The evidence for respectful relationships education

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    Evidence shows that gender inequality is a key driver of gender-based violence. That’s why respectful relationships education is all about engaging in respectful and equal relationships and promoting gender equality.

    Does respectful relationships education work?

    Internationally, research has demonstrated that school-based prevention initiatives can reduce the likelihood that students will go on to experience or perpetrate violence in the future. 

    Evaluations have also shown that respectful relationships education has the potential to shift the gendered drivers of violence

    Piloting of curriculum and testing of the whole of school approach has been undertaken in primary and secondary schools in Australia. 

    Evaluations of the whole-of-school approach in primary and secondary schools in Australia have shown the potential for respectful relationships education to challenge gender stereotypes, develop a culture of equality among staff and students and support attitude change among students. 

    Benefits of respectful relationships education 

    Implementing respectful relationships eaducation in your school can achieve the following. 

    Increases in: 

    • Students’ knowledge of, attitudes towards, and confidence in discussing issues of domestic violence, gender equality and respectful relationships. 
    • Teachers’ understanding of the importance of respectful relationships education. 
    • School level commitments to respectful relationships, apparent through development of staff gender equality and respectful relationships policies and procedures, for example: 
    • positive student classroom behaviour 
    • positive student-student and teacher-student relationships. 

    Decreases in: 

    • Students’ adherence to gender stereotypes. Rigid gender stereotypes can be harmful and limiting, affecting students’ interactions with each other and their participation in life. 

    Core elements for respectful relationships education

    A review of international and national evidence on respectful relationships education summarised seven core elements for best practice approaches to the work. Many of these elements of best practice are not the sole responsibility of individual schools, but need the support of national, state and territory governments. These elements are detailed further in this respectful relationships education evidence paper

    Diagram showing icons that illustrate each of the 7 elements of best practice implementation in respectful relationships education. Each icon has a yellow circle behind it and is drawn in thick black line. A description in words is beneath each icon.

    Why schools? 

    Children and young people are a key focus for the prevention of gender-based violence for several reasons. They are still forming their knowledge and attitudes and are open to guidance and support. They are also beginning to form relationships and ideas about acceptable relationship behaviour. Schools are places where respect and equality can be modeled, positive attitudes and behaviours can be shaped and young people be given skills to recognise discrimination and challenge gender stereotypes. 

    Schools are also workplaces for many Australians. Our work lives have a significant influence on us professionally and personally so the whole-of-school approach includes looking into the conditions and culture of the school as a workplace. 

    Schools are important places to support the prevention of gender-based violence because they act as hubs in the community and can have a powerful influence not just on students but on parents and carers, other community groups and organisations. 

    There are many ways your school and the education system can work to address the drivers of gender-based violence. See the whole-of-school approach for more details on how your school can act. 

    Cover of publication with image of primary school students sitting on floor in a classroom, one has their hand raised.

    Evidence and evaluation of Respectful relationships education as a holistic approach to the prevention of gender-based violence.

    Three young people in discussion in front of a whiteboard, one person is writing something

    A whole-of–school approach provides in-class education and addresses your school’s culture, policies and practices.