With domestic violence costing Australia over $13 billion per year, will ‘Respectful Relationship’ programs help change our future generations?

Originally posted October 8th, 2015 in Provoke Magazine.

Recently it was discovered that one in four young Australians believe it’s okay for a man to hit his partner during a drunken tiff, or to pressure her into having sex. Devastating as this is, should we really be so surprised given the staggering rates of family violence in our country?

In 2015, Australia has seen an average of two women murdered each week, with 48 male related deaths recorded by the end of August; 68% of which were committed by a current/former partner (Real For Women). Currently the financial impact of violence against women and their children costs our economy over $13billion each year, and if left untreated will skyrocket to an estimated $15.6billion in 2021/2022 (The Cost of Violence against Women and their Children, 2009). Given the alarming rates of family violence in our country,  it’s unsurprising that many children are growing up around violence and accepting it as the norm. So how do we change this?

Many Australians, including Dame Quentin Bryce, Ms Annastacia Palaszczuk, Australian of the Year Rosie Batty and Indigenous author/advocate Lani Brennan, believe that educating our youth about the realities and impact of family violence is an essential step in the fight to end a culture of violence against women. In recent months, QLD, NSW and Tasmania announced they would invest in the future of our youth by introducing ‘Respectful Relationship’ school programs; a renewed shift aimed at stopping the cycle of violence by addressing toxic and unhealthy attitudes.

While the programs have been met with positive feedback, some Australians feel that the school education system shouldn’t take the place of parents when it comes to social issues; expressing concern that such programs would take away from the already-packed curriculum. While it would be ideal for parents to teach their children about treating others with respect, this just isn’t a reality for many children living in abusive families. Considering education systems exist to prepare our children for healthy futures, and are the number one place (beside the home) that children spend their lives, surely it makes sense to include programs such as these as part of their life education.

If we can create healthy, well adjusted youth who contribute positively to society and know how to engage in respectful relationships, surely the benefits far outweigh the costs associated with picking up the broken pieces? Violence against women and children is an epidemic issue terrorising our country, and the only way to stop the cycle is to teach our future generations to stand against it.

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