Cyber safety educator and campaigner
Western Australia | 2022 Australian of the Year
Paul Litherland was a police officer in Western Australia’s Technology Crime Unit when he became acutely aware of how vulnerable children are on the internet. Frustrated by the limited resources available for children and their parents, and the lack of legislation to help fight internet crime, Paul began conducting cyber safety presentations at schools.
By 2014 Paul had turned his passion into a business, founding Surf Online Safe to educate teachers, students and parents about internet safety.
Today Paul is one of Australia’s leading experts in the field. He has spoken at schools and organisations across the country, sharing his cyber safety presentations with more than 250,000 people.
Replica of ‘The Piper from Over the Way’ by Patricia Hurn, 1957
Paul Litherland has a big heart. He cares deeply about the safety of vulnerable children and wants to help them reach their fullest potential. His concern comes from a place of empathy.
Paul’s mother, Patricia, was a talented soprano who toured Western Australia. She taught Paul and his siblings how to sing, and music became a refuge from their violent father. One day, Paul’s father destroyed all Patricia’s recordings, except one in which 15-year-old Patricia sings an old Scottish hymn.
The family eventually escaped. Ever since, music has sustained Paul in his darkest moments and inspired his greatest achievements.
Someone to help
When I work with kids in tough situations, I know what they’re thinking: ‘I’ll never get anywhere.' I tell them, ‘I was where you are 20, 30 years ago – and it’s not impossible.' I really want to get the message out there that even in the worst and most difficult of times there will always be someone to help.
A healing voice
I have always been in awe of my mother’s voice. After my motorbike crash in 2004, when I was in quite a bit of pain, Mum’s music was medicinal – her voice helped me to heal.
For so long I was scared to open doors. But as the music in my heart got louder, my confidence grew. I didn’t try handles anymore, I just kicked doors down.
This exhibition was developed by the National Museum of Australia in collaboration with the National Australia Day Council. Portrait images supplied by the National Australia Day Council.