Media Release: Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) today praised the NSW Government for its call for nationwide action to stop the exploitation of children in artworks and publications.

ACL wrote to the Prime Minister earlier this month asking that he direct the next Standing Committee of Attorneys-General (SCAG) to address this issue, including concerns that exemptions in the National Classification Scheme for ‘artistic merit’ are circumventing community standards.

ACL is also approaching all the State and Territory Attorneys-General individually to ask that the issue be given high priority at the next SCAG Censorship meeting in November.

“We strongly welcome the push from both the NSW Community Services Minister and the NSW Attorney-General for action on this issue, which encompasses both child protection and classification concerns,” ACL National Chief of Staff Lyle Shelton said today.

“The justifiable controversy over the Bill Henson and Art Monthly Australia photos has tapped into a high level of public concern over the way children are being sexualised in society, as well as the need for the art industry to better adhere to community standards,” Mr Shelton said.

“Questions need to be asked about whether it is right for children to pose naked for photographs meant for public consumption or profit – especially in our modern world where images are posted on the Internet and can never be taken back. Also, should so-called ‘artistic merit’ be used as an easy escape clause when the media and art industries defy community standards?

“We urge SCAG to properly address these issues by closing the artistic merit loopholes in the National Classification Scheme, and considering what wider action can be taken to protect children against exploitation by the art world, which is not generally covered by classification laws.”

Mr Shelton said ACL welcomed the Federal Arts Minister’s recent request for the arts community to come up with a set of protocols for the depiction of children in art and publications, but felt this did not go far enough.

“This is a welcome step in the right direction but far more needs to be done to properly safeguard children. One has to wonder whether such protocols will have any real teeth and whether artists and media will continue to sexualise children and defy community standards at whim.”

Media Contact: Glynis Quinlan