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1994 award winners

Regional winners

What's your a-gender? A peer education package for preventing sexual violence

What's your a-gender? is a peer education program from the New South Wales University of Western Sydney's Hawkesbury campus, which addresses the hidden problem of sexual violence on and off campus. Staff and student leaders are trained in issues of sexual violence, and help to create a supportive environment for young adults, promoting change and, in particular, a reduction in sexual violence. The project resulted in a dramatic increase in sensitivity to sexual violence and in action taken about it in a community of young people.

The Residential Mentor at Hawkesbury reported that, prior to the commencement of the project, women students endured many unacceptable social behaviours from male students, such as having their breasts pinched as a form of greeting. More serious offences were kept hidden. Sexual assault was a "taboo" subject and, when the women first started discussing it, they were nervous that the boys would find out. After the project started, however, the topic was easily discussed and women started to come forward with complaints. From zero reports in the previous year, six complaints were laid in the first year of the project, and several women took out Apprehended Violence Orders against violent men. Three women and two men reported sexual violence to the police. The new climate also allowed more women to take action at the University against men who harassed them.

The project was designed in close consultation with the staff and students from the University. Both groups took the view that attitudinal and behavioural change occur most effectively among young people when the agents of change are the young people themselves. Initial consultations also revealed that the students prepared to be involved in a program to change attitudes towards sexual assault, such as members of women's groups, were marginalised from the main body of students and unlikely to have a significant impact on the dominant culture. The project was therefore built around the training of peer educators, and incentive schemes were introduced to stimulate interest in the project.

The project was advertised in the student newspaper and through leaflet drops across campus, calling for participants in the weekend training sessions. Funding for the training, which ran from Friday night until Sunday evening and was followed by an eight-hour session of further training, was provided by the Wentworth Area Health Service. For applicants to become peer educators attendance at all sessions was compulsory. Peer educators were trained to raise awareness on campus that sexual assault is a crime of violence, by challenging beliefs and attitudes that perpetuate sexual assault. The training also explains the benefits to the students involved-free training, written recognition of their involvement, and two payments of $100 over six months.

Key students were selected from the applicants, together with two staff members for each group. Each group met for an evening and this was followed by a training weekend. The students then met weekly to discuss community development activities and to de-brief from educational sessions with their peers with whom they had been involved on a personal level. After evaluation of their personal and group activities to challenge sexual violence, the students were paid the stipend.

The community development activities on campus were rich and varied. One meeting, for example, discussed the stall the educators held at the University Open Day, T-Shirts with anti-violence messages which they were having printed, the preparation of an article in the local student newspaper regarding sexual violence and the inclusion of information on the subject in the orientation week of the next academic year. On a broader level, the students also agitated for the development of a University policy on sexual violence and met with the Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Coordinator on campus to provide input for this.

The project was generally very well received and many of its activities seem to be having a lasting effect on the academic culture, both at student and at staff level. Following the project a disciplinary hearing into sexual harassment by a staff member ordered, inter alia, that the member pay a fine into the newly created "Peer Education Fund for Preventing Sexual Violence".

The project was monitored on a fortnightly basis for four months, through meetings with all peer educators and the Residential Mentor on campus. Originally students were only expected to be involved in the group activities until the end of the 1993 University year. More than twelve months after the initial training of peer educators, however, their activities were continuing in an unpaid capacity.

Geelong Local Industry Accord, Victoria

The Geelong Local Industry Accord in Victoria links people and groups, and promotes harm minimisation strategies through meetings, seminars and publications. It has a Best Practices Committee to provide evaluation. Serious assaults are now negligible in the area and assaults and damage near licensed premises has shown a dramatic decline.

The Geelong "Local Industry Accord" began in 1991 as an agreed Code of Practice involving the police, local licensed premises operators, the Liquor Licensing Commission representative, local government and other relevant agencies and individuals. Following a series of serious incidents, it was introduced in response to community and police concerns regarding the well-publicised problems of alcohol-related crime and violence in the streets and licensed premises, especially in the Central Business District (CBD). At the time, Geelong was considered one of the most violent cities in Victoria.

Practices which gave rise to most concern were:

  • free and heavily discounted drinks on entry to a venue or during the night;
  • extended "happy hours" of heavily discounted drinks that ran for two or three hours and led into late night entertainment;
  • "laybacks" slammers, two-for-one drinks and similar irresponsible promotions which encouraged fast drunkenness;
  • unsatisfactory standards of crowd controllers, and failure to check the bona fides of underage persons; and
  • "all inclusive" events with the availability of large quantities of alcohol.

The purpose of the Code was to adopt a range of positive, effective and community based harm minimisation strategies to reduce crime and violence involving intoxicated people in and around the CBD. The Code was later renamed the "Local Industry Accord"; which added further strategies that greatly improved safety in the CBD and surrounding area.

