Helping children bear what they witness

Goodbyes aren't always sad for child witness support volunteer Jan Brown


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Protect All Children Today volunteer Jan Brown – a fairer hand dealt to young witnesses to crime appearing in court

Protect All Children Today volunteer Jan Brown – a fairer hand dealt to young witnesses to crime appearing in court

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Volunteers support child victims and witnesses of crime through court appearances

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In the past nine years, Brisbane’s Jan Brown has penned almost 400 letters of goodbye to young Queenslanders who have touched her lives, and she theirs.

They are the child victims and witnesses of crime that Jan has stood beside in her role as a child witness support volunteer.

“When I say goodbye, it’s because their time of need in me is over. They’ve been courageous. They can use that strength, that courage, for anything in life. I don’t need to be around as a reminder of a traumatic time,” Jan, 76, told The Senior.

In the past 30 years, volunteers like Jan from the organisation Protect All Children Today (PACT) have stood alongside 20,000 children and teenagers, victims and witnesses of crimes, as they have prepared to testify.

While not a counsellor, Jan and the other volunteers are anchors for these youngsters, some not even of school age.

“We’re allocated ‘cases’ and, given that it can take time for cases to be heard, we may be around for a couple of years, getting to know a child and the family, explaining the process, sitting beside the child as they wait to testify,” explained Jan, who was named 2018 Child Protection Week Volunteer of the Year.

“It is very emotional for them, reliving situations they’d really prefer to shut down from memory.”

PACT has also advocated on behalf of child witnesses for changes to the court system including alternative arrangements to facing defendants in court.

Jan said the rise of domestic violence cases appearing in courts had seen a surge in child witnesses giving evidence “torn every which way, their loyalties divided”.

“As child witness support volunteers, we create safe spaces in which children feel comfortable to speak their truth.”

PACT needs more court witness volunteer supporters, particularly in Rockhampton, Ipswich and north Brisbane. Comprehensive training is provided. For details click HERE

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