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White Ribbon Day – an important day across Australia

Today’s White Ribbon Day is an important day across Australia for all citizens and our schools. ABS statistics reveal that there is much work to be done to stop violence against women and children. Changes in attitudes need to start in THE HOME where ironically women are more likely to experience violence by a current or former partner.

In fact one Australian woman is murdered by a current or former partner almost every week.  Actions speak louder than words and the mental health and developmental impact of one quarter of Australian children witnessing violence against their mother is both extensive and alarming.

Our schools are an important frontier for change when societal myths about women are still so prevalent in our country. Sexist jokes are NOT ok , intoxicated girls and women are NOT ‘asking’ for sex ; in fact legally they are not able to give consent, and women in violent relationships whom others criticise for remaining there are at greater risk of harm or death after separating from their partners.

Our schools and Early Childhood centres have a role to play but greater resources are needed to achieve this. From kindergarten age, boys and girls need to explore gender based myths about strength and expertise, be encouraged to try a wide variety of endeavours and to engage in safe respectful caring relationships. A powerful moment in my own childrens ‘ growing up was a trip to the pool where our five year old daughter surprised her two big athletic brothers by swimming faster and stronger than they did.

Older children may benefit from critiques of media  stories and advertising which promote the billion dollar industry of sexualised clothing for female tweenagers. Adolescents  in developmentally revisiting their toddlerhood, need assistance re managing their sexuality and aggression, consequences of sexting, bullying and alcohol / drug fuelled violence. 18- 24 yr old girls need to be aware that they are more vulnerable  to physical and sexual violence than older females.  We, as parents,  teachers, coaches and the like, have an important job as role models of healthy intimate relationships and gender equity.

– Carolyn Aston