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Senate Estimates: Respectful Relationships programs in schools – is there a plan?

Estimates & Committees
Larissa Waters 26 Feb 2015

Senator WATERS: I have some questions about the Second Action Plan under the National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and their Children. I want to start firstly on the Respectful Relationships programs, as they are called. There has been quite a bit of interest expressed to me, through various women's groups, about implementing those programs throughout schools, as a driver of cultural change. Do you have any plans to implement those or similar programs more broadly than currently?

 Ms McKenzie: That is identified as one of the 26 actions in the Second Action Plan, and governments are working together towards that aim at the moment.

Senator WATERS: Is there any more detail you can provide about how far along the plans are to expand that, for example, or any more detail around that? hursday, 26 February 2015 Senate Page 111 COMMUNITY AFFAIRS LEGISLATION COMMITTEE

Ms McKenzie: At the moment, education ministers are talking about what is in the national curriculum, and there have been discussions between state and territory and Commonwealth ministers about the national curriculum, and those discussions are ongoing, so there is really nothing more I can say at this stage.

Senator WATERS: There is no sort of extracurricular way of taking this on? This has to happen in the course of those national curriculum discussions?

Ms McKenzie: There are a couple of different ways of it happening. Currently a lot of schools have Respectful Relationships programs, and they are expanding them. So that is one way in terms of people picking it up in a voluntary kind of way. But in terms of it becoming an accepted part of the national curriculum, that is really something for COAG ministers to consider.

Senator MOORE: How is it funded now, in terms of Respectful Relationships—

Senator WATERS: That was my next question.

Senator MOORE: because you said governments were looking at it. Do we have a table about where there is any investment from state governments into this as well? We have got federal government money, state government money and money from organisations such as White Ribbon. Do we have a table anywhere that shows how this works?

Ms McKenzie: I am not aware of a table. The Commonwealth funded some Respectful Relationship programs in schools, and I know there is Respectful Relationships in schools in both South Australia and Northern Territory. Victoria has asked Our Watch to do some Respectful Relationship schools things in Victoria. My understanding is that it is also up to individual schools, who are going ahead and getting their own Respectful Relationships work done.

Senator MOORE: They are running bake sales to fund their Respectful Relationships. But there is nowhere in the current documentation that can tell us what is going on and who is funding it?

Ms McKenzie: We certainly have not monitored that, no.

Senator MOORE: Okay. Sorry, Larissa; I just had that one on my list.

Senator WATERS: That is fine. Thank you. I too had a question on that and I am still a little unclear. Is there currently any federal funding allocated specifically to the development and rollout of those Respectful Relationships programs?

Ms McKenzie: Not through DSS, no.

Senator WATERS: Even though it sits under the national plan, which has got its hundred and whatever million over four years? Is it able to access some of that money or would it need to have a specific amount tied to it—that it does not have, clearly.

Ms McKenzie: What happened initially in the Respectful Relationships program is that the Commonwealth put a considerable amount of money into having some Respectful Relationships demonstration projects, and they were chosen across Australia. Those were then evaluated, the idea being that they would end up with guidelines then for how Respectful Relationships programs could be run. That is what the Commonwealth financing has been. The Commonwealth's work in relation to primary prevention is now, to a large extent, being taken forward by Our Watch and the Commonwealth funding of Our Watch.

Senator WATERS: I want to come to that in just a sec, but just sticking with the Respectful Relationships: it is one of 26 actions under the plan but it is not specifically funded because that process of piloting and evaluation is now finished. Is that correct?

Ms McKenzie: No. Both of those facts are correct, yes, but the Respectful Relationships programs are generally funded by state governments, not by the Commonwealth government. The Commonwealth government went in to do the pilot with the project to end up with the guidelines that could then be used by schools in determining what was the kind of Respectful Relationships program they wanted. One of the problems that is around at the moment is that a number of different organisations are offering different Respectful Relationships programs into schools, and schools do not necessarily know how to make the decisions about which is the Respectful Relationships program that they think would be most appropriate in their environment.

Senator WATERS: And is the Commonwealth providing any assistance to them to make that decision?

Ms McKenzie: That is what the guidelines will do.

Senator WATERS: Those guidelines are yet to be finished?

Ms McKenzie: They are underway at the moment.

Senator MOORE: Where?

Ms McKenzie: The University of Queensland did an evaluation, and they have provided—

Senator MOORE: That is what I was trying to get—UQ's work.

Ms McKenzie: They have provided us with a draft report. They mainly looked at the first two rounds of the Respectful Relationships project. Since then we have had a third round, which we are also looking at and then finalising the report. So we would expect the report to be out sometime this year.

Senator MOORE: Public?

Ms McKenzie: Of course.

Senator MOORE: I wish every answer was 'of course'.

Ms McKenzie: I think in this particular instance it is not going to be much use if the report is not public and we are wanting schools to be able to use it—

Senator WATERS: To use it as a guideline—precisely.

Ms McKenzie: to choose the right program.

Senator WATERS: Could you take on notice for me,

Ms McKenzie, because we are a little bit short on time: of the 26 actions, are there any others that are not specifically funded by the federal government? I do not need to know that now because it will probably take too long, but you have said that that is now one of them. I am interested in if there is any others as well. I will leave that with you on notice, unless there is something burning to add now.

Ms McKenzie: I think I have to explain that, because the states and territories fund Respectful Relationships programs—

Senator WATERS: I am not claiming they are unfunded; I am just interested in the Commonwealth money.

Ms McKenzie: We funded the pilot projects and the guidelines.

Senator WATERS: Understood.

Ms McKenzie: That is the job that we have done. So it is not that there is no Commonwealth funding; it is that the role of the commonwealth has been clearly delineated.

Senator WATERS: Was that role delineated clearly in the action in the plan?

Ms McKenzie: I think so. It is certainly clear with the states and territories. They understand our role, and we understand our role in relation to that.

Senator WATERS: Okay; I guess that is my point. Can you enumerate for me if there are any of those other actions whereby the funding commitment is either nil or limited, given that that is perceived to be another organisation's responsibility?

Ms McKenzie: We will take that on notice.

Senator WATERS: Back to the curriculum: I hear that the national curriculum process is are underway—I get that. Are there any other ways of encouraging schools to voluntarily adopt that Respectful Relationship program outside of the national curriculum? You said some are doing it voluntarily anyway. Is that something that the Commonwealth is encouraging?

Ms McKenzie: It is something that we are encouraging, of course, but White Ribbon is encouraging it and they have a Respectful Relationships program that they run in schools. Our Watch is doing a program in Victoria that the Victorian government has paid for. There are a number of organisations around that deliver that and that are fairly active in talking with people about taking one of their programs on. So it is not a matter of, I think, schools not being aware that this is something that can be done.

Senator WATERS: I want to move on now to other primary prevention work, which we started to touch on earlier. You said that the bulk of that is being largely being done by Our Watch across the good work that they are doing, and credit to them for so doing. Is there any other primary prevention work that is happening under the auspices of the plan, outside of what Our Watch is doing?

Ms McKenzie: Certainly what White Ribbon is doing is also primary prevention work. That is an important thing, and then what—

Senator WATERS: Sure, but I meant by the Commonwealth. I thought that was an implicit parameter.

Ms McKenzie: I think I should take that on notice because, at the moment, things are not coming to the top of my mind, but I doubt that means the Commonwealth is not doing things. I think the Commonwealth is actively involved in other primary prevention work.

 

Senator WATERS: Thank you; I will await that.

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