Minister Brown Press Conference

CAROL BROWN: Well, thanks to everyone coming here today. I’d like to welcome Melanie Courtney, CEO of KidSafe Victoria and thank her for hosting us here today for this very important announcement. I'd also like to particularly welcome Eve and Emma and Peter who have all advocated for this change. And I'd also like to acknowledge the Georgina Josephine Foundation that was created  after the death of Emma and Peter’s daughter. It's because of their fierce determination and strength of advocates that we're here today.

Every week, a child is injured in a driveway accident involving a vehicle, particularly children under the age of five. And to begin the process of reducing these accidents is why we're here today, because no family, no parent should be going through an unthinkable heartbreak. So, to begin that process, the Australian Government is today announcing the mandating of reversing aids on all new vehicles.

Reversing aids will give a driver the greatest possible line of sight while reversing. This means that all new vehicles will need to be fitted with sensor detection systems, which will enable them to know when an object - someone or something - is close by the vehicle while they're reversing. This mandate will mean that all new vehicle will be fitted with at least two systems, motion sensors, reversing cameras or a vibration alerting system which will alert the driver that someone is close by. The mandate comes after long advocacy by parents who have been impacted by fatal and non-fatal driveway accidents, by professionals that work in this field and by organisations that work in kids’ safety and road safety. So I thank them for the work that they've done.

Mandatory reversing aids will save lives. If it saves just one life, it will be well worth it. The reversing aids mandate will apply to light, medium and heavy vehicles. So, cars, vans, trucks, all of them. If we can save parents or a family from this devastation by introducing this mandate it will be worth it. This mandate is an important step in the right direction. And we know that reversing aids will improve visibility and reduce black spot areas. I just want to again thank all the advocates and the families because I don't know what they've been through, and I can only imagine the heartache and the lifelong grief that they are going through that I thank them for the work that they've done.

Thank you.

JOURNALIST: Thank you. When will it apply? When does it come in?

CAROL BROWN: So the mandate applies from the first of November 2025. But the Australian Government anticipates manufacturers will take up this measure way before the mandated date, and in fact, many manufacturers already are.

JOURNALIST: Yeah, do we have any - Do we know how many are lagging behind and those new vehicles are?

CAROL BROWN: Not really but what we normally see is that cars on the upper end, they put in a lot of the safety measures and sometimes and in this case some manufacturers have already taken up this at Australian design rule prior to it being mandated. We've seen that and with that we've seen some of them are already on their way, it's those cars at the medium and low end of the scale that we want to make sure that those cars, those vans, those trucks all have reversing aids. Because they will save lives. We already know that 161 pedestrians so far have been killed on and around our roads this year. Driveway runovers are not included in the road toll but reversing aids are particularly important safety tool for pedestrians and vulnerable road users like children, elderly, cyclists, so it's as I said it is an important step in the right direction.

JOURNALIST: Has any other country mandated this?

CAROL BROWN: Yes, so Australia harmonizes, our Australian design rules with the United Nations and yes, there would be the US, and European countries have already mandated this. This is a privilege for me to be here today to announce the mandating of reversing aids.

DR ADAM WEST: My name is Dr. Adam West. I'm the director of pediatric emergency medicine here at Monash Health.

JOURNALIST: How much of a difference could this make to preventing injuries in some of our littlest patients?

DR ADAM WEST: While we don't see a lot of this type of devastating injury here at Monash Health, the Senator's announcement today is really welcoming anything that makes the world a safer place, particularly for children.

JOURNALIST: What kind of injuries I guess do you see from these types of accidents?

DR ADAM WEST: This type of injury can be quite devastating. It's difficult for children to survive those types of accidents.


JOURNALIST: I’ll just get you to start by your full name and position.

MELANIE COURTNEY: Melanie Courtney CEO of KidSafe Victoria.

JOURNALIST: Would you want to take us through why we're here today?

