PiP Network Meeting Notes, Wednesday 3 September

This meeting focused on the new Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD) curriculum resource Building Respectful Relationships: Stepping Out Against Gender-Based Violence.

Caitlin Greenwell, Student Inclusion and Engagement Division, DEECD, and Dr Debbie Ollis, Senior Lecturer in Health and Physical Education at Deakin University, introduced this new resource and a question and answer session followed.

Caitlin and Debbie highlighted the following:

  • This curriculum should be embedded into a whole of school approach to respectful relationships education.
  • To be effective, respectful relationships education needs to be embedded across all year levels of schooling in a manner that is developmentally appropriate and sequential, rather than approached as a one-off.
  • Before using this curriculum resource, schools need to do some groundwork around respectful relationships. Students will need to have some understanding of sexuality education before the curriculum is introduced to them.
  • The importance of having a positive approach to sexuality education (talking about respect keeps it positive).
  • The importance of focusing on gender inequality and it link with power and violence.
  • The importance of training pre service teachers to teach respectful relationships education.
  • A pilot project of 30 schools in three clusters of local government areas will apply this curriculum resource as part of a whole of school approach, to be overseen by the Foundation to Prevent Violence against Women and their Children.

Click here to view the presentation by Debbie Ollis. View below to read the questions and answers.

At the meeting, four PiP members, Jan Tracey, Jennifer Chambers, Christine Dew and Christopher Lynch, also shared the ideas, strategies and tools that they have found successful in building respectful relationships with young people. View below to read about the tips shared by Jan, Jennifer, Christine and Christopher.


Building Respectful Relationships: Stepping Out Against Gender-Based Violence Question and Answer Session:

Q) What is the proportion of schools implementing sexuality education?

A) It is included in AusVELS so all Victorian schools are meant to be teaching it. Most schools do something, and this ranges from fantastic programs to very basic and less effective approaches. Overwhelmingly in secondary schools, it is internal teachers delivering sexuality education.

Q) How has DEECD worked with schools nurses to inform them of the Building Respectful Relationships curriculum.

A) DEECD is currently scoping broad professional learning for teachers on health education. This will include respectful relationships education.

To ensure teachers can make best use of this resource, it needs to be easily accessible and linked to AusVELS requirements. It should not be approached as an additional item for teachers to implement, but rather as a tool to help them with their existing teaching requirements.

Q) There are a number of respectful relationships programs available, many seem to be competing against each other. How should we respond?

A) It is about communicating what each program or resource is able to provide to the school. These programs can be viewed as resources, each program providing a different resource. Schools can then choose from the available programs to get the most appropriate resource for their schools. Schools can also choose an activity from one curriculum or program, and another activity from a different program to ensure the best outcome for the school.

Q) Many teachers don’t feel confident to deliver this work. What do teachers need in order to implement the Building Respectful Relationships curriculum?

A) Teachers have expertise and are best placed to work with their students, but they need support and experience in sexuality education and gender equity. The provision of training on sexuality education for instance.

Increasingly respectful relationships is being taught to pre-service teachers which will provide them with more confidence once in the classroom.

For existing teachers, hopefully there will be some training and PD that DEECD can deliver to schools to complement the Building Respectful Relationships curriculum.

Q) What are the current gaps in school based respectful relationships education?

A) A key gap is support to schools to deliver on existing resources. Schools need this support to make sense of the resources that currently exist and how they can be incorporated into their teaching.

Q) Can the Building Respectful Relationships curriculum resource be adapted to schools with children with disabilities?

A) Yes, this curriculum is aimed at a diverse audience. But specialised expertise is required to make it work. Family Planning Victoria is currently developing professional learning programs for teachers in these settings to deliver the Building Respectful Relationships curriculum in the classroom. This is expected to be rolled out iteratively between 2015-17.

Q) Have you seen a shift in the mindset of teachers through the delivery of respectful relationships education?

A) Yes. In two trials with four schools, undertaken by Debbie, a positive shift in teachers was seen. The teachers particularly found it useful to be able to take risks and debrief afterwards.

Q) Were these trials delivered with a positive approach to sexuality?

