New draft guidelines related to Child Protection Laws have been released by the Australia Council in the aftermath of the Bill Henson controversies. and require that anyone taking photographs of children needs to obtain parental permission first. Ok we’ve been pressing for changes to the law but some of the recommendations offered constitute *far* too restrictive a change!
The issue as far as the majority of us has been concerned is the potential for exploitation of kids by or for paedophiles, and whilst the new rules do now make it clear that the naked child must be supervised by the parent(s) and that they must understand the nature of the artwork that is to be produced there are no clues regarding how these (or the other) guidelines are to be enforced!
Basically the new rules have swung too far in one direction but not far enough in another!
Under the rules I (for example) wouldn’t be allowed to take pictures of my kids at a school concert or at a school swimming gala, or other sporting event, unless a parent of *every* child who attended gave explicit permission for photos to be taken! Can you really see this happening?
What’s worse is that a blanket ban such as this would make it impossible for professional photographers to take ‘crowd shots’ in case a child was amongst the gathering! How would the media cover news reports if they were unable to run news coverage without identifying, contacting and receiving permission to use the image of any child they might have captured as an incidental to the main story??
What we needed and haven’t yet been offered, get was a set of rules and guidelines that allowed parents and friends to take ‘innocent’ images, but pornography such as Henson’s images of naked little girls to be outlawed with a mechanism that ensures offenders can be, *and are* prosecuted!!
I appreciate how hard it would be to ensure that those images of ‘parents and friends’ were actually ‘innocent’ but let’s face it, if a paedophile wants to take photos of kids ‘in the street’ they will regardless what you do to try to stop them. Digital cameras with long lenses are no longer expensive and someone could sit in a car be in a street several hundred yards away from a school or playground and still be able to take clear ‘close up’ shots whilst remaining hidden themselves!
The new (draft) rules show commitment, for which they are to be commended, but their format and focus requires a major rethink to be carried out before they are adopted in legislation.