A Border family who set out to change the justice system so that all children in NSW have access to the supports they need to participate more equitably in the legal system will share their story at Gateway Health’s next community advocacy panel.

Brent and Michelle Milthorpe’s lives were changed forever in 2013 with the revelation that their children had been victims of child sexual abuse by a trusted family friend. In their pursuit of justice, the family experienced the failures of a flawed and antiquated legal system.

This is the first time that the Milthorpe’s have shared their story on the Border.

“Our family went through a really difficult and re-traumatising experience with the legal process, but we were able to use it as a catalyst for change,” mum Michelle Milthorpe said.

“Our experience opened our eyes to a flawed and damaging system and made us want to change the justice system for all children. As it stood, the process for child witnesses to give evidence in court did not provide equity for children to participate nor demonstrate an appropriate level of care for already traumatised children.”

The Milthorpe’s advocacy efforts were integral in expanding the Child Sexual Offences Evidence Program (CSOEP) to every district court and police district in regional New South Wales in 2023. The program allows young people to pre-record their evidence including examination, cross-examination and re-examination in front of a judge and lawyers without a jury present. This is done in a timely manner, allowing victims to move more quickly into the healing part of their journey.

“I’m looking forward to sharing our story at the Gateway Health Community Advocacy Panel. We want people in our community to know that they too can change the system,” Michelle said.

This is the third event in a series of a community capacity-building events to inspire and empower individuals and communities to advocate for positive change.

Joining the Milthorpes on the panel are Solange Ntigonza – a passionate advocate for youth mental health – and AlburyCity councillor Jessica Kellahan.

The Community Advocacy Panel event takes place on Thursday, July 4, 2024, from 5.30pm at Gateway Health in Wodonga. For more information or to register for the event, please visit Humanitix.