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Gaming technology keeping at-risk kids safe

Adelaide and British researchers are hoping to develop an Australian-first avatar program to better train frontline child protection workers through interactive gaming technology.

A 3D-computer simulation program, developed in the UK following a tragic child abuse case similar to that of Adelaide girl Chloe Valentine, has so far trained more than 170 child protection staff in SA.

The “Rosie Safe” program walks social workers through the virtual home of a disadvantaged British family under investigation over a significant neglect notification involving four children, including nine-year-old sexual abuse victim Rosie.

SA staff feedback on the UK program has been positive, the department says.

University of SA social work honours program director Shepard Masocha said the UK platform needed to be Australianised for local child protection workers and university students.

Dr Masocha said state and federal funding was needed for a national program like Rosie Safe that reflected the Aussie vernacular, landscape, culture, various jurisdictional laws and regulations and included indigenous avatars and scenarios.

The Rosie program was first developed by the Centre for Child Protection at the University of Kent in about 2012 in response to the death of a 17-month-old boy in London in 2007 who suffered more than 50 injuries. He and his family were known to child protection and health authorities.

The “Baby Peter” case has been likened to that of Adelaide four-year-old Chloe Valentine, who died of head injuries in 2012 after 20 abuse notifications from friends and family over the girl’s filthy, transient and unsafe living conditions.

The SA department of child protection has been using Rosie Safe over the past 18 months following the 2016 Nyland Royal Commission which recommended better staff training, supervision and support in risk assessment and safety planning of abuse notifications.

Departmental workers will write and prepare hundreds of these assessments and plans each year.

The department’s Sue Macdonald, executive director of service delivery and practice, said Rosie Safe was an innovative way of delivering training.

UniSA and the University of Kent will soon evaluate the use of the program in SA.


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