Naomi Hunter’s picture book A Secret Safe to Tell has validated children all over the world on an especially confronting subject – sexual abuse. It deals with this difficult subject in a gentle way, and helps children feel they are not alone in these terrible circumstances. It validates the child’s experiences in the grooming process, with the secrets, and that it’s OK to tell. Being unfairly judged, called a liar, feeling unsafe and the words of the perpetrator coming true, are a real tragedy beyond words. There aren’t many picture books on this subject, which makes this book all the more valuable.
A Secret Safe to Tell was nominated and shortlisted in the Australian Book Industry Awards (ABIAs). It is a book that encourages and empowers children to speak up. It is an important resource for anyone who has children in their care – for example parents, caregivers, teachers, daycare workers, libraries, school holiday camp staff, and those who run after school and sports activities. Please use this book when having body safety discussions between you and your children.
I was so excited when Naomi said yes to an interview! I love her children’s picture book for the important messages it gives. As a community we need to teach our children protective behaviours. It is such a big topic but includes subjects like safe vs unsafe secrets, inappropriate touching, who is allowed to touch their private parts, early warning signs like butterflies in the tummy, cyber safety, why we should use the real names for body parts, personal space, stranger danger, and the ability to identify and label one’s own feelings.
If you are in WA, please consider asking WA Child Safety Services to come out to your school and run some workshops with teachers, parents and children. They run personal development days for professionals and evening workshops for parents. Their upcoming courses are found on their Facebook page. There are similar organisations in other Australian States.
I hope you find my interview with Naomi interesting and helpful!
1. Please tell us about you. What is your background?
My name is Naomi Hunter. My background is in Primary School Education and Performing Arts and in recent years, authoring children’s picture story books! I have an 8 year old daughter and a wonderfully supportive and loving husband who I met when we were sixteen. We’ve been best friends forever.
2. What kind of topics are your children’s books about and why?
I am passionate about writing exceptional books for children and families that empower, educate and nurture them through sensitive and challenging topics. After my trauma-filled childhood experiences, I learned of the isolation, the fear and the debilitating challenges that come when dealing with them as an adult. My hope is that through my books, children, parents, educators and caregivers can use my stories to provide a platform of essential, healthy, age-appropriate conversations that transform lives, encourage meaningful conversations and create positive change.
3. Why did you write A Secret Safe to Tell?
I wrote A Secret Safe to Tell out of the hope to help others through this isolating and tabooed experience. My absolute motivation was that if I helped just one child feel less ashamed, less alone, less afraid and more supported through sexual abuse, then I would have done something beautiful with what had happened to me as a child. What followed since its release has been an incredible overwhelming and insurmountable response of just how my story positively impacted so many.
4. Since A Secret Safe to Tell was first published, what kind of feedback or stories have you received about the impact it has had?
The feedback has brought so many emotions. The impact has been humbling and so diverse. Many children have been able to disclose their current sexual abusive situation after reading my story and this has been the most significant, most rewarding response for me personally. To know that these beautiful children felt so deeply connected and impacted to speak up after hearing my story, to then be instantly validated, for the sexual abuse to be removed from their lives and for their healing journeys to begin at such a young age, has brought so many happy tears and so much validation to me that speaking up and going so public was absolutely worth it. Thousands of adult survivors have personally messaged me to express their gratitude for my story, shared their own, thanked me for providing the confidence and a nurturing resource to now educate their own children through this issue. The amount of times people have said to me, “Oh if only this book was around when I was a kid, I would have known I could speak up…” has been quite unbelievable. I have completely changed people’s lives by sharing my story and that is an incredible feeling. I have more than 32,000 Facebook followers that my work is resonating with and that fills me up with joy. It has been amazing!!!
5. You are fundraising to translate A Secret Safe to Tell into a bilingual Swahili/English copy with Kenyan illustrations. Have you translated this book into any other languages?
