Australia has propelled forward with an outstanding commitment to tackling domestic violence.
The success from government initiatives, such as Stop It At The Start and White Ribbon Day, sparked a national conversation about recognising disrespectful behaviour before it manifests into physical violence. As a result, these primary prevention methods have enabled us to break through the ‘tabooed’ topic of domestic violence by encouraging open dialogue between government, families, youth and communities.
The education system has been a main driver for instigating such change. However, principals and teachers can only do so much to mitigate the insidious nature of abusive behaviour, which remains unacceptably high within Australian culture today.
Project Officer for Western Sydney University’s Fast Forward program, Carol Richardson, emphasises the importance of raising awareness about the issue to students in schools.
“They can then recognise that it is not normal and maybe tell a teacher,” she says.
While the education sector plays a key role in primary prevention methods through educational programs, the lines between generating discussion and providing professional support become blurred. Carol stresses that school teachers do not have adequate resources to discuss domestic violence in schools.
“They [teachers] need help from experts. There was a teacher on Q&A talking about how she had to help kids from dreadful homes and how ill-equipped she was…and how that was not her job,” she says.
“Teachers also run out of time, so something needs to give!”
The conundrum: Our education system is a primary influencer in shaping attitudes and behaviour on domestic violence, yet it is running on little time and scarce resources.
However, this opens avenues for collaboration with businesses, local governments and community members who can help provide teachers with adequate means.
In response to this situation, one law firm, Coode & Corry Solicitors recently launched its No Respect, No Relationship campaign. Pioneered by the firm’s solicitor, Janis Donnelly-Coode, the campaign aims to raise awareness about addressing domestic violence at its very core: that is, recognising disrespectful behaviour from the start and learning that it is not okay.
After several initial discussions about the topic, Janis soon realised the how helpful this information was to young people.
“The teenagers went home and told their parents how much they had learned about the importance of respectful relationships, that they had no idea that domestic violence occurred at that rate (1/3) or could happen to educated people from good homes,” she says.
As a result, Janis holds regular seminars for local schools and universities. All seminars are tailored to fit with the school curriculum and are delivered to suit students’ age-specific needs.
Coode & Corry has been successfully running these free educational seminars for over five years. The firm also offers seminars exclusive to teachers, which cover a range of topics such ass ‘how to navigate compliancy requirements’, ‘what to do about difficult parents/family law’, ‘managing potentially litigious matters around social media usage’ and ‘staff who break the law and how to manage this’.
The formation of partnerships, resources and education is a small, yet significant milestone in forming the most powerful weapon against domestic violence at an institutional level.