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Respectful Relationships Education

The change we need to prevent gender-based violence can be supported by schools taking a whole of school approach to respectful relationships education.

Three primary school aged children in blue uniforms site at desks in a classroom. They are all writing in their books studiously, one child is looking upwards.
A teacher sitting at a table of primary school aged children in the classroom.
Schools are mini communities that play a central role in teaching young people what gender-based violence looks like and how it can be prevented.
Respectful relationships education is about taking a whole of school approach to primary prevention for the benefit of everyone in your school community.

Just like other major social and health issues, such as smoking and drink driving, gender-based violence can be prevented by working across the whole population in many ways.This work needs to involve using different strategies to address key drivers and stop violence before it starts. Respectful relationships education is about changing the attitudes, behaviours, norms, structures and practices that create the environment in which gender-based violence occurs.

Three teenagers working together at a desk in a secondary school setting. They are in discussion and the girl in the middle is holding a yellow object.
Respectful relationships education is the holistic approach to the school-based, primary prevention of gender-based violence. It uses the education system as a catalyst for generational and cultural change by engaging schools, as both education institutions and workplaces, to comprehensively address the drivers of gender-based violence and create a future free from violence.

Why gender?

All violence is unacceptable, whether it occurs in the home or elsewhere, and no matter who perpetrates it. The underlying causes of violence are complex but there is a growing body of research and evidence linking gender-based violence to gender inequality. Gender-based violence is much more likely to occur when power is not shared equally in society, and when women and LGBTIQA+ people are not valued and respected.

Respectful relationships education focuses on promoting gender equality because evidence tells us this will ultimately lead to lower rates of violence across Australia. This is why respectful relationships education centres on discussions about gender roles and norms and the way men and women relate to each other at home, in school, at work and in the community.

Why schools?

Children and young people are a key focus for the prevention of gender-based violence for several reasons. They are still forming their knowledge and attitudes and are open to guidance and support. They are also beginning to form relationships and ideas about acceptable relationship behaviour. Schools are places where respect and equality can be modeled, positive attitudes and behaviours can be shaped and young people be given skills to recognise discrimination and challenge gender stereotypes.

Schools are also workplaces for many Australians. Our work lives have a significant influence on us professionally and personally so the whole-of-school approach includes looking into the conditions and culture of the school as a workplace.

Schools are important places to support the prevention of gender-based violence because they act as hubs in the community and can have a powerful influence not just on students but on parents and carers, other community groups and organisations.

There are many ways your school and the education system can work to address the drivers of gender-based violence. See the whole-of-school approach for more details on how your school can act.

Read more about the evidence behind respectful relationships education.