Family violence report calls for education to start early

Family violence report calls for education to start early


In the week that Start Early. Respectful relationships for life launched online, the Royal Commission into Family Violence, Victoria was releasing its report.

Speaking about the 13-month inquiry and its 227 recommendations, Commissioner Marcia Neave AO, said that despite her extensive experience in the areas of law and family violence, she was surprised by ‘how absolutely pervasive family violence is’.

The issue she said, ‘has been flying under the radar for so long despite’ many groups ‘trying to get something done about it’.

Early Childhood Australia made one of the nearly 1000 submissions made to the Commission (you can read ECA’s submission here). Early childhood education and care services have a close involvement in the daily life of families, with the Commission noting:

‘early childhood services constitute one of the largest service systems working with families and young children. The evidence presented to the Commission was that more than 1.57 million Australian children attend some form of government-funded early childhood service each year, and in Victoria more than 1200 early childhood centres provide services to more than 270,000 children’ (p 118).

ECA welcomes the Commission’s wide ranging report and findings. In particular we understand the key role that respectful relationship education plays. ECA supports any measure to extend relationship education into early childhood and primary schools ‘to ensure that these important messages are being embedded from an early age and in all phases of development’ (Royal Commission into Family Violence, Summary and recommendations, p. 1582).

Start Early, ECA’s new free online modules are beginning this task. Three modules explore ways that early childhood educators can foster healthy, constructive relationships during children’s earliest years.

According to the Commission’s report such programs help to ‘challenge existing rigid gender stereotypes that create inequity and violence-supportive attitudes and behaviours’.

Early childhood educators have embraced the program, with more than 600 in the first week registering to complete the three modules.

One educational leader wrote to express her thanks ‘for this wonderful resource. I have just completed the training and will offer it to all my staff to do this year as part of their Professional Development training.’

Her staff, she said, comes ‘from a very culturally diverse background and work in a very challenging environment but the training is very easy to follow and you can do it at you own pace’.

The three modules cover how respectful relations form in the early years, the impact of gender and respect in shaping children’s sense of self and self-esteem as well as ways educators can encourage father’s positive influence on their children’s early education and care.

Start Early was created by a team of experts in early childhood education and care, family relationships and fathers’ impacts on young children’s outcomes. The program will be available free for six months with the support of the NSW government.

If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a whole community to overcome violence. It begins with increasing each individual’s capacity to participate in healthy, strong relationships free from abuse and violence.

The State government of Victoria immediately committed to implementing all recommendations.

CEO of White Ribbon Australia, Ms Libby Davies, said this week ‘It is essential that early childhood educators are provided with effective resources to support teaching healthy, safe and respectful relationships at the most critical time of a child’s development, while attitudes and behaviours are still being formed.’

‘The issue of domestic and family violence requires a comprehensive, whole of community response. We can and must all play a role in stopping violence against women so that all women can live in safety, free from violence and abuse. We commend Early Childhood Australia for their efforts in preventing domestic and family violence and look forward to working collaboratively in the future to address this critical issue,’ Ms Davies said.

We need to start early to have a future where children, young people and adults are free from abusive relationships and can participate in positive, healthy relationships over their lifetime.

The Start Early modules are a small contribution to changing family violence statistics from the inside out. Click here to register and begin the modules or go to the Start Early home page for more details.