Aboriginal Community Members

Below are both written and video testimonials from Aboriginal community members.

In line with cultural requirements and sensitivities, in some of the testimonials, we have removed the name of the person and their community.

Some of the written testimonials from Aboriginal community members are a direct dictation of what was said and remain unchanged.

Included in this section are testimonials from non-Aboriginal school principals, teachers, educators and service providers who live and work in Aboriginal communities. These testimonials are included here as they are relevant to the work we do and are an integral part of our whole of community approach to child abuse prevention education and training in Aboriginal communities.

The testimonials from non-Aboriginal school principals, teachers, educators and service providers also appear under their relevant headings. We have also added the person’s name and title if permission has been given.

The training with Holly this week has been really good. She came to my class and spoke with those kids every day. She was singing songs, reading stories, using a lot of different things that I have never seen before. It really was good and every day we were wondering, “what is coming up next with Holly”. She made this training fun for everybody, even those volunteers from the reading program and parents were coming along to learn about these protective behaviours.

We really need Holly to keep on coming back to Yuendumu School, we need to let the young ones know about this problem with sexual things and how they need to keep themselves safe. We really loved to hear the words from Holly, telling those kids about where to go for safety and what to do if something bad is happening to them. It is really important for the future of our children and my grandchildren too.

The sign language and the songs that Holly used were great. The sign is so important because our kids really don’t know how to speak, they don’t have those words to explain how they feel really deep down inside their bodies. The sign helps them to be strong and know what their rights are, Holly told all the kids about their rights and this is a great thing.

Those kids loved the music, they were using their bodies to move while they were learning and talking strong with the hand signs. I have never seen this before. It really was working for us and the kids picked it up easily.

I can really see from the faces of the kids that they like this protective behaviours learning. The early warning signs things that Holly did with those big paintings were great, the kids were loving it and it really opened up their ideas and feeling about times when they did not feel safe in this community. Those kids really did listen to Holly when she talked to them about keep on telling adults about trouble in their lives, those kids have to keep on trying until someone stops to listen to their words and starts to help them.

This program is very strong and needs to keep on going. We would love to see Holly back again next year.”

Alice – Aboriginal Teacher Assistant

“This training for me was the first time I heard some talking to openly about sexual abuse problems in community. I think it is good that Holly can be honest with us and try to help us out in keeping all of our kids in Yuendumu safe.

The things that Holly did with the kids on the mat were easy for them to understand, it was clear and they loved to do the sign. It surprise me how quickly those kids learned from Holly and they would yell back to her in those exercises where she pretends to hurt them. I seen those kids using those same words in the playground that same day after that Holly left our class. It was good and we have kept it going each day in the classroom and outside too. I have used it even at my home with my kids.

The kids really know about safe and unsafe from what Holly taught them, the thumbs up and down is easy for everyone to use and even without words or yelling at them kids. Those kids really did learn what was right and not right, they understand that they have to talk to someone in the community about these problems.

I think Holly should come back and show the kids to teach them more about this problem. I really think the kids will stop fighting and stand up for themselves because now they have the right words to say to one another.”

Clarise – Aboriginal Teacher Assistant

“This protective behaviours training is proper good for me. We want to know that story about sexual assault so that we can keep an eye out for our young children and young kids. It is important for us to keep them little ones safe and this information can help me to understand how big this problem got.

Night time at Yuendumu, girls are walking around looking for boys, this brings trouble for families and for the young people too. Young people should be in bed and going to school the next day but young girls want to only have babies and grow up too quick. This makes it hard for them to have a good future and get work and pay.

Yapa need to know everything about this protective behaviours. That movie on the DVD was good for me to watch, it is a sad story but good to hear it and learn about that trouble. That movie helps us to learn and after that movie we can think “ah this one is true”.

We are happy with Holly coming here to our community helping us to know how to keep safe and keep our children strong. I am happy with her words and I can learn a lot from that lady, maybe she will be coming back to speak to us again.”

