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University Of New South Wales: Global Partnership Formed to Combat Sexual Exploitation and Abuse of Children


Staff member

UNSW’s Professor Michael Salter will lead a new partnership with Edinburgh’s Childlight Global Child Safety Institute.

An international collaboration between UNSW Sydney and a specialist unit at the University of Edinburgh will help step up the worldwide battle against the sexual exploitation and abuse of children.

Professor Michael Salter at UNSW’s School of Social Sciences, who is an expert on child sexual exploitation and gendered violence, will lead the partnership with members of the Childlight Global Child Safety Institute based at the University of Edinburgh.

With the creation of a new East Asia & Pacific hub based at UNSW, together they will produce data and insights to better inform policy responses to a “hidden pandemic” that affects millions of children.

Since the institute’s launch in 2023, Childlight’s team has been making inroads into one of the world’s most challenging modern problems, which has grown since the COVID-19 pandemic.

Offences range from predators tricking and blackmailing young people over personal images through to the abuse of AI technology to generate deepfake images of children.

Professor Salter, inaugural director of the new hub, recently revealed insights into the in Australia. He will soon release further findings as part of a report disclosing the worldwide scale of the problem for the first time.

His work will have reach across Asia-Pacific countries, complementing the work of pioneers in the field like Australia’s eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant, as well as playing a crucial role in the wider global efforts of Childlight.

The sexual abuse and exploitation of children is a hidden pandemic happening on a staggering scale.

Paul Stanfield

CEO Childlight

UNSW Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Attila Brungs welcomed the partnership.

“Professor Salter is a leading authority on child sexual exploitation and abuse, the effects of which are far-reaching and devastating. This international network will bring together information, research and resources to help policymakers and law enforcement protect as many children as possible,” he said.

In a joint statement University of Edinburgh Principal Sir Peter Mathieson and Provost Professor Kim Graham said: “We are delighted to see Childlight and the University of Edinburgh and UNSW bringing together some of the world’s best minds to forge this global partnership and address one of the world’s major challenges.

“Although only recently celebrating its first birthday, Childlight is already leading in research and data governance in the field of child sexual exploitation and abuse, and we are confident that this collaboration will help inform decision-makers and practitioners on how best to safeguard children globally.”

Professor Salter emphasised the opportunity for strategic and impactful research into child sexual abuse in Australia and across the Asia-Pacific region.

He said: “Our collaboration with Childlight will bring much needed focus to child sexual abuse and exploitation in our region. We face major challenges keeping children safe across Australia and beyond, online and offline. Research is key to unlocking the solutions.”

Childlight CEO Paul Stanfield, who met UNSW representatives to discuss the partnership, said the Australian team would play a crucial role.

He said: “The sexual abuse and exploitation of children is a hidden pandemic happening on a staggering scale, but the fight to keep our young people safe and secure from harm has been hampered by a lack of data to better understand it and how to tackle it.

“The expertise of Michael and his colleagues in Sydney in helping fill in these data gaps will really help to accelerate the pace of change across the world which is vital because children can’t wait.”

As well as producing new data and insights on child sexual exploitation and abuse, Childlight has provided technical advice and support to help law enforcement bodies around the world to identify and arrest perpetrators and safeguard children.
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