Hetty Johnston founded White Balloon Day in Brisbane during Child Protection Week, September 1997. White Balloon Day was created in response to the revelation that a family member was a paedophile.
A brave disclosure by a 7 year old led to the realisation that this much loved family elder had preyed on innocent children and their trusting parents for 40 years. Compounding this tragedy was the fact that this 40 year reign of terror had never been disclosed, let alone reported.
With the support of her family, Hetty decided that the time had come to lift the cone of silence that has, for too long, aided and abetted the assault and torture of our most vulnerable members of society, our children. The search was on for a symbol to demonstrate this issue.
After much discussion, there seemed no better symbol to highlight the issue of child sexual assault than the humble 'White Balloon'. The White Balloon was considered symbolic of the issue of child sexual assault following reflection on a public demonstration, which was held in Belgium on 20th October, 1996. On this day 300,000 people gathered with white balloons and white flowers in a show of public sympathy and support for the parents of the young girls who were either murdered or missing at the hands of a previously convicted and released paedophile Marc Dutroux.
White Balloon Day is now an annual national event run by Bravehearts. It is widely supported by commercial, government and community sectors alike. In addition, White Balloon Day enjoys overwhelming support and encouragement from the media, schools, churches, health practitioners, emergency services, the legal fraternity and community organisations.