Page 467 - Week 02 - Wednesday, 16 February 2005

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As Ms Gallagher has just said, the school system is the key as an intervention point in providing students, both boys and girls, with the information necessary to understand and prevent violence. Schools can and do set standards for healthy, violence-free relationships through formal education and through leading by example. I will read some extracts here relating to the Education Act 2004:

The ACT is committed to the right of equality of all Territorians to access government education that provides the necessary knowledge, understanding, skills and values for a productive and rewarding life through inclusive, respectful and safe school environments.

One of the key commitments of the government schools plan 2002-2004, Within reach of us all, focuses on developing citizens of the future, with priority given to students developing the values and social capacity to exercise judgment and take responsibility. I am sure all of us can see the link between this and the values and attitudes that would lead people to have healthy relationships.

The ACT curriculum frameworks explicitly provide for schools to include significant ethical, social justice, environmental and ecologically sustainable development matters for students to study. This involves students clarifying and articulating their attitudes, values and beliefs about themselves, others, their place in society and the environment. Cross-curriculum perspectives emphasise the importance of students learning to appreciate human diversity and to accept differences in culture, aspirations, needs and abilities and to work harmoniously with a wide range of people.

We all know that a child’s school friends and teachers are amongst the most formative influences in our young people’s lives. These influences need to be increasingly used to promote values such as tolerance and respect. Once our children fully grasp the importance of these values to society, such as stamping out gender-based violence, which of course is inherently behavioural, this will be increasingly addressed and thus reduced.

Gender-based violence is a parasite on society. It costs civilisation in economic, social and real terms through the long-term damage caused to women and girls affected, to other members of their families and to the community. It costs us in terms of opportunity and long-term outlay, and the most cost-effective and proactive strategy for addressing gender-based violence is to develop and implement effective education prevention programs, an objective that the ACT government has been steadfastly working towards.

I would like to take this opportunity to join my colleague Ms MacDonald in commending the organisers of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women and Girls, and I am glad that at least two more male members have joined us across the floor. This day, which is commonly referred to as White Ribbon Day, is an event that allows governments and community groups the opportunity to highlight the prevalence of gender-based violence in modern society. This day also, as Ms MacDonald said, allows a meaningful discussion to take place regarding further preventative methods and support measures for victims of gender-based violence.

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