Last month, NSW schools began teaching students about how to recognise and respond to domestic violence.
The NSW Government announced last year that the targeted classes would be introduced to improve community awareness about the issue and its devastating impact.
Mount St Benedict College, located in northern Sydney, is one school that has been forward-thinking when it comes to educating its students about this subject.
The school’s principal, Maria Pearson, told The Educator that her school provides opportunities for students to hear about the issues through its pastoral and mission programs.
“This is done by participation in forums run by outside agencies [such as the local Beecroft Forum Dinners], networking with students from other schools through groups such as the Sydney Alliance and the Alliance of Girls’ Schools.”
“We encourage staff to include relevant issues in their teaching programs where appropriate. In the school’s pastoral programs girls are educated to be advocates for women and girls.”
She added that the college has also engaged guest speakers on relevant issues.
Students at the school recently created a video encouraging those affected by domestic violence to speak out.
Lizzie, a 16-year-old student at the school, said talking about domestic violence in the classroom was a good move.
“It's about making them aware from a young age to know what's going on in their own homes, to recognise it in themselves and friends, their family,” Lizzie told the ABC.
“It will also help in getting rid of stigma around the subject and making it not such a taboo topic to talk about.
“A lot of people step around it really carefully, they don't want to go in too deep, they're a bit scared of what might happen – but you need to get rid of that fear to be able to overcome it and seek help about it.”
Last month NSW schools began teaching students about how to recognise and respond to domestic violence as part of a state-wide program to raise awareness about the issue.
Similar programs are also being rolled out in Victorian schools, such as Berwick Lodge Primary School, which is an ambassador of the Alannah & Madeline Foundation, a national charity protecting children from violence.
“We are active within A&M and this is one way of contributing positively and simultaneously accessing valuable information to inform our joining total school community regarding DV and dealing with it,” the school’s principal, Henry Grossek, told The Educator.
“We have also decided to become school members of White Ribbon organisation - in addition to the same reasons as for joining A&M, the symbolism of joining with these organisations is powerful.”
Mrs Pearson said all students in Australia need to know what is appropriate respectful behaviour within all different types of relationships.
“They also need to develop skills in responding to stressful situations without the use of violence,” she said.
“I believe it is also important that they understand the different forms of domestic violence and how to extricate themselves from violent relationships.
“Girls in particular need to understand their rights and how they can access support in having their rights respected.”