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Our Watch: new reports show how transforming our schools to promote respectful relationships can help prevent violence against women

March 31, 2021 / Our Watch media team

Challenging gender stereotypes, embedding positive role-modelling in schools and promoting gender equality are some of the ways the education system can help prevent gender-based violence, according to new reports from Our Watch.

Released today, Our Watch’s new policy brief provides guidance tailored to policy makers on designing, implementing, coordinating and monitoring evidence-based approaches to respectful relationships education.

Drawing on international and national evidence on violence prevention in schools, the brief sets out the different roles that governments and stakeholders can play in this work.

The findings show that to be effective, respectful relationship education must take a whole-of-school approach and can do this by supporting staff through professional learning, and have a long-term vision and commitment.

Best-practice approaches to respectful relationships education also address the drivers of gender-based violence, such as by challenging gender stereotypes in teaching materials, through role-modelling in the school, and taking a whole-of-school approach to promoting gender equality.

Our Watch CEO Patty Kinnersly said that with over 9500 schools, four million students and 290,000 teachers across Australia, schools provide a tremendous opportunity to reach children and young people during their early development and can help shape their attitudes, beliefs, knowledge and behaviour around gender and respect.

“The evidence continues to show us that this education needs to be long-term and age-appropriate throughout primary and secondary school. We need to support young people to develop skills and knowledge for what respectful and equal relationships look like, as well as transform the environments in which young people learn to ensure that they are safe.

Ms Kinnersly said it was also important to ensure that respectful relationships education goes beyond the classroom.

“Taking a whole-of-school approach to respectful relationships education that incorporates an in-class education while embedding gender equality in the school’s culture, policies and procedures is what we know from the evidence works best.

“Not only should we be embedding respectful relationships education in all schools, we must also reinforce these messages across society, so we are promoting gender equality and non-violence in all the places we spend our time,” she said.


You can access the new documents here: 

Respectful relationships education in schools: Evidence paper 

Respectful relationships education as part of a national approach to preventing gender-based violence: Policy brief 

Media contact

Shannon McKeogh, Senior Media and Communications Advisor (shannon.mckeogh@ourwatch.org.au  or 0448 844 930) or media@ourwatch.org.au

*If you cover this story, or any story regarding violence against women and children, please include the following tagline:
“If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, family or domestic violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit www.1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000.”

To access guides for reporting about violence against women and their children, visit Media Making Change.