A group of year six students are putting hands up to be the region’s first to end violence against women.
The Warrnambool West Primary School students are the first pre-teen group to take part in a new Brophy program aimed at reducing gender-based violence and sexual assault.
Program coordinator Brophy Family and Youth Services Healthy Relationships worker Delise Oldfield said several factors meant preventative programs were being adjusted to reach a younger audience.
“Historically the program has targeted year 9/10 students,” she said. “But following discussions with teachers, wellbeing staff, parents and young people, support services and community organisations throughout the south-west, the consensus was age appropriate conversations and awareness needs to start much earlier.”
Ms Oldfield blamed “earlier onset of puberty, media and popular culture encouraging the sexualisation of young people, easy access to explicit sexual imagery and pornography and the acceptance of social norms regarding the objectification of young girls and women, and gender equality.”
“Sessions were delivered in a trauma informed framework and discussed the many forms of violence and sexual assault,” Ms Oldfield said. “We covered where to go for help, consent and the law, provided scenarios for students to role play and wrote narratives in response to relevant incidents.”
Ms Oldfield said students worked on a series of posters for the Victoria Against Violence – 16 Days of Activism campaign which began on November 25.
“It’s about identifying a difficult experience in their life, how they felt and where they went for help,” she said. “In preparation for transition to secondary school and puberty, the classes examined the adolescent brain, influence of peer pressure, risk taking and heightened emotional responses.”
Ms Oldfield, who has a background in trauma and grief counselling, palliative care and sexual assault studies, said students’ responses were positive.
“I was amazed by the students pre-existing knowledge,” she said. “They were able to identify so many forms of violence and the impacts with a great awareness of non-physical forms of violence and technological violence. And they were so engaged.”
School student welfare co-ordinator Carolyn O’Rourke said the program encouraged conversations students might have ignored.
“They see so much even at this age,” she said. “This program allows them to talk about what’s acceptable and what’s not.”