Maisey – Aboriginal Health Worker

“I think when Holly-ann came it was time for us to teach these children about safe and unsafe feelings. The things that she did in the classroom with the kids were really good. Children really enjoy the stories from Holly-ann and all the songs and dances, it was fun for them but they were learning too. They understood the difference, you could see that.

This training is really important for our community and for us in the school. I think we should keep this program going and in my class, we will keep on talking about safe and unsafe every day. The children can use the sign language and us teachers know it now too. The actions that Holly taught the kids with the songs, helps them kids to understand their feelings.

Three good things about this training from Holly-ann:

  1. The kids really know that it is important that they feel safe all of the time wherever they are even if they are visiting other places besides Yuendumu
  2. The kids learned that they have to watch out for danger in their own homes
  3. The kids learned that it is really important to speak to parents and other adults about how they feel if they feel no good

This protective behaviours training got our own children talking in the classroom about really private things. I never heard then talk like that before and this is really good for us to learn from them what is happening in our community.”

Nancy – Aboriginal Teachers Assistant

“Holly-ann Martin from Safe4Kids has spent a week in Ltyentye Apurte Catholic School and the Santa Teresa community generally facilitating protective behaviours workshops for the past two years (2012 & 2013).

Holly-ann’s work has included daily lessons in each class, planning and resource sharing with teachers, a workshop for all members of staff, and workshops for parents/carers/families, and service providers in the community and other interested people.

Holly-ann is passionate about child protection and her work with all groups is engaging in a positive and supportive way. Her lessons with the children are well presented and age appropriate. Her approach is direct but sensitive ensuring all children are clear about issues of personal safety and can identify their own support network. Holly-ann develops in the children the ability to understand and articulate safe practices, public and private areas of the body, correct terminology for body parts and a belief in their own dignity and the rights to personal safety that that dignity implies.

In her work with the teachers and other members of staff, Holly-ann focuses on deepening their skills to identify the warning signs associated with student protection and a greater confidence in the support role they play with these children and others who may be at risk. In addition, all members of staff are left with a very clear understanding of their legal responsibilities in this area and of the processes that are to be followed to ensure the best possible outcomes for the children.

Similarly, in the workshops with parents and other adults, Holly-ann gives them a board overview of the issues associated with child protection, and of the vital part they can play in providing the safest possible environment for their children. Again this is done in a direct but affirming manner. No one is left with any doubt about the seriousness of this issue or of their responsibilities. However, all feel empowered, yet not threatened. This is due to Holly-ann’s engaging manner and her very clear passion to protect all children.

Santa Teresa is a remote Indigenous community and in her work Holly-ann is always respectful of the culture and cultural practices in the community. She has the ability to communicate in a manner that is clear and non-compromising about child protection but that also draws on the strengths and support structures within the community. It is an affirming process for all.

We believe that our children are stronger personally and that our community is richer as a whole due to the work of Holly-ann Martin from Safe4Kids. Children are the future of communities such as Santa Teresa and that future is brighter with more self-aware, self-confident children who have a greater respect for themselves and for others. We are happy to give our strongest recommendation to Holly-ann Martin and Safe4Kids.”

Br Daniel Hollamby (Principal)

Ltyentye Apurte Catholic School Santa Teresa.

“We were extremely fortunate to have Ms Martin visit Yakanarra Community School, a small indigenous school in the Kimberley.

Ms Martin spent 2 days at our school and in that time she was able to deliver professional learning to the staff of the school, to School Governing Body members and to parents in addition to the modelling of lessons from Kindergarten to Year 9 students.

All the teachers here were in awe of her ability to present to all levels of children and adults sensitive, but such important issues. Children of all ages were engaged and responded positively to Holly-ann and the material she presented. Adults were also involved and the Community were so impressed that they have requested her to return to the Community – a rare feat for a white person in this environment.

The topics and issues raised are of enormous significance to the children and their families and particularly those children who have been identified as FASD and therefore require special teaching. Protective behaviours and the positive message conveyed with the presentations are central to the development of these children who often do not understand the enormity of some of the social issues they are confronted with. Holly-ann was able to help them understand the issues and the possible significance of them in a meaningful and powerful way.

