Minister Rishworth on ABC Sydney Morning with Sarah Macdonald


Topics: Healthy masculinity; Andrew Tate; new programs targeted to school-aged boys and young men

SARAH MACDONALD, HOST: I have heard anecdotally extraordinary stories coming out from parents about toxic masculinity, their sons being targeted. For instance, a friend told me his son came home – he was in about Year 8 – and he said ‘mum do you know that feminists want to kill men and they do’.  And they were like what, where are you hearing this stuff from? This child was being targeted by special YouTube videos coming up in his feed of really toxic things and there is a real concern about this rise of toxic masculinity and the cult of personality around Andrew Tate. He’s a former kickboxer. He’s American and he’s turned into a media figure. He was released from house arrest in Romania a couple of months ago – he’s been charged with rape and human trafficking. With all this in mind the Federal Government has announced funding for a workshop program targeting boys and young men, starting next year.

The Federal Minister for Social Services is Amanda Rishworth and she joins us now on ABC Radio Sydney Mornings. Good morning.

AMANDA RISHWORTH, MINISTER FOR SOCIAL SERVICES: Good morning, great to be with you.

SARAH MACDONALD: Do you hear stories like that?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: I do hear stories pretty regularly from parents who are really worried about particularly what their boys are seeing online, but I think the statistics actually demonstrate how big a problem this is. And it's actually been reported 25 per cent of teenage boys in Australia are looking up to social media personalities who do perpetuate harmful gender stereotypes, often promoting aggression towards women, but also aggression towards each other. A really competitive, aggressive approach to other men or other boys, but also towards women. So, this is a bit of a phenomena that is not great, especially when we know that a lot of boys and young men are consuming this sort of content online.

SARAH MACDONALD: So, what do you propose to do? Tell us about this trial program that's being developed.

AMANDA RISHWORTH: This program is going to be a bit of a combination program. It is going to look at promoting high profile, good role models and pushing those onto social media. Role models that will be promoting healthy relationships and demonstrating healthy relationships between young men, but also towards women. It will also involve workshops and other methods of communication to do a couple of things. Firstly, it's about what do good relationships look like in your life, but also to build confidence, because one of the real challenges in this area is self-esteem and confidence of young men. And so part of this program is about building confidence in young men as well.

SARAH MACDONALD: Yeah, I guess that's what they do. They kind of go, yeah, you're cool, you're amazing, and they build them up that way. But you don't need to build up by putting down the other sex, I suppose. What kind of role models are you thinking about? Because it's hard to engineer this kind of thing.

AMANDA RISHWORTH: It is hard to engineer and we're still in the development phase, but there are a lot of sports people, a lot of people that are very high profile in the community that are respectful, that can show empathy. And so it'll be about elevating that aspect of it, because it is about healthy relationships, but it is about respect, ultimately. It's about respect to your peers, it's about respect to the other gender. And so it does need to be authentic, you're absolutely right. But I think there are a lot of very high profile people out there that actually can put forward an alternative to the likes of Andrew Tate.

SARAH MACDONALD: And so will these sort of special programs that you're going to trial be in the PDHPE lessons that young people already have at schools where they learn about sexual health and relationships and things like that?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: We're actually looking at how we deliver these in a variety of settings – not just schools. We're looking at sporting clubs and other community organisations. We think sporting clubs in particular – I've had a lot of sporting clubs actually come to me and ask for support. They want to do something about these harmful stereotypes and gendered stereotypes. So, we'll be looking at a range of different places that young men already are so that we can deliver the information and programs there.

SARAH MACDONALD: Okay, that's an interesting idea. Amanda Rishworth is with us. Federal Minister for Social Services. And so you might have them at sporting clubs, you might have them at schools. How big will the trial be and which states are you thinking?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: At this point we're looking at partnering with an organisation. If we talk about being authentic, I'm not sure messages from the Federal Government are going to really cut through to young men. So we want to work with organisations that are already looking at doing this work or have some expertise in this. And at the moment, we are looking for those organisations to partner with. So, that will include interest from sporting organisations, but will it will be digital as well. It won't be just face-to-face, there will be a digital element, online element, which we would like to push across the whole community.

SARAH MACDONALD: Right, interesting. Yes, I know Man Cave does good work on this and we've had them on the show before. Thanks so much for your time this morning.

AMANDA RISHWORTH: Have a good one.