come out of something so horrendous. And that’s what she’s done,” Mr Xenophon said.
“People talk about ‘pollies’ perks’ – the biggest perk you can have in this job is to work with people like Sonya to meet people like Sonya, and to do your bit to help.”
Senator Kakoschke-Moore said a crucial part of the legislation was when an adult lies about their age over the internet to a child under 16 as part of a plan to harm the child.
“I cannot envisage a legitimate purpose for somebody over the age of 18 to ever lie about their age online to a child,” Ms Kakoschke-Moore said.
“Having a law that reflects the unacceptability of that behaviour is an important thing to have on our statute books.”
She said Ms Ryan had advocated tirelessly for better protection of children online since an “insidious online predator” took her daughter’s life 10 years ago.
“Sonya has worked with police in all states and specialised task forces to protect children from predators, especially in the online space,” she said.
“Sonya has said repeatedly that law enforcement officers have told her that they could be using the proposed legislation right now to prevent harm against children by predators, and this bill will mean they finally can.”
Member for Mayo Rebekha Sharkie has been a big supporter of Ms Ryan and said the legislation could give protection in the online world.
“Choice was taken away from Carly and from Sonya, but we can do something to help prevent this tragedy happening again,” Ms Sharkie said.
“In a digitally connected world, Carly's Law aims to give children in Australia opportunities to live a life free from predatory behaviour.”
She said while attending one of Ms Ryan’s education sessions herself, you could hear a pin drop.
“Sonya is not some nagging adult who does not know a thing about technology or who is telling children how to run their lives. She is a mum who lost her daughter,” she said.
“I commend Sonya for striving to make a change for good out of a tragedy so personally devastating and I commend everyone at the Carly Ryan Foundation for their work to make the online world safer for children.
”Our children deserve the best and, as my colleagues have said in the past, if Carly's Law can stop just one young person from becoming a victim then we have done our job, and it is worth it.”