Her use of song and visual resources appealed to all ages of children and we are already seeing the outcomes of her teaching. She was able to use language that the children could understand and respond to and her programme identified the real issues at the heart of this problem. She was able to deliver material that related to personal and private issues in a sensitive and culturally appropriate manner.

At a time when child abuse has reached such significant proportions in the Australian Community, a programme such as this can help enormously in its prevention and in raising a generation of children who can be confident and safe.

I truly believe that Holly-ann’s message and delivery should reach every Australian child and I’m confident that the children of Yakanarra Community School will have better opportunities and remain safer because of her dedication and commitment to the safety and well-being of young people.

I endorse unequivocally her work and programmes and I will support her in her endeavours to reach more young people.”

Helen Unwin (Principal)
Yakanarra Community School

“We have been fortunate enough to have Holly-Ann and her Safe4Kids programme at Papunya twice.  I am exploring options in order to get her back here next semester (money, basically!).  I think the work that she does, the programme that she offers and the development of a consistent language with all age groups are invaluable.  We have adopted much of this within the school.  The fact that Holly-Ann works across the community is also of vital importance.  Having done the NT DET Protective Behaviours professional development, and then having experienced Holly-Ann’s hands-on approach, there’s just no comparison.  With the DET one, the school worked in isolation.  With Holly-Ann, the school worked with the community, and many of the other agencies (police, health, shire etc.) were able to access the PD and we now speak a common language when dealing with children. 

Unfortunately, part of working in remote communities is the constant turnover of staff across all these agencies.  This creates an urgent need to have regular and consistent training in Protective Behaviours for all personnel who work with children.  One-off PD’s, whilst effective for a short period of time, lose their impact once workers move on.  I also think that it is vital that all of the community residents are exposed to Protective Behaviours on a regular basis.

I would fully support in any way I can, the use of the Safe4Kids programme.  We owe it to our kids.”

Jenny Carew (Principal)

Papunya School, NT

“On her recent visit to our school, I was absolutely amazed to see how much my students remembered from Holly-Ann’s previous visit two years ago. They knew all the words and actions to her songs, could instantly explain the difference between safe and unsafe, public and private, early warning signs and quickly recall their support networks. Holly-Ann brings incredible energy and enthusiasm to the delivery of the Safe4Kids program and broaches topics others might be uncomfortable or unwilling to address. Holly-Ann has extensive experience working in remote Indigenous communities and I would very strongly recommend her Safe4Kids program to any school, but especially other schools in remote Indigenous communities.”

Paul Wighton (Teacher)

Ltyentye Apurte Catholic Education Centre, Santa Teresa

During May 2012 I accompanied Holly-ann Martin to the remote Indigenous community of Yuendumu, NT for the period of one week. I had not been exposed to Protective Behaviours (PB) training with school-aged children prior to this experience.

What I saw during this week was an extremely gifted and talented teacher, an expert in the delivery of protective behaviours to all. Firstly, Holly delivered her program to the children in the school. This program incorporates messages which are reinforced by the variety of resources that she has built up over the 25 years she has been teaching PB. These include but are not limited to: songs and music which incorporate her messages, the use and teaching of sign language, flash cards, pictorial scenario’s, colouring in exercises, drawings, the network handprint, a mapping technique which utilizes the local community slat map, a board game, bingo cards, posters, short movies via DVD and power-point presentations.

It was obvious to me that Holly knew every one of her 10 lessons plans by heart. She was able to capture the attention of all the children who were placed before her throughout the week, the ages of these children ranged from 4 – 16 years both girls and boys. To say she is gifted is an understatement. She was openly able to communicate with the children on all levels. To some, she spoke of confronting and embarrassing topics without hesitation or shame. This not only relieved the teachers of raising these topics with their class but Holly was able to model the use of her program in the presence of the teachers. This was of benefit to all I spoke to.

