Risk naive

A little over a week ago was the annual Day for Daniel (Morcombe).  We were holidaying on the Sunshine Coast when Daniel Morcombe first went missing and as we were up here most years we were half involved in the story, the search posters and memorials.

But we didn’t realise the full impact of the Daniel Morcombe story on the Sunshine Coast population until we moved up here three years ago. The profile of his disappearance, and more recently the details of his grisly demise, have left a scar on the population.  The concept of helicopter parents is well-known, but it’s perhaps heightened on the Coast as parents take every precaution to button down their kids from “stranger danger“.


Even in the exceedingly benign climate of our village of Mapleton, what I call the Daniel effect, holds sway.  Ours is still a quaint town, quiet, with large footpaths (cycle ways ) down each street.  A friendly shopping precinct, a library where volunteers love to ply kids with books.  It’s perfectly set up for kids to enjoy the kind of free-roaming childhood I had when I grew up in Bulawayo and then Townsville.  Yet the majority of kids are ne’er to be seen out and about.

Each year Day for Daniel reinforces the message of child safety.  It’s a commendable venture.  And I hope this blog piece is not seen as a criticism because no parent should have to endure what the Morcombes have, and hopefully no child will meet the same fate as Daniel.  It’s great for kids to be given coping strategies and signals to be extricated from dangerous situations (mine included).  But I do wonder about the impact of the subliminal message they’re receiving.  Nowhere is safe.  Trust no one.  Be shuttled everywhere lest you be snatched.

It’s a topic of frequent conversation in our workplace about how kids are being firewalled from all danger only for the expectation to be that they’ll hit maturity and know how to fend for themselves.  (Presumably the education system thinks data and head knowledge will triumph over a lack of experience?)  And how in adulthood will they be able to assess risk and make wise decisions if they’re not given adequate opportunity to learn from the bumps and scrapes of childhood?

It’s not that we need to be cavalier about their safety.  But equally we can’t lock them away in adult-inspired safety until they leave home before unleashing them on the world and expect them to very quickly find the skills to muddle through unilaterally.  It’s a fine balance huh?

So I was relieved to hear this issue get a good hearing from Alannah MacTiernan and Bob Cronin on last night’s Q&A program on the ABC.  Apologies for the poor quality of the video, but it bears watching.


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