MELANIE COURTNEY: Sure. It's an absolute privilege to be here today. Together with the Federal Government and with the families who've been impacted forever, I know it hurts. Particularly want to shout out to Emma and Peter who has come all the way here from Canberra today. And they’ve been advocating for this for so long. So, a big step forward and you should feel incredibly proud, and I know that Georgina would feel incredibly proud of you as well.

I also want to mention Eve, Pippa's mum who, you know, these families so selflessly share their stories to make it a better place for all the children and to save other children. So just a really big acknowledgement to the families today for coming here. And not just for the kids but for all of the other things that you've done with Aston and on behalf of children everywhere. So a really big thank you.

KidSafe really welcomes the new regulations. It's a really big step forward in terms of child safety. Being a parent is a really tricky job and any tools that can assist in doing so, and keeping our children safe are really welcome developments from a kid safe perspective.

JOURNALIST: How long has this been in the works for?

MELANIE COURTNEY: Well look it’s something that we've been wanting for a number of years and to know that they've actually mandated to at least two of the reversing aids on every vehicle is a really great step forward. We really, really, really welcome announcement.

JOURNALIST: Yeah, how precarious when you're looking at it from a KidSafe perspective, how precarious is that environment around cars and children?

MELANIE COURTNEY: Children are so quick, they're inquisitive, that can be in a place that you don't expect them to be in just a split second, and it is just that split second that it takes to change your life forever. So, you know, having these, having these steps in place is really going to make a difference, and obviously too, it's really important to remember they are reversing aids so it's really important for families to communicate, know who's looking after the child, and we always say to parents to treat the driveway like a road. You know, it is a really dangerous space to be in so making sure that they have those other measures in place as well.

JOURNALIST: And there was a stat that Carol said though: one child a week is injured by reversing?

MELANIE COURTNEY: Yes so every year across the country, we see seven deaths from low speed runover incidents, and a child is injured every single week. So it's really vital to get the education out there before these laws do come into place in 2025. And as the Senator said, hopefully manufacturers will act early and start making sure that their vehicles do comply as early as possible. But it's also really important for families to remember that don't have new cars and don't have these new reversing aids that they need to do what it takes to keep their children safe in their environment as well.

JOURNALIST: What would you say to anyone who's not in a position to buy one of these new cars because of the cost?

MELANIE COURTNEY: It’s really important for those families that aren't in a position to buy a new car to make sure they do what's safe for them in their environment, treat the driveway like a road, always communicate. So we've seen 85% of low-speed run overs, that their driver doesn't actually know that a child is in the vicinity of the vehicle so it's that communication piece that's really, really important and separating the driveway from any play areas.

JOURNALIST: Anything else?

EMMA COCKBURN: So on the 16th of April 2011. Our world changed forever when we lost our youngest daughter Georgina – inaudible - 12 years later we’re finally here, seeing this has been put in place that will help prevent families in the future suffering like we have over the last 10 years.

PETER COCKBURN: Before this accident, I thought I was in control. I had my wife, I had the kids, I had this new house, I thought it was safe for my kids and I thought I was a good driver. I thought I was a good parent. As a kid I was taught how to control the car (inaudible). I was that person who watched TV seeing a family just lost someone and remember thinking those poor people what they are going through, so sad.  It’s okay, it's not going to happen to me. I'm in control. I was wrong. I learnt the hard way. It did happen to me. When accidents like this happens you do the what ifs. What if I just went slower? Come home later? All of these things go through your head. So how did I do this. I remember going back weeks later and hopping in the car. Popping in the car look in the mirror. I ended putting the bucket behind the car to see why I didn’t see her,  I ended up taking that bucket 10 to 20 metres from the car. This why I didn’t see her.

This is why this rule is going to save lives. Because as a driver. If you don't see it, you're gonna hit it as an object or child, whatever it may be. It's the end of the day. It's gonna happen. It's not your bad driver. You literally didn't see it. As a parent we did let Georgina down, became complacent. And that's something that we have to deal with. I was taught if you made a mistake. You need to own it. And you need to try and fix it. Because there's a lot we need to try and fix.

