The outbreak of coronavirus didn’t stop the Dance for Daniel, so a lightning strike at Daniel House certainly wasn’t going to stop the Walk for Daniel.

Despite losing telecommunications and internet at the Palmwoods-based headquarters of the Daniel Morcombe Foundation after the weekend storms, team Morcombe soldiered on.

And today about 250 people enjoyed a sunny day on the Sunshine Coast to complete the walk home Daniel Morcombe never got to finish back on that fateful day on December 7, 2003.

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Bruce and Denise Morcombe were joined by a host of dignitaries including Queensland Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton, Daniel Morcombe Foundation ambassador Kay McGrath and last man standing skating legend Steven Bradbury.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison conveyed a message of support to the Morcombes, pointing out how Denise’s dad, who lives in Melbourne, would do the walk there because he was unable to get into Queensland.

“Every step taken will contribute to building a future where children are safe from harm and abuse. It’s a walk worth taking,’’ the PM said.

Young Winston Morcombe, Daniel’s nephew, had pride of place as he joined Denise doing his first walk.

Now in its 16th year and despite coronavirus, almost 5000 schools and early learning centres, together with hundreds of businesses, are involved in this year’s Day for Daniel activities.

And the need for awareness has never been greater with police reporting a huge surge in online predators targeting children.

Commissioner Carroll told the Sunshine Coast Daily the online threat was ‘extraordinarily worrying’ for her both in her role as Queensland’s top cop and as a parent.

She said it was crucial parents continued to ask their children who they were talking to online.

Australian Federal Police have set up a new centre in Brisbane specifically targeting online predators.

The Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation was set up after reports of child abuse material being sent more than doubled.

Denise Morcombe joined by her grandson Winston on the 16th annual Walk for Daniel in honour of Sunshine Coast teenager Daniel Morcombe.
Denise Morcombe joined by her grandson Winston on the 16th annual Walk for Daniel in honour of Sunshine Coast teenager Daniel Morcombe.

Predators are using dark web chat rooms to discuss how they can target young people during COVID.

Commissioner Carroll, who has an 18-year-old and a 15-year-old herself, said children often didn’t realise the motives behind people striking up conversations with them.

“I look at my children often on the internet … I pop in and say ‘Who are you talking to? What are you doing’?

“There’s also a lot of settings you can use to protect yourself as well.

“But awareness and education and having the conversations are the key to everything.”

Bruce and Denise Morcombe said it was estimated that more than 1.3 million people across Australia today would have a conversation about child safety because of the Day for Daniel.

Disturbingly, about 300 young people are expected to report they have been abused, based on last year’s figures.

Bruce and Denise Morcombe at the 16th annual Walk for Daniel on the Sunshine Coast.
Bruce and Denise Morcombe at the 16th annual Walk for Daniel on the Sunshine Coast.

Denise, who describes the day as her happiest of the year, said she continued to be heartened that Daniel’s legacy lived on, well after her 13-year-old boy was snatched and murdered by sex offender Brett Peter Cowan.

“Around the country, the community has never forgotten Daniel.”

While COVID-19 restricted the Morcombes’ visits to schools, the foundation has created new educational resources for children which are free to access online.

There are Keeping Kids Safe lesson plans and a fun engaging boardgame called Morky’s Safety Mission to help parents, carers and educators.

Australia’s Biggest Child Safety Lesson is also available as a resource to use on Day for Daniel.

The foundation created two versions this year, one for upper primary students on the topic of internet safety, the other for children in early childhood and lower primary on the topic of secrets and surprises.

You can find online resources here: https://danielmorcombe.com.au/keeping-kids-safe-resources/

Queensland Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll surrounded by students from Siena Catholic College where Daniel Morcombe attended. The school joined the 16th annual Walk for Daniel to promote child safety.
Queensland Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll surrounded by students from Siena Catholic College where Daniel Morcombe attended. The school joined the 16th annual Walk for Daniel to promote child safety.

LIGHTNING STRIKE HITS DANIEL HOUSE

The Sunshine Coast has been hit by some savage storms in the past few days and Bruce and Denise Morcombe certainly didn’t escape them.

Not only did they have to drive back through some pretty fierce weather returning from a school visit, they discovered a lightning strike came much closer to home.

Daniel House, where the Daniel Morcombe Foundation is based, is at Palmwoods in the Sunshine Coast hinterland.

After weekend storms, the Morcombes did a check on the property to see there had not been any damage to find a tree near a Telstra box had been hit.

“We noticed there was no internet and yeah, it looks like there was a complete meltdown,’’ Bruce told the Sunshine Coast Daily.

“The communications people undid a box under the ground and all the wiring was completely fused and melted together.

“One can’t help nature.

“Life throws you some challenges, but we get by. The main thing was there was no structural damage.

“Wires can be replaced and today the Day for Daniel, the biggest day of the year, is bigger and stronger than ever.’’

The Dance for Daniel, held in Brisbane earlier this year, was one of the last big events before coronavirus hit Australia.



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