Holly’s teaching style is simple yet effective. Her messages are clear and her use of sign language was brilliant, especially for these indigenous children whose first language is Warlpiri. It was obvious that the children loved the use of sign and picked it up and used it immediately and for the whole week.

Outside of the classroom, I saw Holly deliver a session to the teenage girls at Mission Creek, some 25 kilometres from the school and community. Holly was happy to sit in the dirt with the girls and two female elders to talk to them about how to protect themselves and keep safe.

Her program is beautiful. It follows a logical path from learning about safety and the two important themes of PB (being that “Everyone has the right to feel safe all of the time” and “We can talk with someone about anything”). Holly covers important topics that build on the previous one and make the whole program flow and complement each session. Holly taught the children how to set up a network of adults that they can trust, she talked to them about persistence and the importance of talking about things that trouble them and reporting these to an adult who can help. She talked about public and private places and which behaviours are acceptable (within these). She taught the children about strangers, secrets, social distance and much more.

Separate to the school, Holly zeroed in on any adults within Yuendumu who were willing to attend one of her workshops. These were conducted with:

  • Youth Workers from Mt Theo, some of the Mt Theo Board members and staff from the Management Team
  • Health Workers at the local clinic, including Indigenous workers, student doctors visiting from the ANU, mental health staff, a social worker, two midwives and a resident Catholic Nun
  • Members of the local Yuendumu Police
  • The Southside Bombers Yuendumu football team and coaching/management staff and elders
  • All teachers and management at the Yuendumu School including the Indigenous teaching aids, the janitor, some volunteers for the “Read Program” and some interested parents
  • Artists painting in the backyard of the local Warlukarlungu Art Centre

Once again the location of the training facility appeared to not phase Holly. Training was delivered in small dirty rooms where the lighting was poor and it was freezing cold. She spoke to a group of 21 men after football training in a car park, once again in darkness and in the cold desert evening. It was obvious to me that whatever the venue, time or location, this teacher was there to spread the message of PB to anyone who was keen to listen. I saw her engage with every group in which she spoke and at times bringing some people to tears.

Holly’s holistic approach to teaching PB in remote communities is extremely effective. The children were learning new techniques and lessons at school. Their parents, government and non-government workers, volunteers and others exposed to the training were also learning about the huge problem associated with the abuse and neglect of children in the Northern Territory. I found this method of delivery to be very effective as the whole community was soon on “the same page” and able to speak the same language with the children, reinforcing the themes taught.

By the end of the week, I felt inspired by the training. I saw with my own eyes that the children were using the hand signs that Holly had shown them for what constituted them feeling safe and unsafe. They were repeating the messages that Holly had taught them and used in role play, in particular, when I saw one girl kicked by her brother, she immediately responded with the words that Holly had taught “stop it I don’t like it when you kick me like that, it hurts”.

I have recently taken on a voluntary position to establish a PB committee in the Northern Territory. For almost ten years prior to this, I worked within the ranks of the NT Police, spending about 7 years in remote communities including Yuendumu.

I saw the power and effect that this education program had on the children in Yuendumu, I can see this on a wider scale being successful in remote communities in the NT and beyond. It is my intention to support Hollyann Martin and the Safe 4 Kids program in every way I am able. I believe if the government agencies including police, health and education worked together in promoting PB to the remote communities, it could have a positive effect on what we know are extremely dysfunctional places. I believe there is hope and PB can bring change and improvement to the lives of our children. The national emergency that was declared back in 2008 by PM John Howard should have incorporated protective behaviours training into every remote Indigenous Community across the Northern Territory. Had it done so, we may have seen change and improvement in the lives of our Indigenous by now.”

Libby Andrew

Police Officer, NT (retired) 

“In my very first week of working in Central Australian remote Aboriginal communities I was discussing issues surrounding protective behaviours with a colleague. She informed about Holly-Anne and her program. I remember feeling relieved that there was this kind of program in Central Australia but also frustrated that more people weren’t able to facilitate it all the time, in every community. It has taken me a year to finally be able to arrange a time to go out bush and be part of Holly-Anne’s work. I was impressed at my colleague’s description of Holly-Anne over a year ago, but seeing her work in the community absolutely blew me away. Her passion, knowledge, experience and dedication to ensuring that everyone feels safe is nothing but phenomenal. She has a gift and that gift can ensure that children stay safe and therefore grow into strong adults that will take control of themselves, their people and their community.  

