Young People Serve as Agents of Change Against Gender Violence

Photo Credit: ANROWS / anrows.org.au

A study on the role of young people as active agents of change in preventing gender-based violence has been launched at Balmoral State High School last 23 May 2019.

Minister for Youth and the Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence Di Farmer announced the release of the report entitled “Young people as agents of change in preventing violence against women, which evaluated a peer-to-peer respectful relationships education model called R4Respect.

The research was conducted by Griffith University researchers led by  Dr Karen Struthers, Professor Clare Tilbury, and partners Ruby Gaea sexual assault service, Darwin, and YFS Ltd, Logan.


The research measured:

  • The views and actions of the young participants (YPs) on what constitutes harm and respect in relationships; and
  • The views of the young participants and educators (stakeholders) on the utility of the peer-to-peer respectful relationships education model.

The cross-jurisdictional collaborative research was aimed at informing ways young people can effectively engage in positive change that promotes gender equality and reduces the prevalence of violence against women, following participation in the program.

Participated in by young individuals and adult stakeholders aged 17-25 years from  Darwin, NT and Logan, Queensland, the research measured:


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  • The views and actions of the young participants (YPs) on what constitutes harm and respect in relationships; and
  • The views of the young participants and educators (stakeholders) on the utility of the peer-to-peer respectful relationships education model.

Minister Di Farmer said that the report revealed that by letting young people lead the learning, it helped them increase their understanding of respectful relationships and their positive attitudes towards women.

“We are committed to investing in evidence-based programs address the causes of gender-based violence,” she said.

“Changing negative behaviours and attitudes is something which requires a much broader societal change toward gender equality and respect for women.

“What this report tells us, more than anything, is that when young people are given the tools and support to champion respectful relationships, they can create positive change.”

The study was funded by Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety (ANROWS). ANROWS Chief Executive Officer, Dr Heather Nancarrow said that the study showed that the education program improved the students’ knowledge and understanding of harmful behaviours and attitudes.

“What’s great to see is that many of the young people who participated showed a greater awareness of what behaviours are harmful with many saying they will act with greater respect in the future,” Dr Nancarrow said.

“We want to help young people to take action and be the generation to end violence against women. Violence can be prevented and it is up to all of us to play our part,” she said.

“YFS runs intervention programs for perpetrators of domestic and family violence, but we think the key to reducing violence is to prevent it by changing attitudes of people when they are young, not once they have established entrenched patterns,” YFS Chief Executive Officer, Cath Bartolo said.

“We know young people can be agents of change. That’s why we set up the R4Respect program in a way that allows young people to lead and educate other young people.

“More can and should be done to ensure as many relationships throughout our country are based on equality and respect,” she said.

“One of the most inspiring features of this research is that young people showed that they can be effective agents of change in preventing gender-based violence, not simply the targets of change. Young people as peer educators can challenge the attitudes of their peers in a way that is engaging and impactful,” Dr Karen Struthers said.

If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault or family violence, call 1800 RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit www.1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency call 000.