A) While Debbie did not observe the trials, the feedback suggested that sexuality was approached positively. Note: there are hard conversations that need to be included in sexuality education and it is difficult to always maintain a strength based approach. It is, however, useful to conclude with conversations around respect as this is positive.

Q) Are evaluation resources included in the Building Respectful Relationships curriculum to use with students?

A) No, but there are tools available through other resources. (Note, PiP is currently developing a new evaluation kit to support PiP members to develop their own evaluation strategies and tools).

Q) Have any trials been conducted in schools with high CALD populations.

A) Yes, in two of the four trial schools. The program worked well in these settings.

Q) Can you provide information on the respectful relationships project overseen by Debbie at Northern Bay College?

A) The project came out of primary school parents wanting to implement respectful relationships education. See the evaluation report here.

Q) How does the Building Respectful Relationships curriculum respond to gender and sexuality diverse students?

A) It is inclusive in its activities.


Four PiP members shared the ideas, strategies and tools that they have found successful in building respectful relationships with young people.

Jan Tracey, Gippsland Respectful Relationships Education in Schools (GRREiS), Gippsland Women’s Health Service

In Jan’s work on the GRREiS program, she found that many schools were not ready to implement a respectful relationships program. Both schools and support organisations needed the opportunity to consider the amount of work required in delivering a program, how it would be delivered and implement an audit of what the school was already doing in this area.

In response, Jan developed a school readiness tool and a new online hub to support schools to deliver respectful relationships education. In addition to the school readiness tool, the online hub includes supports around referrals for schools in instances of violence, a list of resources to help build a whole of school approach and information for schools and community organisations to support the implementation of the GRREiS program in individual schools.

View the school readiness tool here

View the online hub here

GWHS Powerpoint Presentation GRREiS Webpages Sept 2014

Christopher Lynch, Phoenix Youth Centre, City of Maribyrnong

Chris was asked by a local school to work with a small group of year 10 boys to build their awareness of the impact their use of public space has for young women and to consider opportunities to be more respectful.

Chris developed a three session program to respond specifically to the needs of these young men. One activity he incorporated included asking the young men to use space as they normally would, imaging they were at the school gates (i.e. talk the way they normally would, sit the way they normally would etc). He gave each young man a card with a description of a person who is either sharing the space or entering the space. They took turns to read their card and put themselves in the position of their character. For instance, how would they imagine a young woman would feel walking past them. How would a younger boy feel? A grandmother, a teacher, a police officer, etc. Through this activity, the group developed an understanding of the effect their use of space had on other people.

Chris noted the importance of challenging young people to get them thinking.

Christine Dew, We Can Do It, Good Samaritan Inn

Chris discussed the following strategies:

  • Engage teaching staff (not only leaders) in curriculum development (i.e. Chris worked directly with teachers to identify the schools needs which helped ensure staff ownership).
  • Inform all staff about decisions / directions / actions.
  • Build staff capacity through professional development and ownership.
  • Find out about, and utilise, staff skills and expertise (i.e. make use of PE teachers knowledge of sport by incorporating this knowledge into the program).
  • Give staff positive experiences and recognise their achievements.
  • Look at respectful relationships curriculum in a whole of school way (avoid repetition, look for gaps).
  • Identify and resolve structural and other barriers to success (why does something not work?).
  • Keep the whole school community updated with project activities and projects.
  • Every school is different; adapt to their unique needs.

The program also leveraged existing relationships and established a program in three schools that the Good Samaritan Inn already had a strong relationship with. This created a supportive environment with each school.

Jennifer Chambers, Healthy Relationships Worker, Brophy Family & Youth Services

Jennifer ensures that young people are sitting in a semi-circle of chairs and she sits in the middle. This physical use of space lets young people know that something is going to happen.

She uses current events and recent media articles to support the learnings, for instance Jennifer will use an article written by Tom Meagher on ‘The Danger of the Monster Myth’ to initiate discussions. She will use these current events to unpack and respond to myths.

Jennifer initiates conversations on young people’s intentions as a tool to empower them. At the end of the session, she asks the students to write on postcards their intentions.

Acknowledgement of country

DVRCV and the PiP network acknowledge Aboriginal people as the traditional owners of the lands and waters throughout Australia.

PiP is resourced by