The initial objectives were designed to eliminate the side effects of excessive drinking, predominantly crime and violence in the streets and licensed premises. These were to:

  • minimise or stop the encouragement of practices that led to rapid and excessive abuse of alcohol;
  • stop illegal underage patronage of licensed premises;
  • minimise the movement of large and intoxicated crowds between licensed venues late at night and in the early morning, which contributed largely to street crime and violence; and
  • maintain a free and competitive market between venues while eliminating as far as possible promotions and practices that encouraged the irresponsible serving or consumption of alcohol.

Initially, the Accord faced considerable difficulties and conflicts of interests between the hotels and nightclubs in the area, and until 1993 it operated informally. In 1993, the Accord was printed and adopted by almost all licensees, who helped with subsequent implementation. By 1994 some 540 licensed premises and operators had adopted the Accord's philosophy and found it a very effective crime prevention strategy.

In 1990, the Victorian Government enacted the Private Agents Act and set up a Private Agents Registry within the structure of the Victoria Police. The legislation required screening, training and monitoring of all crowd controllers or bouncers. It also required all such persons to be licensed and to display identification to this effect. This legislation had a dramatic effect on the culture and suitability of crowd controllers and largely eliminated violence in this area of the industry.

The Accord promotes the training of staff of licensed premises through the Liquor Licensing Commission's "Responsible serving of alcohol" course which is run regularly throughout the State. Security staff conferences are also held with police and other interested parties to ensure that the legislation and local guidelines are understood and followed.

Another integral aim of the Accord is to discourage underage drinking. Police offer all licensed premises a mechanism of referral for dealing with young people who present false or altered identification to gain entry into licensed premises, and also operate a successful "Blue Light Disco" in one of the major nightclubs. Police Sergeants are allocated a cluster of about eight hotels and nightclubs to support, and are required to visit each of them at least once a month. The local council has also assisted by enacting local by-laws that prohibit persons from having open containers of alcohol in public places.

Figures on assaults and damages in the Geelong CBD have shown a marked decline in a relatively short time (see Figure 1).

By eliminating drinking in the streets and malls of the city, the Accord has moved people back to licensed premises where they can be properly monitored by professional staff, which has had an immediate effect on public order disruption in the streets.

Figure 1: Geelong CBD Assaults/damages 1993-94
Geelong CBD Assaults/damages 1993-94
Geelong CBD Assaults/damages 1993-94

The Positive Parenting of Pre-schoolers Program

The Positive Parenting of Pre-Schoolers (Triple P) Program was developed in the University of Queensland's Department of Psychiatry at the Royal Brisbane Hospital to help families of young children. It has the dual aim of reducing aggression in children and of teaching parents alternatives to harsh, inconsistent and coercive discipline styles. It offers parents who have concerns about their children practical suggestions on what to do, and reduces risk by prevention and by promoting new skills in the child and the parent.

The project is particularly oriented towards children who are aggressive, demanding, defiant, throw tantrums or are generally disruptive, and gives special emphasis to rural and isolated families. Children at risk of developing disruptive behaviour disorders (Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Conduct Disorder) are targeted with interventions varying in strength. Current Australian figures indicate that 5.9 per cent of 3-year-olds (approximately 225 000 children) have Oppositional Defiant Disorder; and 3.4 per cent (approximately 130 000 children) have Conduct Disorder.

The program is being trialled in a variety of formats. It anticipates that 400 families will receive the program either as an intensive therapist-directed program, as a self-help program with therapist assistance by telephone, or as a self-help program without therapist contact. The program teaches parents how to manage child behaviour more effectively. Parents also learn how to provide support and backup for one another, coping strategies for dealing with moods and stress, and problem-solving skills to assist them with conflict resolution.

The program is the largest controlled evaluation of early intervention for conduct problems in Australia. Similar programs are run in the United States, but intervention is not until school entry. The Triple P program intervenes at pre-school age, where many of the early signs of conduct problems are apparent, and thus may have greater potential for preventing the development of aggressive, disruptive, and oppositional behaviour. The program is adaptable, flexible and easily disseminated. It also involves the development of easy-to-read materials that can be used in the wider community, and as an aid to mental health professionals.

All materials and therapy time are provided free of charge for participants in the project, in return for their assistance with the evaluation of the program. It has been delivered to more than 200 families to date.

Media Violence and Advocacy Project

The object of the Media Violence and Advocacy Project in South Australia is to raise and maintain government, community and parental awareness of the impact of media violence on children. The strategies employed include research, submissions to regulatory agencies, publishing and promotion of public debate.

The Australian Council for Children's Films and Television (ACCFT) has a long-standing record of advocating standards for children's media, and standards for media to which children are exposed, through the collection and dissemination of research and information, community consultation, representations to govern-ment and agencies, and work through the media.

