ONE of its most influential voices has led the Power to End Violence Against Women program to a historic milestone.
Port Adelaide captain Tom Jonas stood tall with the Australian-first AFL primary prevention initiative when it marked 140 school visits and 10,000 students on its stop at Blackwood High on Wednesday.
A Power to End Violence Against Women (PTEVAW) ambassador from day one, Jonas will join program coordinator and Port Adelaide’s SANFL captain Cam Sutcliffe in encouraging Year 10 boys to model respectful relationships and challenge gender-based norms that can lead to abuse.
PTEVAW was developed in 2016 by Power Community Limited, major partner Centacare Catholic Family Services, and the Department for Education in a push to influence future generations and tackle the prevalence of domestic and family violence.
On average, one woman a week dies in Australia at the hands of their current or former partner. Research shows one in three women has experienced physical violence and one in five women has experienced sexual violence since the age of 15.
PTEVAW, which has garnered national recognition - starts conversations with male students around drivers of abuse to help them make informed decisions and become advocates for change - at school, home, and in their wider community.
Students explore rights and responsibilities in relationships, personal values, how to recognise disrespectful behaviour, and being a positive bystander. They further their learning at an annual leadership day and role model event.
Blackwood High has been a long-time participant in the program and has introduced peer-to-peer learning, where Year 11 students co-facilitate PTEVAW with their Year 10 counterparts as part of the school’s push towards whole-of-school change.
“The Port Adelaide Football Club is incredibly proud to engage its 10,000th student, in partnership with Centacare Catholic Family Services and the Government of South Australia,” Power Community Limited General Manager Jake Battifuoco said.
“Together we have influenced change through conversations and empowerment, and although we have reached this milestone, we know we have a long way to go and remain committed to the cause.”
A 2018 Flinders University evaluation of PTEVAW, which recommended involving women and girls in raising awareness of gender-based violence, spawned spin-off program, Empowered, in 2020. Delivered alongside PTEVAW, Empowered aims to enhance participants’ positive sense of self and foster critical thinking about gender equity and women’s rights.
In 2021-2022, the programs have so far engaged 3,059 students at 27 schools.
“The 10,000-student milestone is the realisation of an idea that initially brought two completely different organisations together with a common goal – preventing domestic violence by seeking to influence the value base and thinking of young people at the earliest stage,” Centacare Director Pauline Connelly said.
Thirty-one AFL listed players, and six Port Adelaide past players have been involved with PTEVAW since inception. Late club great Russell Ebert was recognised for his work around respectful relationships with the program in 2020 when he was named SA Local Hero in the SA Australian of the Year Awards.
“By virtue of its connection to the Port Adelaide Football Club, the program is able to speak to a wider audience beyond the classroom,’’ Ms Connelly said.
“For the students, having a kick at follow-up events with their idols like Tom Jonas cements the experience and its message which can act as a cut through to disrupt unhealthy biases.”
Primary prevention is a key focus of the National Plan Stakeholder Consultation Report released this month by the Australian Government as it finalises the new National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children 2022-2032.
Stakeholders want to see an increased focus on changing the social conditions that support gender-based violence and highlight the role of education and whole-of-community responses as an important early intervention.
New research by Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety (ANROWS) emphasises the importance of centring young people’s voices in efforts to end violence against women and children.
“A long-term commitment to preventative education is urgently needed as research suggests many young people are already learning abusive behaviours as a way of being in a relationship, before even beginning one of their own,” Ms Connelly said.