How an author and 2 knights make a SafeKnight

Recently I met two knights. Their names are Chris Gould and Chris Hawthorn.

Knight 1 is Chris Gould, chairman and founder of Child-Safe International. Knight 2 is Chris Hawthorn, who founded The SafeKnight Foundation and poured his life savings into developing the SafeKnight mobile phone app. This free app is BBC Click’s Best App of 2012 and was a top five finalist in a World Youth & Student Travel Conference competition in Sydney last September.

I have decided to refer to them as Knight 1 and 2 instead of Chris 1 and 2 because what they are doing all over the world for young people can truly be likened to ‘knights in shining armour’.

Knight 1 Chris Gould contacted me  after reading ‘Write About Me’, my debut fiction novel about a missing Australian teenager called Annabelle Brown which is inspired by my cousin Ursula Barwick, missing for more than 26 years.

I have met Knight 1 in person and Knight 2 Chris Hawthorn via the virtual world.

It is an honour and a privilege to be collaborating with them  to help prevent young people from going missing and to find missing people via this amazing technology.

The SafeKnight app is for iPhone, BlackBerry and Android. With just one click, the app enables you to take a photo then automatically stores it on a secure database, paired with your unique ID, time, date and the GPS location of where it was taken. 

SocialImageAus1I wish something like this had been around in 1987 when Ursula went missing. All we had back then were phone boxes that needed 20-cent coins and letters in envelopes that needed a 37-cent stamp. It was an era when we watched ‘Back to the Future’ but still never imagined someone could create something as sophisticated as the SafeKnight app. The mystery of Ursula is now more than 26 years old and  might never be solved. Something like this app could have provided a vital clue for police so they would at least have known where to start looking for her.


If there was something, like this app, that could have prevented Ursula from disappearing off the face of the earth – she might still be with us. Or at least we might have known where to start looking. With a safety tool like this at your fingertips you can prevent situations escalating out of your control. If someone is intending to hurt you and knows you are taking a photo that can give police the exact time, date and location they might think twice – giving you a better chance of getting home safely to your family and friends to live a long and happy life.

For the young people of today just like Ursula, who are restless with their own lives and want to travel independently and follow their own paths, I have two recommendations.

  1. Firstly, download the free SafeKnight app onto your phone and use it as your camera. When you’re travelling take photos of the sights and send them to your family and friends and keep them for your own travel blog. And feel safer in the knowledge these photos go to a virtual place where nobody can see them but if you go missing, they will provide a vital starting point for investigators. Vital clues. Location. Date. Time. Details like this are so important, especially in the first few hours and days.
  2. Secondly, please read Annabelle Brown’s story in Write About Me. Annabelle is a fictional character with a fictional family, fictional friends and a fictional life. But you will find glimpses of our dearly loved and deeply missed Ursula on every page and it might help you realise how easily you can end up in a vulnerable situation – even if you are strong, independent, smart and brave.

You can download the FREE SafeKnight app at:


The harsh reality of an Australian summer

Core of my heart, my country!
Land of the Rainbow Gold,
For flood and fire and famine,
She pays us back three-fold

One of my favourite pieces of writing is Dorothea Mackellar’s “My Country”. I grew up near the Gunnedah district where she spent time as a young woman, an area which inspired what has become one of Australia’s most quoted and best-loved poems. Every time I read her words I feel grounded and real because I love so many of the things she loved about Australia.

But on a day like today, during a week like this week, those words send fear and dread through me as temperatures soar into the high 40s and wind gusts fan fire flames in some of the hottest parts of Australia. Her poem rolls around my mind as I sit glued to social media tracking tragic fires, particularly in the Wimmera and Grampians – a place that was my home for many years before fires sealed our family’s decision to leave the sunburnt country, a  land of sweeping plains.

I cannot find the words to describe how it feels to be so close to fire. On Black Saturday – February 7, 2009 – I was more frightened than I’d ever been when a fire started one kilometre from our house. The wind was in our favour but not for many others whose homes on the outskirts of Horsham were destroyed along with Horsham Golf Club.

Now living a long way away, in a much milder temperature zone, I feel powerless to provide  comfort to people I know who are battling the fires and trying to save lives and property. With one person already dead in the Grampians, and a countless number of wildlife and stock, today is Australia at its harshest.

Yet still… I love a sunburnt country, A land of sweeping plains, Of ragged mountain ranges, Of droughts and flooding rains.

And as Dorothea says in her final lines “All you who have not loved her, You will not understand…”

Take care and stay safe.

Power of the presses

Restart the presses! This is the heading of a message a colleague of mine sent a couple of days ago when he came across this article in the New York Times:

He is one of many people who know me so well. My early career in newspaper newsrooms where we printed the papers onsite has given me a lifelong affinity with newspaper print and all things handmade.

I still remember as a young rural journalist at The Wimmera Mail-Times the camaraderie after work “out the back” collating the newspapers we’d all worked so hard to put together that day.

Although I am also an advocate of online media and the wonderful opportunities it provides to spread your message globally, this will never replace a morning cup of coffee and the day’s newspaper spread out before you in black and white.

So it was with much delight that I was on the receiving end of the power of newspapers this week when an article appeared in the Tamworth-based Northern Daily Leader, leading to me being invited to be a guest at a prestigious author speaking event for around 250 people.

No other regional daily in Australia covers such a vast circulation area which includes nearly 20 local government areas and I am thrilled that editor Daniel Johns has taken such an interest in my story.

And he’s the not the only one. Thanks to the many newspapers right around Australia that are covering “Write About Me” and all its milestones, a staggering number of people are stopping me on the street, sending emails, following The Word Mint on Facebook and purchasing my book.

The power of the presses lives on.