CAM SUTCLIFFE counts himself lucky to have gone through 28 years of life without being directly impacted by domestic violence.
With one Australian woman per week on average murdered by her current or former partner and one in three women having experienced physical or sexual violence perpetrated by a man, domestic violence is shockingly prevalent.
Recognising this, the Port Adelaide Football Club in 2016 partnered with Centacare Catholic Services and the South Australian Department for Education to start the Power to End Violence Against Women (PTEVAW) program.
The initiative targets year 10 students in more than 20 schools across the state to inspire them to have respectful relationships, challenge gender-based stereotypes and become advocates for change
Sutcliffe witnessed first hand how the program is breaking down barriers and helping young men to make informed choices to prevent abusive behaviours when he conducted school visits in 2019, when he first came to the club.
The newly re-instated Port Adelaide SANFL captain has also been appointed as the Program Coordinator for PTEVAW, and is eager to get started.
“To be able to drive the development of young people, not only on the playing list but also in schools has become a passion for me and I am grateful that the club has given me the opportunity to do both,” Sutcliffe told portadelaidefc.com.au.
“We know that violence against women is a huge issue in society and I have seen first-hand how our program is making a difference.
“During a previous school visit, I remember how engaged these year 10 boys were with some pretty important content about recognising disrespect towards women and how to be an active bystander.
“I just hope to play my small part in making a positive difference.”
Sutcliffe has not had any personal experience of violence in the home but has come across others who have seen family and friends endure it.
“I guess I have been really lucky to grow up with some really good role models but some people may not have been so fortunate,” Sutcliffe said.
“Our program works with year 10s, which is such a perfect age group where we can get to these young men and inspire them to treat people with respect.
“People look up to footy players as role models but our program aims to create future leaders who are role models themselves for their peers and their communities.”
Centacare Deputy Director Pauline Connelly was pleased to welcome Sutcliffe to his new role and looked forward to working with him to continue to grow the program.
“Given how important continuity and capacity building over the long-term is for primary prevention, we have high hopes for this program going forward,” she said.
“Using sport as a hook to start conversations with men and boys around respectful relationships can be a powerful catalyst for change.
“Domestic violence is a choice. The more young people understand the values and attitudes that drive abusive behaviours, the better chance we have of stopping domestic violence before it starts.”
Sutcliffe’s return to Port Adelaide to be its SANFL leadership player was announced on Saturday.
He will combine his on-field role with time in the classroom, and is hoping for success on both fronts.
“I have loved my time at the Port Adelaide Football Club and when I first arrived, I was drawn to the programs it runs in the community,” he said.
“I can’t wait to get started, but at the same time, I am also looking forward to pulling on the prison bars again as our club returns to the SANFL competition next year.”