PiP Meeting, 27 April 2016

This meeting brought more than 60 PiP members together to begin to navigate the changing respectful relationships education (RRE) landscape in Victoria.

What is the changing landscape?

In August 2015, the Victorian Government announced that RRE curriculum will be mandated in every Victorian public school from prep to year 10 and there will be support for teachers to deliver this curriculum. These changes are what the RRE sector has been calling for and are aligned with what the research says produces positive outcomes in schools.

This roll out of RRE curriculum, to be delivered by teachers, will be supported by an additional $21.8 million for RRE over the next two years. This will include:

  • Funding to train and support approximately 120 selected mentor ‘lighthouse’ schools
  • Professional learning for thousands of primary and secondary teachers to help them teach respectful relationships
  • Dedicated health officers in each of the Department of Education’s local areas to support schools in responding to family violence and making connections with relevant services in the community

This is a huge win, something that the RRE sector has been advocating for decades! It is only occurring because of the work of RRE practitioners in Victoria to build the evidence base on the effectiveness of RRE. The work of PiP members in helping to build this evidence base needs to be celebrated!

There is a lot we still do not know. How long will these changes take to roll out? What will the curriculum look like? What will the support to teachers be? What will the role of the health offices and lighthouse schools be? We do, however, know that the role of the RRE sector will change.

If teachers are being trained to deliver RRE curriculum to their students, this will no longer be the role of external organisations.This is in line with the evidence, which has shown that teachers delivering the curriculum is best practice.

For many years, RRE practitioners provided this curriculum, and did so brilliantly, to fill a gap. But under these changes, this gap will become mainstreamed.

The needs of schools will only increase through these changes. With all Victorian public schools mandated to introduce RRE, there is more opportunity than ever before to work with schools to embed good practice and sustainable, systematic change.  

If teachers are delivering curriculum, it frees up the RRE sector to support schools to embed a whole of school approach. And we know, from the research that a whole of school approach is integral to ensure this work is effective and creates meaningful change. The evidence tells us that confining RRE to curriculum alone limits the impact.

With these changes, the RRE sector can focus on all the elements that are needed for the classroom work the teachers are doing to be successful. A whole of school approach includes:

  • Sustainable and embedded cultural change
  • Changes to school policy and practices to promote gender equality and respectful relationships as part of the school’s core business
  • Community partnerships to encourage safe referral and response pathways for both staff and students
  • Parental engagement to support students receiving consistent messages about gender, respect and equality at home and at school
  • School leadership on board and leading this work within their school
  • All school staff (and not just the teachers delivering the curriculum) receiving professional learning so that core concepts in the RRE curriculum are embedded within other areas of teaching and learning
  • And to mitigate the risks of this work, teachers and school support staff confident in talking to and knowing the referral process for both victims and perpetrators

At the PiP meeting, there were five clear messages from participants:

  • Hope that this will lead to real systematic and sustained changes and opportunities to respond to the drivers of violence.
  • Concern that people’s jobs would change and what this would mean for their role in supporting RRE in the new landscape. This concern was particularly felt by private providers and there were many others strongly supporting these changes.
  • Acknowledgement that we don’t have all the information we need to make an informed assessment of these changes and  a desire for greater engagement with the Department of Education to ensure that the roll out is based in evidence and builds on the great work already happening in local communities.
  • A recognition of the expertise the people in the room individually and collectively hold, and a desire to ensure that these expertise be recognised and included in the development and roll out of the new model of RRE in schools.
  • The need for a greater understanding of a whole of school approach and the specific role of the community sector in supporting this.

It was agreed that a small working group would be established to explore opportunities to engage with the Department of Education.

Acknowledgement of country

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

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