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Why it’s time to Respect Now

Zoya Patel

The YWCA Canberra launched a campaign, Respect NOW on International Women’s Day because we know that we can’t wait any longer to do something about preventing violence against women.

Already this year, more than 13 women have died as a result of domestic violence in Australia.

It’s a staggering and sobering figure, and one that reminds us how far we have to go to end this epidemic – one that is entirely preventable.

We know that there are many aspects to preventing and addressing the issue of violence against women – and research tells us that a critical element is primary prevention.

This means working with children and young people early to give them the skills and knowledge they need to behave with and identify respect in their relationships, and helping inform their values and beliefs to combat gender stereotypes.

Respect NOW is calling on the ACT Government to fund YWCA Canberra’s award-winning, evidence-based primary prevention program, Respect, Communicate, Choose. This investment should not come at the cost of investment into early intervention and crisis support.

Respect, Communicate, Choose works with young people aged 9-12 to teach them about respect, gender equality, diversity, and how to be an active bystander.

After successfully delivering the program to more than 900 students across Canberra and Adelaide, Federal Government funding for the program was not renewed, and the responsibility handed over to states and territories.

Despite a series of pre-budget submissions to the ACT Government, discussions at public hearings, costed proposals, and meetings with ACT Ministers, no funding has been allocated.

In fact, there are no primary violence prevention programs currently funded in the ACT – a troubling fact when we know we need to address a culture of gender inequality to end violence in the long term.

In the wake of the tragic death of Tara Costigan, and increased demand on our domestic violence crisis services, we ask ourselves, ‘what is the ACT Government doing to stem the tide of violence against women, and what are they doing to enact a cultural shift with the next generation?’

Since launching Respect NOW, we’ve been overwhelmed by the support we’ve received from the community and the media:

  • Our launch on International Women’s Day sparked stories about the need for primary prevention of violence against women in The Canberra Times, ABC News, and on 666 ABC Canberra.
  • We have already received over 700 signatures to our petition, and the number keeps growing.
  • The Senate inquiry into domestic violence released an interim report, recommending that respectful relationships education be implemented into all schools through the national curriculum – we welcome this recommendation. Read my op-ed in The Canberra Times for more.
  • In the last few weeks, the government has announced $300K in funding for domestic violence prevention – without a mention of primary prevention. While we welcome the funding, we know that primary prevention is critical to ending violence in the long term – check out The Canberra Times story here.
  • I wrote an op-ed for Women’s Agenda on this issue, highlighting the impact of Respect, Communicate, Choose.
  • Our team has run four workshops with primary school age children, discussing respect and making paper cranes together as a symbol of hope and peace. We were lucky to have our Respect Champions, the University of Canberra Capitals come along .

To make the most impact, we need to demonstrate that the community wants primary prevention and Respect, Communicate, Choose delivered in primary schools across the ACT.

Help us reach 5,000 signatures by sharing this petition with your friends and families. https://bit.ly/ywcarespectnow

Thank you to everyone who has signed for your support so far – together, we can really make a difference and work towards a world free from violence against women.


Zoya Patel

Zoya Patel is a Communications and Advocacy Officer with the YWCA Canberra. With a passion for writing, Zoya is also the Editor of Feminartsy, a publication that explores gender through the important lens of personal stories and creativity. Zoya was also recently named 2015 ACT Young Woman of the Year for her work that enables and celebrates the incredible diversity of feminist writers and artists in the ACT through publications, websites and public events. More about the Author