WEEKLY POLL: Local mums spearheading campaign for national register

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HOLD THEM CLOSE: Local sisters Kristy Heywood and Leeanne Patton, with kids, from left, Logan Heywood, Kobi Heywood, Chase Patton, Adam Patton and Hannah Heywood, are urging parents to sign a petition for a national sex offenders register. Photo: Gareth Gardner 180714GGE01

HOLD THEM CLOSE: Local sisters Kristy Heywood and Leeanne Patton, with kids, from left, Logan Heywood, Kobi Heywood, Chase Patton, Adam Patton and Hannah Heywood, are urging parents to sign a petition for a national sex offenders register. Photo: Gareth Gardner 180714GGE01

TWO mums are spearheading a local campaign to garner support for a national sex offenders register.

The campaign, being championed by veteran journalist Derryn Hinch, aims to pressure the federal government to develop a publicly accessible register listing the names and addresses of all convicted sex offenders.

Local sisters Leeanne Patton and Kristy Heywood, who were groomed by a paedophile as teenagers, are imploring the community to sign the petition, which already has close to 150,000 signatures.

Speaking to The Leader yesterday, Hinch said it was critical for parents and the wider community to know if a convicted sex offender was living in their midst.

"It will help future victims be alert and will let people know who is out there in their neighbourhood," Hinch said.

"Shrouding it all in secrecy is just wrong victims must come first.

"We've seen with the Rolf Harris case the value of publishing the names of offenders ... over a dozen other victims of his have since come forward."

Hinch, who earlier this year spent 50 days in prison for broadcasting details about Jill Meagher's killer, wants the online register in place by the end of 2014.

Mrs Patton, who has children ranging from ages five to 15, said her own experience had spurred her to support the register.

"When I was 14, a good family friend began grooming my sister and I," Mrs Patton said.

"He would invite us around to his house and give us beer and cigarettes and he would touch us inappropriately.

"It would just be so helpful as a parent to know where these people are. What parent wouldn't want to know?"

Figures reveal one in three girls and one in six boys will experience sexual abuse before they reach their 18th birthday.

To sign the petition, visit www.gopetition.com/petitions/protect-our-children3/sign.html

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