Equal, Safe and Strong: Gender Equity and Respectful Relationships in Secondary Schools

September 22, 2017


Southern Melbourne Primary Care Partnership’s Family Violence Working Group (SMPCP FVWG) is a voluntary active partnership comprising local government health and welfare agencies and community organisations. They are committed to planning and working collaboratively to contribute to the primary prevention of FV across five Victorian local government areas of Bayside, Glen Eira, Kingston, Port Phillip, and Stonnington.

Adolescence is a crucial period when the understanding and concept of respectful, non-violent relationships is formed.4 Based on strong evidence the partnership is leading a prevention based school pilot project which focuses on:

Cher Twe
  • Strengthening students’ understanding of healthy and respectful relationships
  • Building teachers’ capacity to support students and their peers who are experiencing FV
  • Fostering strong and more integrated working relationships between schools and service providers to ensure young people experiencing FV are supported

To achieve sustainable behaviour change that is integrated, holistic and strategic, the project is based around two frameworks: the Whole School approach and Peer Education model.1,2,3 Three participating school communities were Brighton Secondary College, Bentleigh Secondary College and Mentone Girls’ Secondary College.

The Project training package was implemented between March and September of 2016 and involved the provision of five training sessions with students, five training sessions with teachers, and two training sessions with parents in total.   The Project was evaluated during and at the end of the implementation process, using focus groups, individual interviews, observation notes and verbal feedback.

Key learnings

  • The need for a strong Memorandum Of Understanding detailing managerial commitment, roles, responsibilities and communications channels

The Project experienced delays in commencement and delivery as a clear agreement covering expectations and accountabilities was not achieved at the outset.

  • The power of partnerships

It is a SMPCP FVWG priority to promote and facilitate a region wide collaborative approach in addressing FV. Through the engagement of more than 15 active partners, this project successfully demonstrated the effectiveness of collective information sharing of knowledge and skills in achieving positive outcomes.

  • The efficacy of media as a learning tool

The use of media and exploratory activities was identified as critical in facilitating participants’ learning and participants noted the impact of these on their understanding of the issue.

  • The importance of parental inclusion

The inclusion of parents was recognised as important in the whole-of-school approach.  Parents recognised the importance of the issue of FV/gendered violence and voiced their approval that the school was addressing this concern. Parental inclusion was also important when students disclosed their experiences.

This article was kindly provided by Cher Twe, Health Promotion Coordinator on behalf of Southern Melbourne Primary Care Partnership Family Violence Working Group (SMPCP FVWG).


  1. D.S. Carter, A Whole of School Approach to Adolescent Peer-Leader Development for Affective Learning in Health-Related Curricula, Research Papers in Education, 1999, 14 (3), 295–319.
  2. M. Flood, L. Fergus and M. Heenan, Respectful Relationships Education: Violence Prevention and Respectful Relationships Education in Victorian Secondary Schools, Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, Victoria, 2009.
  3. IUHPE, Achieving Health Promoting Schools: Guidelines for promoting health in schools, International Union for Health Promotion and Education, Paris, 2009.
  4. National Campaign against Violence and Crime, Working with Adolescents to Prevent Domestic Violence, NCAVAC Unit, Attorney-General’s Department, Canberra, 1998.

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