Australia’s law enforcement agencies commit to national Facebook AMBER Alert system

Amber Alert logo

Australian law enforcement, together with Facebook, today announced the national roll-out of the Facebook AMBER Alert system across Australia, providing a vital tool to find and return abducted children.

While the rate of stranger child abduction in Australia is low, the national AMBER Alert roll-out will amplify existing broadcast channels to issue an immediate, 24-hour alert on Facebook to people who are in the area where the child went missing.

With 15 million Australians active on Facebook, the national roll-out of the Facebook AMBER Alert initiative recognises State and Territory police’s commitment to ensuring the safe and immediate return of children, particularly in the first crucial hours of a child’s abduction.

Facebook Director of Trust and Safety and former Federal Bureau of Investigation agent Emily Vacher said keeping our community safe means everything to the team at Facebook.

"We know that when a child is missing, the most valuable thing we can do is get information out to the public as quickly as possible. By getting the right information to the right people, at the right time, through AMBER Alerts on Facebook, we hope to help reunite missing children with their families faster," said Ms Vacher.

“We are deeply honoured to work together with all police forces across the country to ensure this is a national alerts system that helps children and their families no matter where they live in Australia.”

The AMBER Alert will remain active for a period of 24 hours, unless cancelled by the State or Territory police service.

Suzie Ratcliffe, sister of Joanne Ratcliffe who was abducted from the Adelaide Oval at the age of 11 in August 1973, along with Kirste Gordon who was four at the time, spoke about how the technology could have been used to notify the public on this day.

“Social media can play an integral part in locating a missing child. If Facebook AMBER Alerts were available in 1973, it could have created a crucial earlier response time, which could have made all the difference in locating Joanne and Kirste.”

The girls were seen on several occasions in the company of a man for up to 90 minutes following their disappearance.

Today Australia joins the United States of America, Canada, the Netherlands, South Korea, United Kingdom, Greece, Malaysia, Taiwan, Mexico, Malta, Jamaica and Luxenburg to nationally implement the AMBER Alert system. More than 868 children in the US have been recovered as a direct result of an AMBER Alert since the system was launched in 1996.

The Queensland Police Service, which launched the AMBER Alert system in 2015, issued 12 alerts in 2016 for matters relating to high-risk missing children.

Queensland Police Commissioner Ian Stewart said the AMBER Alert system has already led to the safe recovery of abducted Queensland children thanks to the quick actions of members of the public who called police after seeing or hearing the emergency broadcasts. 

“The Facebook AMBER Alert capability will give us far greater reach into the community to appeal for urgent help to safely locate children who are at significant and imminent risk.”

The success of this initiative relies on the commitment of our State and Territory police applying the Facebook AMBER Alert system in their respective jurisdictions and the Australian community who play a key role in helping police locate missing children.   

Ambassador Maura Harty, President and Chief Executive Officer of the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (ICMEC) said that for two years ICMEC has been working with Facebook to introduce rapid emergency child alert systems around the world so that communities can respond quickly when a child goes missing.

“We are thrilled to be partnering with Facebook, the Australian Federal Police, and local law enforcement agencies to bring the Facebook AMBER Alert program to Australia, and to build an even stronger community of concerned individuals helping to keep children safe.”

An AMBER Alert is a child abduction broadcasting alert system, similar to that of a cyclone warning. The AMBER Alert originated in the United States in 1996 following the abduction and murder of nine-year-old of Amber Hagerman in Arlington, Texas.

Footage relating to the disappearance of Joanne Ratcliffe and Kirste Gordon in 1973.


Media enquiries:
AFP National Media: (02) 6131 6333
Facebook Media: Antonia Sanda – (02) 8234 7070
Queensland Police Media:  Senior Sergeant Barry McErlean – (07) 3015 2444

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