EMMA COCKBURN: After our daughter’s accident, we did the research and found that prevention of low-speed vehicle road incidents required a multi-layer approach focusing on three key areas education and awareness, physical barriers, especially in the home environment for little people and vehicle technologies.

We started our advocacy and awareness work in Georgina’s name and these three key areas were our main goals.

Mandating Australian Design Rule 108/00 – Reversing Technologies has seen one of those major goals come to fruition, this is a huge step forward for vehicle safety measures in Australia. This sets the reversibility standard in all vehicles across Australia. The revision cameras, mirrors and detection sensors are all very useful tools for drivers to use. And it is great to know that moving forward they will be a standard feature in all new vehicles for 2025.

However, we do urge that everyone remember that education and awareness must go hand in hand with those technologies. Drivers need to learn the best way to use these features to assist with visibility when driving and not become complacent and rely just on camera or just on a sensor, driver awareness is always key.

Do a circle of safety before you get into vehicle. Check to see no one's in the way. Always using cameras and your mirrors and check over your shoulder and so on, especially when reversing. It's important to remember that vehicle accidental can happen to anyone anywhere, anytime. When we're at home, at work or out and about. While there is no silver bullet protection, This Australian design rule for reversing aids in all vehicles will help prevent incidents in a whole range of situations.

When it comes to children or vehicles, active supervision was always the best prevention, but it's good to know the reversing technologies in vehicles will be there as a backup prevention.

In closing, we'd like to thank everyone who was involved in the research consultation the behind-the-scenes effort to bring this Australian design rule into existence, and to improve safety around vehicles for all communities across Australia.

JOURNALIST: How are you feeling about today all this work over the past 12 years.

PETER COCKBURN: This is a massive achievement for us and what everyone has to agree with, this has been happening so often. So for us to actually be a part of this is very humbling and exciting. – inaudible -

JOURNALIST: Why did you feel the need after suffering such tragedy? Why did you feel the need to push this course?

EMMA COCKBURN: Well, after George's accident, I jumped online. I started researching as I said, and there was a period of about six months after her accident where in a space of 10 days there was like three or four accidents happening in all different locations across Australia and that's where we went now.

This is something that can be prevented. We can do something about this. And that's when we started writing letters and giving the information to the relevant Ministers and that and again, you know, something needs to change. We need to do something about this, because it is a totally preventable accident. It doesn't need to happen especially with our little ones. It's you know, not to five-year-olds, they're precious but they don't understand personal danger. And so it's up to us as parents and educators and you know the people creating the technology on vehicles and things to put things in place to help prevent those accidents.

JOURNALIST: You must be feeling very proud that this is something that has been I guess undertaken under Georgina's name.

EMMA COCKBURN: Well, yeah, we've been pushing for it but we know there's plenty of other families you know, plenty of other families out there that were working towards it. Jonah,

JOURNALIST: Tell me a little bit about Georgina.

PETER COCKBURN: One cheeky little monkey who was into mischief, needed to see what was going on. The coming home, I'll see her in the in the window as I was driving up, and there she is, just a smile on her face.

MELANIE COURTNEY: I should say she was the youngest of four beautiful girls all very close in age so they're all very close with each other and you know, one of the bigger sisters, loved picking her up around carting her around and she was just crawling and just start to pull herself up on the furniture and stand up and take note of what was going on.

JOURNALIST: What would you like other parents to take out of, I guess telling your story? What would you like them to get out of this?

PETER COCKBURN: Just that they’re counting on us as parents, grandparents, people in general. Take your time and look at what we can do to save our kids.

EMMA COCKBURN: Do the whole supervise, separate thing you know. Supervise kids, always active supervision, hold their hands, pick them up, put them in the car with you all those sorts of things. Communication with each other whoever's at home who the adults at home, right? There's a vehicle moving out there where all kids? do we know they're safe? And it's that routine stuff often where sometimes things go wrong. And so just being aware, take these extra few seconds, get off the phone and double check where everybody is and

don't think it might happen to you It can happen. It can happen so put those things in place to prevent.