Learning Respect at Sevenoaks

On Tuesday 11 June, Stopping Family Violence partnered with the Women’s Council for Domestic and Family Violence Services, Relationships Australia and Palmerston drug and alcohol service to deliver a presentation about family and domestic violence (FDV) and respectful relationships at Sevenoaks Senior College in Cannington to 23 students in years 11 and 12.  

Stopping Family Violence Operations Manager Mark O’Hare said they were invited to the school to come and talk to the students about FDV and discuss attitudes towards healthy relationships.

“The students we were chatting to need that bit of extra support as many came from home environments where they experienced challenging social issues such as mental health, homelessness, FDV, or drug and alcohol abuse and were unable to remain in mainstream schooling,” he said. 

“It’s really about preventing them from falling through the gaps and keeping those additional supports in place so they can take every opportunity to have and maintain respectful relationships.”

Mark O’Hare – SFV

The young men and women split up into separate workshops with Kedy Kristal of the Women’s Council for Domestic and Family Violence Services and Gemma Spee from Relationships Australia, taking the girls, and Wayne Ryder from Palmerston and Mark taking the boys.

Delivering the workshop to a group of 13 boys, Mark said the guys were encouraged to talk about times that themselves or loved ones were disrespected by others and how they felt about it.

“We talked about when they saw an injustice occurring and how they would feel rage because it goes against their values, and how other people would potentially feel if they were the ones responsible for the injustice,” he said.

“Most of the guys said they had disrespected other people, so that opened up a platform to have a conversation about what they could do as young men to not disrespect others, and to instead talk about how they felt.”

Mark said the small group then talked about the women in their life and the power they had to either make a decision to use violence or to not.

“One such example that was brought up was watching his uncle punch a tree in front of his partner, and together we recognised that at that point, they saw the potential for harm and identified the relationship was fractured forever,” he said.

“This act of punching a tree was sending a clear picture to his partner that he could hurt her at any point, even if he had never laid a hand on her.”  

Community Aboriginal Worker Wayne said he was surprised at how well the boys engaged in their group discussion.

 “We could see the boys think about their actions in the past and knowing they had done wrong, so hopefully they will think before acting from now on.”

Wayne Ryder – Palmerston

Wayne said the program was one of the first of its kind, to have a group of boys and men sit down and talk about feelings and emotions.

“By linking other services together, we can guide the youth in meaningful discussions about preventing FDV,” he said.

Mark said he finished his workshop with the final message: with great power, comes great responsibility – and that the boys had the responsibility to choose to be respectful in everything they did.

Kedy said the ten young women and three staff members in their group were very keen to hear about FDV.

“FDV is always a challenging topic to discuss and I gave a short overview about what it is, and how prevalent it is in our community,” she said.

Gemma followed the talk with some brain-storming activities on healthy and unhealthy relationships, and the young women had some good ideas on what being in an unhealthy relationship looked like.

Kedy said Gemma then shared some of her personal lived experience on being in an unhealthy and abusive relationship, which was a very moving addition to the group discussion.

“I think the session had a powerful impact on the young women. It’s vitally important that issues such as FDV are part of our everyday conversations at school and at work, so that mis-information or a lack of knowledge can be explored.”

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