To promote improved child safety strategies and techniques for parents, Goodoil Films director Justin McMillan and Byron Studios have teamed up to release provocative film, Gone, to compliment the Australian Federal Police National Missing Persons Coordination Centre’s (NMPCC) efforts for International Missing Children’s Day 2018.

Working in consultation with the Australian Federal Police (AFP) NMPCC, the project’s genesis was a bedtime conversation held between McMillan and his young son. When his son inquired after the fate of a missing child, McMillan found himself at a loss; conflicted in an uncomfortable balance between honesty and sensitivity. 

How can a parent remain truthful with their child whist also protecting their innocence? How can parents alert their children to society’s dangers without unduly alarming them? What simple and effective techniques can be employed to improve child safety?

The short film (starring actors Rob Carlton and Lisa Kay) opens with the real-life scenario experienced by McMillan: a father reading a bedtime story to his son is asked about the whereabouts of a missing child. In attempting a tender though cautionary response, the father crafts an elaborate fantasy, taking his son on an adventurous quest that culminates in a spectacular ending.

Says Justin McMillan: “I’d never before been faced with having to explain to my son the reality of missing children. After I finished telling him a fictional story, I got to thinking about how horrific the experience must be and the challenges it must raise for communication within a family. 

“I felt obliged to find out more about how I could help prevent this situation from happening, and upon further research I discovered tools, such as the password system, that I could implement to help better protect my child. I was surprised to learn that so many parents, with whom I researched the concept with, had no idea about the password system or any other child protection tools so I immediately knew I had to try and change that. 

“The main aim of the website is to provide all parents with instructions on how to increase the safety of their young children. The film is designed to provoke and engage parents by promoting the website, where they can discover basic but effective strategies to help guard against abduction and abuse.”

AFP spokesperson and acting national coordinator Missing Persons and Exploited Children, D/A/Superintendent Jayne Crossling highlighted the importance of parents, families, organisations, leaders and members of the community recognising the vital role they play in the safety and education of our children.

“Education and empowerment is the key for children to protect themselves against threatening or harmful situations,” Crossling said. “The AFP hopes that initiatives such as ‘Gone’ will equip parents and guardians with the skills and confidence to have these uncomfortable but necessary conversations with their children.”

The film features a stirring and atmospheric score from Michael Yezerski (Australian Symphony Orchestra), and a visually spectacular final scene with special effects provided by Cumulus VFX via Byron Studios.