This is the easiest way to protect our kids in childcare centres. Why aren't we doing it?

This story includes descriptions of sexual assault that may be distressing to some readers.

Rape charges brought against a former childcare worker this week must surely lead to a renewed push for mandatory video surveillance inside all Australian childcare centres.

A childcare worker being able to allegedly rape children in his care at multiple childcare centres over a period of 15 years is a clear indication that operational processes within the sector are gravely failing children and families. 

If convicted, this man will be our nation’s worst serial rapist. No less than 1623 times did he allegedly find the opportunity within the walls of a childcare centre to rape a child. 

Could something as simple as Closed Circuit Television have deterred or prevented him offending?

This case is both sickening and astounding. Story continues below.

Video via Mamamia.

There are few institutional settings where CCTV would seem more appropriate as one where babies and young children, a particularly vulnerable group at the best of times, are cared for in the absence of their parents by relative strangers. 


An environment which provides easy access to vulnerable groups and a clear power dynamic should demand the highest security both within the centre and at entrances. It also seems like a necessary tool where one party is often unable to verbalise their experience. 

The debate about CCTV rages on in as a result of cases of abuse in aged and disability care homes.

CCTV is already in use in some childcare centres to protect children and staff, reassure parents, resolve disputes and for training purposes, but it’s by no means the standard. Most CCTV in childcare centres does not record sound, effectively muting any incriminating conversations or terse words. 

This also conveniently turns the volume down on distressing sounds like crying, screaming and general chaos inevitable where large numbers of children significantly outnumber adults and interact in a group setting.

In March this year CCTV was declared mandatory in all childcare centres in Kuala Lumpur and parents were also instructed by a government minister to inspect children before and after attending a centre.

CCTV footage was critical in the investigation into a 16-month-old toddler’s death at a Sydney daycare centre last year. The footage showed that the centre had been negligent and failed to check Arianna Maragol for three hours. Her parents called for widespread reform to regulations imposed on childcare centres. 


The case also highlighted the dangers of using CCTV as a supervisory tool rather than it’s intended purpose of reviewing incidents, monitoring suspicious activity and for training purposes.

Still many Australian childcare businesses are yet to implement any form of CCTV inside the centre despite clear demonstrable benefits and few drawbacks. The centres that do not install CCTV argue it is an invasion of privacy, off-putting for educators and leads to unnecessary and time-consuming investigations into minor disputes. 

These arguments seem to pale dramatically when we consider that not having surveillance may have allowed the most grievous invasion of privacy - the invasion of children’s bodies. When we consider the devastation reaped upon 87 Australian families who have been contacted by the Australian Federal Police in recent months and notified that their child has been a victim of child sex abuse. 

Imagine the horror of that call and then realising it’s nigh on impossible to ever remove the graphic, heinous footage of your child or yourself from the bowels of the dark web. Try explaining to these victims and their families that protection measures weren’t implemented because they are ‘inconvenient’ for management and make some stakeholders feel ‘uneasy’. 

CCTV isn’t prohibitively expensive these days, the technology is streamlined, user friendly and it is rapidly becoming a normal part of many of our daily movements in public. The confined indoor and outdoor spaces typical of childcare centres certainly present no huge logistical challenges in terms of installing video surveillance systems. 


The 45-year-old Gold Coast man charged this week would surely have been less likely to offend on childcare centre premises had they been under surveillance. It could have raised suspicions more quickly and aided earlier investigations after parents complained as early as 2021 of suspicious activity.

Of course, a paedophile could always find other ways to access children but let’s not make it easy for them in childcare centres. Isn’t the protection of children from sexual predators, at the very least while they are in childcare, worth the initial discomfort, cost and inconvenience caused by the rollout of CCTV in every centre?

This case raises other issues for the sector. Serious deficiencies in care protocols at various centres across two states must have existed to allow for such extensive and prolonged sexual offending. Under what sort of conditions could such a brazen pattern of offending go on completely undetected? How often do educators get such an inordinate amount of uninterrupted, one-on- one time with children? 

Video footage of what goes on in childcare centres can only improve transparency and accountability, and as such, it can only improve the quality of care. Too much transparency, however, may also deter childcare providers from installing CCTV as footage of babies and toddlers screaming for their parents isn’t terribly good for business. 


Footage of stressed and overworked educators could lead to increased parent complaints and compromise their ability to meet regulatory requirements or pass quality assessments. As Anne Manne describes in her book ‘Motherhood’, video surveillance could unveil ‘the frequent mismatch between parental perceptions of the childcare situation and the child’s actual wellbeing’. Could video surveillance shatter the rosy image childcare businesses have successfully sold to parents?

The image of childcare to date has been a carefully curated and an enormously successful PR exercise. The footage that comes out of childcare centres is almost always professionally edited marketing material showing the highlights of the day. Many parents simply have no way of knowing what happens in reality for their child throughout the day. Even if the footage is live streamed to a parents phone, a service offered by some centres, a parent hardly has the time to watch CCTV footage of their kid at daycare all day long.

Parents are largely dependent on educators for information, educators who might shield parents from more distressing details or be unwilling to share details which compromise their tenure or the image of the facility. In recent years the childcare sector has become strangely immune to scrutiny that might have led to systemic changes to improve security or mandatory requirements. Childcare activism in large parts of the media and on the part of influential advocates has meant the sector has become somewhat untouchable. Parents want so badly to believe their children are in the very best of care that they become avoidant of quality issues arising in the system.


Government is too deeply invested in childcare to recognise flaws in the system and pay to address them. Any criticism of childcare is viewed as a threat to women’s rights and the very foundations of equality based on women being present in the paid workplace.

A case of ‘groupthink’ has emerged where many of us find ourselves unable to question the integrity of industrial scale formal group care for fear of offending or saying something politically incorrect. In a culture where we are unable to be critical of childcare, we cannot expect the highest quality, safest care. We can’t protect all children with something as simple as CCTV but protecting some is better than none. CCTV isn’t a cure all, but this is a situation that demands we use all tools at our disposal.

If this has raised any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service.

Feature Image: Getty

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