– integrating a primary prevention approach in their work
– ideas for the future
– what needs to change in the Queensland context to enable progress on primary prevention.
This paper summarises the case studies and key themes that emerged during both events to promote information and knowledge sharing across the sector.
This paper reports on a webinar and online discussion forum hosted by Our Watch, in partnership with Ending Violence against Women Queensland (EVAWQ) on 13 May 2021, as part of the National Primary Prevention Hub.
The events were an opportunity for stakeholders to hear about the evidence underpinning primary prevention approaches in Australia, examples of promising practice and opportunities for action in the Queensland context. The discussion forum for non-government stakeholders provided an opportunity for participants to engage interactively including sharing opportunities and identifying areas of need to progress prevention in Queensland.
This paper sets out the context and case studies discussed at the webinar, as well as opportunities identified by stakeholders in the discussion forum and subsequent stakeholder engagement.
Primary prevention of violence against women is an emerging area of work that focuses on stopping violence before it starts by addressing its deep-seated gendered drivers and promoting gender equality. This is distinct from, but complements, early intervention and responses to violence against women.
Primary prevention aims to stop violence against women from occurring in the first place. It works to change the gendered drivers of this violence, and the underlying social condition of gender inequality in which it arises. While response and early intervention approaches work with individuals who are already experiencing or perpetrating violence (or at risk of doing so), primary prevention is a whole-of-population approach that aims to deliver a future where all women and their children live free from violence.
Primary prevention encompasses a diverse range of work at all levels of society, including with individuals, communities, organisations and institutions. This is referred to as the socioecological model in Change the story.
This framework demonstrates the dynamic and interrelated factors that work across all levels of our society that are associated with higher levels of violence against women.
The socioecological model encompasses the gendered social norms, practices and structures (both formal and informal) that sustain the environment of gender inequality in which violence against women occurs.
Change the story outlines the particular expressions or manifestations of gender inequality that are most consistently associated with higher levels of violence against women. The gendered drivers of violence against women outlined in the framework are:
To prevent violence against women, a multifaceted approach is required to address the gendered drivers across the socioecological model to reach everyone, challenging the gendered drivers where people work, live, learn and play. As part of this approach, primary prevention needs to be undertaken across various interrelated settings including education, sports, the arts, media, and public spaces.
There are different techniques that can be used, such as direct participation in primary prevention interventions, community mobilisation and strengthening organisational development, communication and social marketing, policy and legislative change, and civil society advocacy.
For primary prevention to be successful, it requires a dedicated infrastructure that includes mechanisms for coordination, an expert workforce, policy and legislative reform, and shared monitoring and evaluation frameworks. It is a holistic endeavour, that requires coordinated, mutually reinforcing strategies at all levels of society.
Queensland has developed a number of policies that address prevention, early intervention and responding to violence against women, such as the Violence Against Women Prevention Plan 2016-2022, Queensland Framework to address Sexual Violence, and Domestic and Family Violence Prevention Strategy 2016-2026 .
Queensland’s policies identify primary prevention as a priority and provide a strong foundation for this work. Existing frameworks in Queensland can be considered and expanded on to prioritise primary prevention strategies and actions and integrate into early intervention and response services.
In Australia, we are beginning to build strong foundations for primary prevention, and promising work is progressing at local, regional, state and national levels. However, there is much more to do.
Ending Violence Against Women Queensland (EVAWQ) is the peak body bringing together the refuge, sexual assault, women’s health and domestic violence sectors to facilitate collaboration, skill sharing and partnership building. Central to EVAWQ’s work is the understanding that violence is predominantly perpetrated by men against women and children, and that this violence is preventable.
Gender inequality is the central cause of men’s violence against women. Australia’s Global Gender Gap Index fell from 15th in 2006, to 50th in 2021, and we are now ranked 99th in women’s health and safety. Violence against women costs our nation approximately one woman’s life every week, and one child’s life every two weeks. In Queensland, the economic cost of violence against women is approximately $4.77 billion every year.
Alongside the crucial work being done across Queensland to respond to and intervene in violence against women, primary prevention aims to identify and enact the social change needed to stop this violence occurring in the first place.
There are four key elements to doing primary prevention work well in Queensland: collaboration, funding, structure and knowledge.
Respectful relationships education that is embedded within schools has the potential to reach over four million students across Australian primary and secondary schools, as well as a workforce of over 290,000 teachers and wider community of over 9,500 schools.
From 2017 to 2018, 18 primary schools across Queensland and Victoria participated in the Respectful Relationships Education pilot, with a focus on Year 1 and 2 students. This project was a partnership between Our Watch, The Myer Foundation, The Luke Batty Foundation, Department of Education Queensland, Department of Education and Training Victoria, and participating primary schools.
The pilot included classroom teaching and learning using the Victorian Resilience, Rights and Respectful Relationships curriculum materials, professional development for staff, auditing of current school policies and processes, support for schools to engage parents in reinforcing messages of respect and equality, and the Our Watch Respectful relationships education toolkit.