She has a communication method that is so effective and a program that is tailored and specific to the needs of Aboriginal communities. People can not help but be engaged when they are around her. You leave her sessions feeling empowered but also responsible.

I only wish Holly-Anne could be cloned to work in every community in the NT. Through my position, with the NT Government, I have reported a disturbing number of child sexual, physical and emotional abuse and neglect cases. Each one breaks my heart and I do not feel that teachers, nurses, police or community workers have enough knowledge or skills available to deal with the cases appropriately, let alone prevent them. What Holly-Anne teaches not only gives the words to the children to be able to effectively communicate their issues but it gives the skills to the children and adults of the community to actually prevent cases. I am embarrassed and disgusted that we have the issues we have in the NT but I truly believe if we can train people in Protective Behaviours and empower children and communities to speak the truth we can enable a positive influence and decrease this abuse.

Everyone who I meet that has met Holly-Anne can only speak words or admiration and praise. Often these are police officers, teachers and health workers with many years experience in remote communities. They all speak so highly of her abilities and the program and they all have a number of success stories that occurred after Holly-Anne’s visit that they want to share.

Stuff the stronger futures program – bring in Holly-Anne to liaise with these communities, she will give the skills to enable Aboriginal people to make their own futures stronger and more positive!”

Name Withheld

Health Care Worker, NT 

Our community was having a rough trot with the kids watching porn, teasing each other about sexualised images that they had seen and wanting to perform. The younger ones were conducting themselves in unsafe environments and behaviours. We have a gunja problem that is magnifying all issues and problems. Underaged sex had raised its head and I was worried about dozens of them as they were wandering the streets with nowhere safe to be and no one to talk to about the things that were going on.

I rang the CAT team and spoke to Carmen about her team coming out to talk to the kids. She instead recommended Holly – ann MARTIN.

Holly came out to Papunya and stayed for a week at the school attending to every class of all ages including the child care centre.

I can not recommend highly enough the lessons and behaviours that she has conducted and corrected in such a short time. The kids are now correcting each other on safe and unsafe. They are able to identify and verbalise the feelings that they are having, including early warning signs.

Holly conducted lessons with the older kids / young adults where she conducted a mapping exercise where the kids do our job. They showed where they feel unsafe, are having sex, buying drugs on a community map. Basically showed the area that we need to patrol or identify the owners of the property that they need lighting etc.”

Jenny Hamilton

Police Officer, Papunya Station, NT

“I am writing this letter in support of the program Safe4Kids. The coordinator of the program is Holly Ann Martin, whom I have seen working in Central Australian Remote communities of the Northern Territory. In my position as the Remote Women’s Health Educator, I have been privileged to witness this innovative program in action and have seen the positive results of the aftermath.

Holly Ann is a dedicated professional, who has committed her time and energy to working with communities in Central Australia, in an effort to assist children in having more control over the lives and themselves. She works on a holistic model so that while she is in a given community she educates as many individuals, groups and children as possible.

Being a diligent worker with a short time frame, I have seen her start a day at 0800 and not finish until 9 or 10 at night.

Children are her main focus. Holly Ann works in the school with each class, the teachers and assistant staff, utilising all of her skills, learnt as a special education teacher to engage the group with stories, role play, hand signing, songs and toys. She adapts the same education to meet the needs of the age group.

Professionals don’t miss out as they are an intricate part of holistic approach she takes with communities. Holly Ann approaches all agencies within a community to make sure that they are aware of what she is teaching the children in that community. This is important so same messages can be reinforced and understood by everyone. 

Community people are imperative to the whole process, for a few reasons

1) they have a right to know what is being taught to their children

2) children are not able to take full control over the lives alone, they need the support of their community members.

