While the discussion continues over whether to introduce respectful relations classes into Victorian schools, one Melbourne boys school decided to make respectful relationships its year-long focus of 2015.
Students from St Kevin’s College in Melbourne organised briefings, assembly talks and a lunch-time forum to begin to educate staff and boys about family violence and what it can mean to the community and to the people involved.
Sue White, Head of Careers at St Kevin’s, said the lunchtime forum was attended by 70 boys from Years 10, 11 and 12, after a small group of Year 10 boys did the preliminary work and awareness raising in the school.
Sue, who is the staff leader for one of the school’s VITAE (Latin for life) groups, said the boys in each of the groups have been identified as potential leaders, with a strong interest in justice issues. Sue encouraged her group of 10 boys to look at family violence through the year and consider ways to educate the wider school community.
“The boys had meetings with relevant people, including Angela Wood from McAuley Community Services for Women, to ensure they had a better understanding of the issues,” Sue said.
After the briefings, one boy spoke at the school assembly, others distributed posters and other information around the school and the group organised the lunchtime forum. Panel guests at the forum included Angela Wood, Winter Icely, a court children’s worker with McAuley Community Services for Women and Dr Jonathan Harrison, a gastroenterologist who explained the physical impact of family violence. Dr Manjula O’Connor, a Psychiatrist and Senior Research Fellow at the University of Melbourne generously facilitated the session and alerted the students to many of the shocking facts and figures surrounding the issue of Family Violence.
Dr O’Connor presented a scenario of an event familiar to McAuley Community Services for Women that involved a well-educated woman whose husband controlled their bank account and checked her mobile phone constantly. When he mistook a text from his wife’s boss as evidence of an affair he started to physically abuse her. After continued abuse over a period of time, finally the woman called the Police and the woman was taken to safety.
“To get 70 young men to come to a lunchtime forum is terrific and really shows a commitment to trying to combat this sort of injustice, which is directed in most cases towards women and children,” Sue said.
Two Year 10 boys wrote a reflection after attending the forum.
Andre: “Our session with Angela from McAuley was informative and some of the stories and facts we uncovered were indeed surprising. The session allowed us to see through the eyes of women in distress and understand the complex issue of family violence from a wider perspective.”
Angus: “The information session was really insightful. I believe that many students realised that domestic violence is such a big issue globally but especially in Australia and the speech highlighted that and showed us different stories about ladies who were victims of domestic violence. I and many of the other students who I talked to after the session found that the statistics were very revealing in that they made us come to our senses about the issue since we unfortunately have not been shown this
issue enough throughout our life.”
Sue said the forum helped raise the profile of the issue across the school, and made it clear that family violence is something that affects people from all economic backgrounds.
“Importantly, we hope that the focus this year on family violence will help reinforce to our boys that they must treat women with respect and that a violent response to a family issue is wrong,” she said.