Young agents of change set to shape Australia’s future

R4Respect ambassadors.

Young people have the power to sway negative attitudes to violence against women among their peers a new study led by Griffith University has found.

The report – Young people as agents of change in preventing violence against women – evaluated a peer-to-peer respectful relationships education model, R4Respect.

The research was conducted by Griffith University researchers, Professor Clare Tilbury and Dr Karen Struthers from the School of Human Services and Social Work, with partners, Ruby Gaea sexual assault service, Darwin and YFS Ltd, Logan. It was funded by Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety (ANROWS).

The report was launched by the Minister for Youth and Prevention of Domestic and Family Violence Di Farmer who said it found when young people led the learning, it increased 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.

The R4Respect team developed and delivered a series of training workshops to young people aged 14-25 in Logan (Queensland) and Darwin. Researchers administered pre- and post-workshop surveys to participants and undertook a range of interviews with stakeholders.

Dr Struthers says the project shows how young people can be active agents of change.

“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.”

The report found 92% of youth participants strongly agreed or agreed that it is helpful to have young people leading the learning on respectful relationships with 86% agreeing that things they learnt in the program would help them act with greater respect in the future.

Professor Tilbury says the research provides new insights into how to work alongside young people to tackle domestic and family violence.

“It exemplifies the type of research that Griffith University is so good at and tackles an important social justice topic in an innovative way.

“It is undertaken in collaboration with community partners who work with these challenging and serious social problems every day, it builds the scientific foundations of human services practice, and has a direct, real-world impact for young people and their families”