The program derived from the awareness of evidence from child development theory and from a solid and ongoing base of social research studies that violent media entertainment, and in particular violent television, video and film, is a significant contributor to violence in society. The long-term effects on children include the learning of a script for later life that violence works and violence wins.

Unlike many other causes of violence, screen violence can be modified, as can children's access to it. This project raised community awareness of the issue, and resulted in a more careful approach to the classification of screen media in relation to violence.

The project has been a focus of the ongoing, mainly voluntary, work of the ACCFT, with costs of the order of $10 000 per year in part-time salary and overheads, and hours of unpaid work.

The strategies employed include the collection, critical analysis and dissemination of research studies and government reports in the field; the preparation and presentation of submissions to regulatory agencies; the conduct of surveys to obtain Australian evidence; publishing of reports and pamphlets; and the promotion of public debate via media interview.

Results of the project to date include:

  • published reports and pamphlets (Kids and The Scary World of Video in 1986: Teachers' Perceptions of Television's Impact in 1981; and Violence and Children: Winston Churchill Fellowship Report in 1990);
  • frequent media interviews;
  • establishment of a system for classification of violent video games;
  • modification of the Federation of Commercial Television Stations' classification criteria for violence; and
  • increased community awareness of the impact of violent media.

Wunngagatu Patrol

The Wunngagatu (meaning Looking after-keeping alive) Patrol operates mainly for the Aboriginal community in the Kalgoorlie-Boulder area of Western Australia. Though it focusses particularly on juveniles, it also assists others. It is a self-supporting volunteer organisation. Originally it tackled the cycle of drinking and fighting among Aboriginal people, and later expanded into domestic violence and other street disturbances.

The Patrol commenced operation in December 1993. For months the local newspaper, the Kalgoorlie Miner, had featured letters from citizens, critical of the police for failing to address the drunkenness, fighting, violence and disruption. Juvenile substance abuse was rampant, with children as young as 8-years-old abusing and assaulting store staff to obtain substances to inhale. Serious assaults had become a form of sport during the hours of darkness. Because many groups and families in the area did not interact, due to past differences, the task facing the patrol was not easy.

The project started with only six weeks preparation and with the assistance of the police. Vehicles were borrowed from Aboriginal organisations each evening, a base was set up in a central Aboriginal hostel, and volunteers were recruited.

One of the first people to seek assistance was the security officer from the Kalgoorlie Regional Hospital, who wanted to stop the fighting that regularly occurred in and near the hospital. Whenever an assault victim was taken to hospital, friends and rivals would congregate to check on the patient's welfare and settle the score. An alarm system was installed directly to the police station for a faster response from police.

The project organisers hoped that by taking people home or to their settlements before they became excited by liquor, the instances of assault would decrease. A few weeks into the operation a pattern began to emerge. They found that the groups were happy to purchase their liquor and to wait quietly until the Patrol vehicles started work. They would then be conveyed to their destination, where they were more comfortable with the people.

Callouts for St John's Ambulance, hospital emergency cases and complaints to the police were reduced dramatically. Complaints to the Kalgoorlie Miner fell to a trickle. For the cost of about $150 per week, the Patrol has saved the community and emergency services thousands of dollars.

The patrol organisers were able to secure funding from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) and the Aboriginal Affairs Planning Authority, with which they bought two vehicles, uniforms, radios, and kitchen equipment, and plan for their own office. Business proprietors helped by selling equipment to them at cost price, and ongoing costs are still met by donations. The patrols were structured to prevent interference from rival family or community groups, and the committee is dedicated to creating full time employment for people to look after their community for as many hours as possible. Plans for a patrol office have been drawn up and negotiations are well advanced for a twenty-one year lease on land for the operation.

The patrol has transported 3840 adults and 400 juveniles, and 100 to 300 people attract its services in any one night. Police figures show that since the Patrol commenced operation the number of disturbances and reported complaints fell from 9597 to 8541 (a drop of 11 per cent) in less than twelve months, the number of arrests in the same period fell from 2202 to 1582 (down 28 per cent), while the number of detainees lodged in the lockup fell from 515 to 187 (down 64 per cent). Those that are arrested no longer carry injuries inflicted in fighting. Though figures are not available for violence-related injuries, anecdotal evidence suggests that these have also declined. There has been a marked reduction in people presenting themselves for treatment at the hospital emergency department, and security instances at the hospital have also declined.

Joint Council, Rotary and PCYC Youth Project

The Joint Council, Rotary and PCYC Youth Project provides ongoing support at street level for young people in Hobart, Tasmania, and networks with other youth services to provide for young people's needs. It has developed programs to prevent street violence, crime and drug abuse, and has improved linkages between young people and police. The result has been that the arrest rate has been reduced, business is more aware of youth needs, and damage to property has declined.