3) you never know when there is a local person who may be a perpetrator or a saviour to children in the group. If they attend the education, the saviours will be aware and better informed and more able to assist kids, whereas the perpetrators will move on, knowing that the children are strong and knowledgeable about issues around sexual abuse and will not put up with it as easily.

How she works

Holly Ann has the ability to engage all groups and has succeeded in establishing men’s groups who invite her back time and again to get more information about how they can better support their children and communities. This is unique in Central Australia, as most of the traditional men are usually more reserved and culturally strong and don’t see it as a woman’s place to educate or talk with them. Holly Ann has broken down this barrier and men have said to her “if you have something important we need to hear then you have to tell us… you are not bound by culture unless you are Aboriginal”

Most recently Holly Ann spoke to a 20 strong group of Warlpiri men from Yuendumu and I heard from a mother of two sons who attended the group say “when they came home that night they were really proud and spoke up strongly about how she (Holly Ann) made them feel.”

Holly Ann had been working with the children at school for the week and she commended the men on how well the children listened and behaved for her in class and told them that they were doing a good job of raising their kids.

Holly Ann doesn’t just, walk the walk, she talks the talk as well and has the ability to get through. Maybe this comes from her background of being a special education teacher or just the fact that she cares and this comes across every time she pulls a group together, whether they are professionals, like the police and health staff or local men, women or children, it doesn’t seem to matter, she engages the group and they hear what she has to say.

I am very proud to admit that I was present when she first came to Alice Springs in 2009 where she recognised the need for a program like hers and has come back many times since.

Holly Ann needs to be funded appropriately to continue to serve the people of Central Australian remote communities properly.

I have been in this role for 20 years and have seen several models of these protective behaviour type programs, but this is the only one that works across all disciplines, services and government branches in a holistic theme that really works.

I would urge you to take the time to just be there and watch her in action. You will be as enthralled as the bush mob are with her training style.”

Sandra McElligott

Remote Women’s Health Educator

“In May of this year, I had the pleasure of meeting Holly-Anne for the first time in Yuendemu, Northern Territory.  Holly-Anne was in Yuendemu facilitating her Safe 4 Kids program designed to teach protective-behaviours to school-aged children.  These skills assist kids to make “safe” life choices.  For example, Safe 4 Kids links the presence of our natural fright or flight instincts (e.g. butterflies in the stomach or jelly knees) to an “unsafe” situation and encourages kids to tell an adult when they are feeling these “early warning signs.”

 Holly-Anne has created an endless supply of age-appropriate songs, games and visuals for kids from kindergarten through high school.  I attended a number of sessions with Holly-Anne, and I was astounded by her ability to engage and charm even the most difficult of audiences.  Her messages are simple and intuitive; in a nutshell: everyone gets it.  She helps children set up a diversified network of five people they can always turn to when they feel unsafe or simply need to talk about uncomfortable topics.  After spending only a day with Holly-Anne, I saw children playing in the evening and flashing me a smile while giving me the “thumbs-up” as I walked by; Safe 4 Kids’ trademark hand signal to indicate a feeling of safety and happiness.  I was astounded to see how quickly children not only understood her message but how fast they adopted it into their repertoire of communication.

Holly-Anne’s Safe 4 Kids program also shares the protective behaviours’ message and skills to adults.  Holly-Anne has developed curriculum for facilitating information sessions and discussions with community members, health workers, youth workers, teachers and law enforcement personnel to ensure they are aware and engaged with what children are learning.  She highlights the critical role adults play in facilitating children’s safety and wellbeing.  This holistic approach is astoundingly simple and beautiful.  Holly-Anne’s program is desperately needed throughout all of Australia and the world for that matter.  I applaud her invaluable work and dedication towards addressing difficult life circumstances for children and her unwavering commitment to make the world a safer, more positive place.” 

Martha Wood



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PO Box 367
Armadale, Western Australia, 6992
Phone: +61 8 9497 7685
Mobile: 0422 971 189
Mobile: 0438 772 668

email info@safe4kids.com.au wesbite: www.safe4kids.com.au


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