A Secret Safe to Tell has been translated into Complex Chinese in Taiwan and Simplified Chinese in China. Collaborating with the amazing Rafiki Mwema organisation, we fundraised to produce a beautiful Swahili/English bilingual version with stunning African style illustrations to support children in Kenya and Tanzania who have been sexually abused. This was a huge success and the children found so much comfort in my story knowing they are not alone in this. I donated all the copies to Rafiki Mwema for their fundraising and we are hoping to do the same here in Australia for our Indigenous community. We also hope to see A Secret Safe to Tell translated into hundreds of languages to reach as many children and families around the world as possible. It is only through empowering education that we can actually make a difference with the horrifying child abuse statistics.
6. Did you always want to be an author?
I always dreamed of doing something important in this world and helping in some way. Authoring came to me naturally after studying primary school teaching and then becoming a mother. It was through this journey that I realised the huge need for well-written, nurturing, age appropriate, welfare based children’s books and discovered such an obvious lack of availability and access to them. My passion grew to write and produce beautiful books so that I could help as many children as possible.
7. Did you have a favourite book as a child?
Oh yes for sure! I absolutely loved Emily Rodda’s Ten Power Inc. series and collected and read them all! I was lucky to meet this lovely author (Jennifer Rowe – Emily Rodda is her pen name) at the Australian Book Industry Awards in 2015 when my book, A Secret Safe to Tell was nominated and shortlisted for Best Children’s Picture Storybook of the year. It was an absolute delight to meet her in person and thank her for the gift she gave me in the creative escape of that series. And her reply was something that deeply resonated with me too…
8. Please tell us about your other books, and will we be seeing some more books from you?
So many books are in the creative and production process.
Even Mummy Cries was released last year and it was also nominated and shortlisted for the ABIA’s in the same category as A Secret Safe to Tell. We took our daughter to the gala event in Sydney this year, which was amazing for her. She was able to meet Andy Griffiths, who she loves and Lauren Childs, the creator of Charlie and Lola. Jeremy and I were pretty excited to meet Jimmy Barnes and to hear him sing. I felt very lucky to be a big part of the industry.
I have two new titles about to be released and I am super excited to share them with the world!
Finding Heaven is about a little girl called Summer whose brother has just passed away. She is sad and misses him but is so sick of crying. Everyone around her says that he is in heaven, so she draws her own travel map and sets off to find her brother. She discovers something truly special and profound… that heaven is in her heart and that her brother is always with her.
Marshmallow Dreamers is a wild, fantastical adventure about Marli and Max, identical twins who ride magical, imaginary unicorns by day, defeating scowling creatures and monsters with their fierce bravery. But at nighttime, they become huddled in fear by night terrors who invade their dreams. It is a fun-filled, sweet story of them discovering their inner marshmallow power and transform their fear into fun.
Tylah’s Truth is in illustrations phase and it is looking amazingly devine! This is a picture book for older readers and addresses the topic of self-worth, body image, depression and anxiety and encourages everyone to find their own unique inner beauty. It is a very special story that I hope will help many young people tackle these issues.
The Visit is a gentle tale of a family of siblings and their dad journeying to visit their mother who is in jail. She made a big mistake and has to spend time away from the family. It is an endearing story to help those children who are in this situation of visitations, and will provide an excellent platform for discussion about empathy, understanding and for any child who hasn’t experienced this situation to grow compassion and understanding.
Please Say Hello is in writing/editing stage and is about remembering to always include our older generation by saying hello whenever we pass by. This is based on a young character who is about to move overseas and their feelings of compassion and empathy for their grandparents, hoping that others will fill the gap of engaging with them.
I have many more ideas of books to write and share with the world too… these are just the ones that are in production phases!
A Secret Safe to Tell by Naomi Hunter
A book about a child who has an adult friend who makes her feel special. Sometimes a bit too special.
His touching makes her frightened and confused. It is only when she has the courage to tell someone that her heart begins to heal.
Based on personal experience, Hunter’s book is an important resource for anyone who has children in their care, including parents, teachers, counsellors, libraries and schools.
“It happened when I was little,