SAHSSI started receiving individual requests from high schools such as St Marys Star of the Sea and Edmund Rice College to present to classrooms about domestic and family violence at a local level – through these requests our case managers started developing a presentation in which they called Red Flags.

SAHSSI are also experiencing a lot more young people advocating for change through school driven projects such as St Mary’s Star of the Sea students collecting and creating dignity bags, the students at Warilla High School coordinating a homelessness sleep out last year to raise $450 for SAHSSI, students fundraising and participating in events such as Wollongong Central’s Stair Climb in 2018 and Christmas fundraising drives coordinated by year 11’s from Elonera Montessori School last year.

At a national level the importance of early intervention in high school states:

“There is an unprecedented national commitment to tackle domestic violence through the National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children 2010-2022.1  A major feature of this plan is the recognition that gender-based violence is preventable—primarily by building gender-equality and more respectful attitudes and behaviours among young people through school and community-wide strategies.2 “

Youth wellbeing and social development can improve when young people are active in social change.³

The impact of domestic violence prevention programs can be enhanced when developed in collaboration with young people, with robust evaluations to determine which interventions work and which specific groups they work for. 4

When the opportunity presented to SAHSSI to apply for a grant through Illawarra International Women’s Day committee back in January 2018, it was important to make the most of the opportunity and we were fortunate and grateful to secure funding for this program. It was then that communications with all high schools across the Illawarra began.

Throughout all of last year, SAHSSI delivered the Red Flag presentation to 12 high schools and reached approximately 1,000 children (focusing on years 10-12 students) with more high schools booked in this year. Red Flags provides information and resources to students and teachers regarding domestic and family violence often using real de-identified examples from our client experiences. The workshop is interactive and encourages student participation.

Topics we cover include a definition and understanding of the cycle of domestic and family violence, recognising domestic violence in relationship (red flags), how to get help, how to help a friend experiencing domestic violence, technology abuse and safety, how young people can make a difference regarding the issue of domestic violence and what local services and website can assist people in need of support.

At every session we father feedback from students and teachers and have made changes to the presentation, to adapt the content to the feedback provided. Here are some examples:

“Would be great to have statistics for the kids” – SAHSSI have now adapted a slide about statistics.

“What about men” – SAHSSI are always sure to inform students that domestic and family violence does not discriminate based on gender. SAHSSI includes current statistics on gender based violence (including where men are the victims of violence from other men), we discuss the importance of men seeking support and include information regarding where male victims can seek help or report the violence.

“Could you further explain the difference between domestic and family violence” – SAHSSI has articulated this definition in more detail.

It’s also important to note that at every presentation a welfare officer or teacher from the high school must be present to support any children who may be finding the content difficult. Resources and referrals are provided as part of the program for students and children.

Lake Illawarra High School have been a great supporter of the program and here is what the head teacher of wellbeing, Wendy had to say:

“Lake Illawarra were very privileged to be part of the program and would happily welcome SAHSSI back. Lake Illawarra High School raise awareness to domestic violence via their “Top Blokes” program for year 9 and 10 boys (which is not as specific but does tough base on some domestic and violence “red flags”) and have also recently engaged with the Illawarra Women’s Health Centre to participate in their program for domestic and family violence. The Red Flags presentation generated discussion later on and is really important to have as it makes people aware of what is domestic and family violence, particularly the red flags at a young age as some of these red flags can sometimes be seen as normal behaviour. Having local agencies and case management staff involved in the development and presentations meant they were able to bring in some real world examples from the community that really hit home and their passion was really evident and rubbed off onto the kids, making their eyes more open to the impacts. The girls presented really well and were really personable. Improvement areas could be around generating even more discussion with children maybe through more scenario activities and videos but other than that the program was great.”

Here is what our two case managers presenting the presentation across the Illawarra have to say regarding their involvement with the program;

“I have worked as a case manager for SAHSSI for 12 years. I grew up around domestic and family violence as a young person and was able to get out of that with the help of a youth domestic violence service. Providing this support back is my experience of coming full circle. I believe, and from feedback we have received from some schools, we need to be educating younger and younger and amend the project to make it more suitable for year 7,8 and 9 as they are not receiving education about it anywhere else.

The kids and the teachers seem to relate more when we share real stories. We receive the full support of teachers and for the most part we are working with the welfare officers that are attuned to the kid’s backgrounds to support with any risks we may came across”

Jasmine

“I have worked with SAHSSI for a year, previously studying and working as a teacher. Prior to working for SAHSSI I completed a Masters in Social Work as from my teaching experiences I developed an interest in learning more about the challenges for children and young people and how to best support them. What I like the most about the program is our ongoing focus in seeking feedback and adapting the program to be relevant for the students. We’re learning just as much from the children as they are from us.

Jess

Jasmine and Jess are presenting the outcomes of our program at the International Women’s Day Luncheon held at on Friday 8th March 2018 and we are very proud of their efforts.

SAHSSI hope to extend our program to the Shoalhaven and are seeking further funding opportunities to do so.

If you have any interest in the project or have any feedback you can do so : https://www.sahssi.org.au/compliments-feedback/

References

All of these references where included in an article regarding young people as agents of change on domestic violence on the Australian Institute of Family Studies website here

  1. Australian Government, 2016. National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and Children 2010-2022. Department of Social Services, Canberra.
  1. Our Watch (2015a). Respectful relationships education. Evidence paper.
  2. UNICEF (2012). Evaluation of Adolescents as agents of positive change program 2005-2011. Phase One and Two. United Nations Children’s Fund Middle East and North Africa Regional Office;  Walker, D., Pereznieto, P., Bergh, G., & Smith, K. (2014). Young People and Governance in a Post-2015 World. Overseas Development Institute (ODI), Plan UK and Restless Development; Wong, N., Zimmerman, M., & Parker, E. (2010). A typology of youth participation and empowerment for child and adolescent health promotionAmerican Journal of Community Psychology, 46(1-2), 100-14; Zeldin, S., Krauss, S., Collura, J., Lucchesi, M., & Sulaiman, A. (2014). Conceptualizing and Measuring Youth–Adult Partnership in Community Programs: A Cross National Study. American Journal of Community Psychology, 54, 337–34.
  3. https://aifs.gov.au/cfca/2017/09/27/young-people-agents-change-domestic-violence