Page updated September 19, 2021

Putting the focus on respect in outer eastern schools

September 19, 2021

Eastern Community Legal Centre has been working with the Department of Education and Training (DET) since 2019 to support the delivery of their Respectful Relationships program across Melbourne’s outer east region

Respectful Relationships is a state-wide initiative that focuses on supporting schools and teachers to educate young people about respectful behaviour, positive attitudes and behaviours and how to build confidence, resilience and healthy relationships.

Since its inception, the whole-of-school program has had a strong focus on gender equality, knowing this is critical to the prevention of violence against women and girls.  ECLC has delivered professional development sessions with teachers and school staff on a wide range of relevant topics, including consent, sexting, cyberbullying, family violence and gender stereotypes.

ECLC Yarra Ranges Coordinator, Anita Koochew, said ‘Schools have responded very positively to our content and approach. They are really eager for more support around gender issues and family violence to ensure they can provide a safe and supportive environment for the whole school community.’

ECLC has also co-presented alongside DET staff around appropriate handling of family violence disclosures in a school environment and worked with DET’s Family Violence Practice Branch to educate staff on Family Violence Intervention Orders.

Since 2021 ECLC has acted as a ‘critical friend’ to two schools in the outer east. This involves analysing their action plans and providing feedback, as well as playing an active role in supporting their plan, such as offering community legal education on relevant topics to their students.

ECLC CEO, Michael Smith, said their content and approach could be applied across a wider range of settings in Melbourne’s East.

“Respect is critical to changing harmful dynamics that still exist in the community. Our work in primary prevention and community education gives us the ability to have productive conversations about difficult topics with teachers, parents, children and in workplaces and community settings. We are always looking for new partners in this work.”

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