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Newstead College Says No to Family Violence' Program

Mrs Armitage (Launceston) - Mr President, it is with great pride I speak today about 'Newstead College Says No to Family Violence' program. The college is the first in Tasmania to embark on this program which raises awareness of family violence in an effort to stop it happening in our community. The initiative was launched in May this year and is being driven by advanced skills teacher, Simone Rigby and a school social worker, Bernadette Bennett.

In formulating the program, Newstead College used, as a starting point, the Tasmanian Government's Safe Home - Safe Families program which says, in part -

Living free from violence is everyone's right. Taking action to prevent it is everyone's responsibility.

Newstead College's 720 year 11 and 12 students recently completed the 2016 program, comprising three large group sessions with subsequent support group activities.

The first defines what family violence is, who is at the greatest risk and what the law says. It explains the different types of abuse and looks at gender stereotypes to explain how they can perpetuate family violence. Further, it gives examples of family violence.

Principal, Deaine Coyle, says early in the program they found some girls at the school appeared to be involved in toxic relationships. Some boys were exhibiting misogynous attitudes, and had no awareness of the impact of violence, so there was work to be done. The students were taught what to do and what not to do in a situation of family violence.

The third and final session discussed what victims of violence can do to get help and how to support a friend or family member experiencing violence. It also talked about challenging some of the 'blokey' behaviour and the language men use at times. The lesson providing significant support to students, included videos and references, and an example is the online app, Daisy, which connects women experiencing violence to support services.

Students were given a list of names where they could get support from within the school if they were subjected to family violence. Many students said, 'my friend's in a situation', once the sessions commenced and Principal, Deaine Coyle, says, 'Some students and staff found the program very confronting'. Significantly, many of the boys have signed the White Ribbon pledge, where they promise to never remain silent about violence against women. Deaine says the school's male teachers, in particular, have strong relationships with the boys at school and the presence of supportive role models is important in helping the boys to uphold their pledge.

Bernadette and Simone also ran a separate session for students with additional learning needs. Simone says she was very impressed by the insightful questions and comments made by the students.

Another extremely important feature of the program has been the wonderful support of Tasmania Police. A police officer is at the school weekdays between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. The police based at the college are constables Deon Johns and Justine Hartam.

Newstead College Says No to Family Violence is also powerful for the message it sends to girls; that they have the same rights as the boys to become productive and valued members of society. Information provided by the school says -

We want to challenge the attitudes and behaviours that lead to family violence, such as gender inequality. We will raise awareness of support services out there for young people, both here at Newstead College and in the community. Our aim is to make Newstead College a safe place for everyone.

When I began my speech today, it gave me great pride to speak about this, and I am proud of Deaine Coyle and her incredible staff for their visionary leadership and for the energy they give every day to supporting their students to speak out and help stop family violence. It will help them navigate the complex path to adulthood, but above all, I am extremely proud of the students at Newstead College, and I say to them, our society is a better place for the wonderful work you are doing in saying 'no' to family violence.

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