The project was made possible by a $10 000 grant from Sullivans Cove Rotary, which enabled the employment of a part-time youth worker for twenty hours per week for six months. The Hobart City Council provided accommodation, management and administrative support. Costs otherwise, however, were minimal and one of the main strengths of the project was its ability to draw in the assistance of other professionals.

The youth worker operated at street level, rather than waiting in the office for young people to approach the project for help. Moreover, instead of singling out individuals, the project adopted a holistic approach to working with the group, which alienated no-one from their friends and allowed the group to look after each others' interests. It reconnected the young people with appropriate welfare, health and housing services, and liaised where possible with local business owners and community organisations.

The involvement of the Hobart Police and Citizens Youth Club (PCYC) began about September 1994, and over the next months a considerable number of the young people attended the Hobart PCYC for activities such as basketball and weight training.

Networking with the police and police youth clubs broke down some barriers, and attitudes of police changed as did attitudes of young people to police. Around twenty street youth participated initially, many becoming "main players" and influencing others to change.

The project has achieved marked changes in a very short time among a group of high profile young people who are among the most marginalised and disadvantaged in the central Hobart area. Business reports reduced damage to property and reduced harassment and assault of local people and police. Violence, crime and drug abuse decreased significantly and police figures indicate a much reduced arrest rate. Some of the young people are developing proposals to set up a business and have been motivated to participate in other constructive activity such as the organisation of training courses, and have exerted positive peer pressure on others to break away from old bad habits. They are improving their appearance, and are developing more interest in being involved with community activities, jobs, sport and other group recreational activities. Incidents involving, or concerning, young women who associated with the street groups has also decreased markedly, and participation by the females in club activities increased.

A distinctive feature of the project was the rapidity with which it achieved significant results. It was able to develop effective working relationships with business, community groups and police, with the result that the community became more sensitive to the needs of disadvantaged young people and was able to develop cooperative strategies to address the problem.

Anti-bullying Project, Richardson Primary School

Richardson Primary School has 360 students and thirty staff. It was opened in 1984 in a new outer suburb with a big proportion of government housing. Approximately 60 per cent of the school population came from low income families and many children experienced violence in the home. The school has a "special education" component of forty-two students.

The Richardson Anti-Bullying Project drew on some of the most recent work on bullying. In particular, it drew up a policy about bullying, put some effort into raising awareness of the problem, focussed on young children and attempted to use peer pressure on bullies to discourage them.

Estimates suggest that about 10 per cent of children in primary school are commonly bullied, which decreases as children go through the higher school system though there are some gender differences. Some are often bullied or bullied by more than one person, others are occasionally bullied or bullied by only one or two people. Incidents rarely occur where an adult can witness it, as a result of which information about the problem may be difficult to obtain. Victims are not usually given much sympathy and appear to have difficulty, perhaps because of the lack of self-respect associated with the negative image of the bullying victim, discussing it with teachers or parents. Richardson reported that 23 per cent of children are likely to be physically or verbally harassed by individuals or groups.

Rigby, following the Scandinavian model, has pointed to the importance of raising awareness about the subject and helping victims to be more assertive. He has also promoted the use of peer pressure to discourage bullies. His program, which had been used successfully in South Australia, formed the basis of the Richardson program.

Richardson introduced the project in late 1993, following the introduction of a comprehensive student behaviour management policy and program several years earlier, based on the work of Dr William Glasser in the United States. The Student Management Policy used the basic premise that all individuals choose behaviours that will satisfy at least one of five basic needs-survival, love and belonging, power, fun and freedom. The school made a concerted effort to involve the children at all points and to keep public and parent awareness high.

Richardson also incorporated several earlier, and very successful, initiatives into its anti-bullying program. These included its Student Management Policy, a Developmental Playground for disadvantaged children, a program which trained senior students in leadership, communication and mediating skills to be playground mediators and mentors ("Playground Buddies"), and a peer support program, a two-day training program to prepare older children to work with groups of younger children on self-esteem and other social skills activities. Training was also available for staff and parents.

In Richardson Primary School's project, bullying behaviours were identified by students working in peer support groups, and the behaviours publicised in the school. The school also kept parents informed through its newsletter, which provided advice to parents on what they could do if their child reported an incident of bullying. Incidents are recorded in a "bullying book" and followed up, and bullies are expected to make restitution to their victims. A graph of numbers of bullying incidents is shown at weekly assemblies.

The program took effect very quickly. In late 1993 the newsletter reported a decline of 33 per cent in bullying incidents during the second week of the program. At the end of 1994 the school reported that bullying incidents had dropped dramatically, by 1500 per cent overall, and that children were generally happier at school.

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