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Country mourns loss of Professor Freda Briggs, aged 85

Professor Briggs's child protection expertise was shared across the world.
Professor Briggs's child protection expertise was shared across the world.

THE HIGHLY regarded expert on child abuse issues and multi award-winning professor Freda Briggs died last week in hospital at the age of 85.

Child protection group Bravehearts praised her lifelong efforts to safeguard children.

Bravehearts founder Hetty Johnston said Professor Briggs made a critical difference in the lives of many vulnerable children.

"She's lived her life to protect children, that was what it was all about for Freda and she lived it, she squeezed every little bit of everything that she could out of that she could out of her life and all for really the benefit of the community and particularly children," she said.

The academic started her long career as a child protection officer attached to the police force in London before she moved into social work and teaching.

She previously attributed her move into police work to an ad in a local paper seeking female police recruits.

"Nursing was out of the question because the pay was a mere 10 shillings a week and student nurses needed family support, and then I saw an advertisement for women police in London," she said in 2007 interview.

"It was the perfect solution - it offered free accommodation, free food, free uniform, seven pounds a week and the opportunity to leave my overly restrictive home for adventure."

After moving to Australia in 1975 she was appointed a director of early childhood studies in Victoria and developed courses in early childhood care and education, as well as residential social work.

She became the dean of the Institute of Early Childhood and Family Studies in Adelaide in 1980 and established a ground-breaking child protection course, upon which overseas universities later modelled their own courses.

In 2000 she was named Senior Australian of the Year for her child protection and education work and in 2005 became an Officer of the Order of Australia.

Professor Briggs was also the chair of the de Lissa Institute of Early Childhood and Family Studies at the University of South Australia where she continued her work supporting abused children and dealing with jailed paedophiles.

South Australia's Acting Premier John Rau said the state had greatly benefited from Professor Briggs' efforts, even though it had not always been easy to listen to what she was saying.

"We are all actually better off for having her loud, clear voice in the areas that she's spoken up on," he said.

"At times perhaps [it was] discomforting for governments but ultimately with the result that things have been brought into the light."

Former foreign affairs minister Alexander Downer tweeted that the academic had been a "champion of children" and would be "very much missed".

Successful campaign against mandatory retirement

Professor Briggs was one of Australia's most sought-after experts about child abuse issues and the psychology of child abusers.

Her expertise was frequently sought across the world.

She received an Australian Humanitarian Award, an Anzac Fellowship Award, and the national Centenary Award for outstanding service to the nation.

Beyond her expertise in the field of child abuse, she was a patron for the Adelaide Women and Children's Hospital paediatric palliative care project, and a SA ambassador to the prime minister's department on the recognition of women.

She also campaigned with success against mandatory retirement from the workforce at 65.

She continued working on child protection matters for a further two decades.

In an interview she once said she would have been hopeless at playing bowls or golf, or travelling Australia with a caravan.

"My energy probably comes from anger. I get very angry with the way that people, governments and courts treat children. It makes me angry that governments can waste millions of dollars advertising their own policies while departments fail to investigate child abuse cases because they don't have sufficient resources," she said.

Professor Briggs was a media consultant on child protection issues relating to television, movies and computer games.

Topics:  australia professor queensland


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