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DV prevention should be part of school curriculum: Shelter SA

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The head of South Australia’s peak housing authority has called on the State Government to introduce a domestic violence prevention program in schools, as new research shows a “lack of focus” on family violence prevention in SA.

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Shelter SA executive director Dr Alice Clark said South Australia should develop a state-wide education program for primary and secondary school students based on the Respectful Relationships program used in Victoria.

The state government-funded program was rolled-out in schools this year following Victoria’s royal commission into family violence.

As part of the program, children from foundation (reception) through to Year 12 are taught about respect, positive attitudes and appropriate behaviours in relationships.

Clark described the program as “a good base model” and said it was imperative that South Australia followed Victoria’s example.

“Victoria really seems to be leading the way in terms of establishing a state-wide education program that targets the prevention of violence against women and girls from an early age,” Clark told InDaily.  

“In South Australia, we have good programs for some children in some schools but it’s not statewide.”

The decision to launch the Respectful Relationships program proved controversial for the Victorian government, with some critics claiming the program adopted a radical view of gender and sexuality.

Clark said these views are unfounded.

“There is a common misconception that the measure is just another Safe Schools program in disguise,” she said.

“This rumour undermines the importance of schooling children about gender equality and relationships.”

Education Minister Susan Close said South Australian schools currently address respectful relationships through the Australian curriculum, SHINE SA’s Focus Schools program and the Keeping Safe: Child Protection Curriculum.

“The Keeping Safe: Child Protection Curriculum has been taught in public preschools and schools since 2008 and covers information and strategies relating to managing respectful relationships, safety, abuse, domestic violence, and protective strategies,” she said.  

“It is regarded as best practice by educators and is currently used in six other jurisdictions nationally and internationally.”

Research published last year in a joint Shelter SA and the University of Adelaide report shows there is a “lack of focus” on domestic violence prevention in SA.

Researchers showed that while there are several domestic violence programs for school-aged students in South Australia, there is currently no statewide implementation.

The report also highlighted the lack of education programs for male domestic violence perpetrators with intervention orders in the state.

Shelter SA sent letters to Susan Close and Social Housing Minister Zoe Bettison yesterday outlining the issues raised in the research.

“There needs to be a clear and consistent message by governments, communities and individuals that we will not tolerate domestic or family violence in any shape or form,” one of the letters states.

“We must put an end to siloed approaches between services.”

The letters also call on the government to provide more affordable public housing for people escaping family violence.

Bettison said the State Government was “well aware” of the impact violence against women has on the homeless.

“Overall there are more than 1000 places available in South Australia for people experiencing family violence,” she said.

“We are the first state to develop a Multi-Agency Protection Service which allows fast and automated collaboration between government agencies in DV cases.

“The State Government has also opened a new Women’s Safety Services South Australia which brings together all our domestic violence services under one roof.”

In 2017-18, 8847 people receiving assistance from homelessness providers in South Australia reported experiencing domestic violence.

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