The evaluation of the pilot reveals how taking a whole-of-school approach to address gendered violence can have positive outcomes for student attitudes and teacher confidence and knowledge. The findings included significant changes in students’ attitudes such as students being less likely to consider traditionally masculine and feminine jobs and activities for boys and girls only, and staff demonstrating a strong commitment to respectful relationships education. Using age-appropriate curriculum that addressed the drivers of violence against women was critical to achieving these positive changes.
The report also highlighted the need for respectful relationships education to be integrated long-term within a school community with comprehensive professional learning, support for staff and student wellbeing, as well as engaging with parents and families to reinforce messages of respect and equality.
Men4Respect is a peer-to-peer primary prevention and education program that works with young men in schools, in community and on social media to foster healthy and respectful relationships and build their capacity to be active bystanders. Men4Respect was created in 2019 and runs out of the Youth and Family Service (YFS), a not-for-profit based in Logan, Queensland. The program has received a small amount of government funding, and a grant from the Vincent Fairfax Foundation.
The impetus for Men4Respect came from an evaluation of its sister program R4Respect. This evaluation found that while the peer-to-peer model effectively improved young people’s understanding of interpersonal violence, young men’s attitudes toward gender equality remained difficult to shift. It also found that R4Respect struggled to retain male ambassadors. Alongside this, there is a need to challenge concerning views around victim blaming and consent, and to promote bystander behaviour among young men.
In response to these findings, Men4Respect was created. Following R4Respect’s award-winning peer-to-peer model, Men4Respect’s young male ambassadors work with 20 male participants over an 8–10-week period. The program covers: accountability, toxic vs. healthy masculinity, empathy, consent, coercive control, and active bystander behaviours. In line with a male/female co-facilitation model, there is always a female ambassador present to share her experiences and hold the group accountable. Pre- and post-surveys are conducted to measure changes in attitudes toward consent, victim blaming and active bystander behaviour.
The central aim of the program is to ‘build a better human’ by instilling:
Men4Respect’s hope is that these groups of young men will then go out into their schools and challenge toxic male cultures.
Survey results indicate that Men4Respect has been effective in challenging myths around gendered violence and empowering men to be active bystanders, with around half of participants stating they would feel confident challenging disrespectful behaviours. The program has improved facilitator retention by increasing remuneration and adjusting their recruitment strategy such that it focuses on drive and passion rather than knowledge, as the latter can be developed in training. Due to facilitator crossover between Men4Respect and R4Respect, this has also solved R4Respect’s male ambassador retention issue.
A key challenge for Men4Respect has been reconciling the very high demand for its programs, with its relatively small capacity and a lack of long-term funding. However, M4Respect aims to expand its reach and create more holistic change by working collaboratively with other local youth and men’s organisations that address physical health, mental health and respectful relationships. Beyond this, M4Respect would like to see their peer-to-peer model replicated statewide and across Australia, as part of a broader national primary prevention of violence against women strategy.
In response to stakeholder feedback, a Victorian case study was presented at the forum to share learnings from a place-based prevention initiative which could be considered in the Queensland context.
Preventing Violence Together (PVT) is a regional partnership led by Women’s Health West that connects and guides the primary prevention of violence against women in Melbourne’s metropolitan west.
Launched in 2010, PVT partnership was the first regional primary prevention partnership and action plan of its kind in Victoria, with many other regions adopting a similar partnership approach to prevention in the following years. With 26 partners including seven local governments and Departments of Justice and Education, Victoria Police, a range of community health organisations, an AFL club, and a university, PVT has two tiers of governance that meet quarterly. In 2017, the partnership launched its second strategy, Preventing Violence Together 2030: Western Region Strategy to Prevent Violence against Women that aims to effect transformational and sustained change at the individual, family, community, institutional and societal level.
This ten-year strategy is underpinned by PVT’s theory of change, a framework that has emerged from ‘practice wisdom, lived experience and the evidence outlined in Change the story‘. The partnership uses this theory of change to visually and conceptually map prevention activities and work taking place in individual organisations. This allows PVT to ensure this work is connected and to identify areas where more work needs to be done to ensure that that women and girls across Melbourne’s west live free from violence and discrimination and have equal status, rights, opportunities, representation and respect.
A culture of humility is the foundation and guiding principle of the partnership to avoid competition against one another for critical but few resources. Practically this entails: a focus on outcomes; effective agenda design that creates space for all partners to share their organisation’s work; a structure that ensures partnership initiatives are not dominated by one perspective or organisation; acknowledging that no single organisation can do primary prevention alone; cross-sector partnerships and action are integral for primary prevention efforts to be effective; and an understanding and acceptance that mistakes will be made.
After a decade of working together, PVT has identified three key learnings from the partnership:
Stakeholders at the discussion forum reflected on the importance of such place-based approaches and working with partners and discussed how this approach could be applied in Queensland.
These key themes are synthesised from discussions among non-government stakeholders at an online discussion forum on 13 May, and supplementary stakeholder engagement undertaken by the Hub.
Non-government organisations are integrating primary prevention approaches into their current work in Queensland. Stakeholders at the forum discussed the work that they are currently doing, and opportunities that they have identified for further integrating prevention into existing work:
Stakeholders who attended the discussion forum identified ideas for expanding primary prevention in Queensland: