New campaign empowering children to speak out


Author Avril McDonald with tamariki from Newton School

Author Avril McDonald with tamariki from Newtown School

A new campaign designed to empower the “brave voices” of children by encouraging them to speak out and find help if they experience abuse launched in April.


Supported by Life Education Trust, Save the Children, and Women’s Refuge, the campaign aims to break the culture of silence that traditionally surrounds sexual and other forms of abuse in Aotearoa New Zealand and deliver children a vital message: ‘To seek out a trusted adult until they find one who believes them and will act on their behalf to help keep them safe and secure.’

The campaign is centred around a new book, ‘The Wolf and the Hocus Pocus’, the latest story from Avril McDonald, award-winning author of the Feel Brave series of books (little stories about big feelings for 4-7-year-olds) and founder of ‘Feel Brave’, which aims to give all children access to tools that help them manage tough emotions and reach their creative potential. Each book tells a story about a real-life situation that children may face, while offering a simple strategy to cope.

Says Avril McDonald: “Every child should feel physically and emotionally safe, but I know this is not always the case and that breaks my heart.

“Sometimes a story or one simple strategy can change people’s lives and my hope is that this book might do that in some way for children and families around the world.”

The book was launched at Government House, Wellington, hosted by Her Excellency Dame Cindy Kiro, who has also written the book’s foreword.

The Governor General with guests from Newtown School

The Governor General, Her Excellency Dame Cindy Kiro, with students from Newtown School

A fully immersive, interactive digital version of the story (created by Publisher Prime) will be available through the App Store, Google Play and Amazon. The app uses animation, music, sound, touch, and illustration to bring to life the empowering tale.

Life Education Trust Chief Executive John O’Connell says they have used the Feel Brave books in their mobile classroom programmes in schools for the last seven years.

“The Feel Brave stories and illustrations are highly engaging for young children and a great resource to develop emotional intelligence. ‘The Wolf and the Hocus Pocus’ will help us teach tamariki to trust their instincts and speak up if they know something is wrong.”

Save the Children New Zealand Chief Executive Heidi Coetzee says too often children are silenced when abuse happens out of fear of not being believed or shame. 

“Avril and ‘The Wolf and the Hocus Pocus’ showcases the transformative impact of storytelling in addressing child protection issues. The story offers children and adults a safe space to explore what speaking out might look like and what to do if a child needs help.   

“Alongside our partners Women’s Refuge and Life Education Trust, we hope to encourage adults across the motu to empower children to use their voices and seek assistance when needed.”

Women’s Refuge CEO Dr Ang Jury ONZM says “a large part of our work is assisting tamariki who have witnessed and experienced family violence.

“We are excited to be part of this project and welcome ‘The Wolf and the Hocus Pocus’ as a valuable resource to encourage our smallest clients to talk about their experiences which is the beginning of the healing process.”

The book is available from, while the digital storybook can be purchased from the App Store and available from Google Play and Amazon later in April.