Assistant Minister Elliot interview on Settlement Guide SBS

CLAUDIANNA BLANCO:    Hi there, g’day, and welcome to this episode of the Settlement Guide, a series where we help you navigate life in Australia. Whether you arrived today, have been living here for years, whether you were born in Australia, or you’re planning to move here shortly, this series is for you. My name is Claudianna Blanco, and I came to live in Sydney more than a decade ago, and I’m still learning about life down under every day. Today, we will talk about how to stop the cycle of violence and be a positive role model.

JUSTINE ELLIOT:    The prevalence of violence is devastatingly high, particularly the rate of intimate partner homicide. We know that, on average, one woman is killed by a current or former partner every 10 days. And the only way to see a continued decrease is through a strong national focus on addressing gender inequality and other forms of discrimination and disadvantage. 

CLAUDIANNA BLANCO:    How often have we heard phrases such as, boys will be boys. Or, it’s okay, he just did it because he likes you. These sayings are often used to justify disrespectful or aggressive behaviour towards girls or women. Experts say although these seem harmless on the surface, we are in fact normalising aggression as something that is inherent in boys, or something that is provoked by girls.

Not all forms of disrespect lead to violence. But all violence against women starts with disrespectful behaviour. We can put an end to the cycle by stopping it at the start.

Stop it at the Start is a national campaign to break the cycle of all gender based violence. Assistant Minister for Social Services and Prevention of Family Violence Justine Elliot says we can all play a part by stopping it at the start.

JUSTINE ELLIOT:    Programs like this, Stop it at the Start, are invaluable to helping break the cycle of violence. And they focus on, particularly, about helping people in the community raise young people, especially the 10- to 17-year-old age group, so they better understand and embody respectful behaviour.

CLAUDIANNA BLANCO:    The campaign began in 2016 after shocking statistics about violence against women and children were revealed. 

JUSTINE ELLIOT:    The prevalence of violence is devastatingly high, particularly the rate of intimate partner homicide. We know that, on average, one woman is killed by a current or former partner every ten days, and the only way to see a continued decrease is through a strong national focus on addressing gender inequality and other forms of discrimination and disadvantage.

CLAUDIANNA BLANCO:    The campaign recognises that young people's behaviours are influenced and shaped by adults, carers and influencers around them. Hence, the campaign encourages adults to reflect on their own attitudes, and be positive role models.

Dr Rosina McAlpine is a parenting expert, and the author of Inspired Children. She says excuses such as boys will be boys can shape young people's views about what is okay and what justifies disrespectful behaviour in young people.

ROSINA MCALPINE:    Violence doesn't just start, it grows from being a young child and then moving through adolescence and into adulthood. It's time to stop the excuses like, you know, oh, boys will just be boys. It's okay. Toughen up, buttercup. All that stuff we say, we've got to stop those excuses.

CLAUDIANNA BLANCO:    Having grown up in a home where violence had been passed down from her grandfather to her father, Dr McAlpine has experienced a cycle of violence herself.

ROSINA MCALPINE:    Our father was from a generation where they believed that discipline, corporal punishment, was the way to raise good kids. At home, our punishment could include my father's belt. It could include even a thin branch off a tree to be used, sometimes just a heavy hand. Sometimes we would need to wear clothing to hide the bruises.

CLAUDIANNA BLANCO:    Dr McAlpine says her mother was of the same generation, and she also believed that fathers should do the disciplining. What makes breaking this cycle difficult is that, like Dr McAlpine’s father, many who inflict aggressive behaviour believe they are doing the right thing. Therefore, that cycle can continue because they do not know any other way.

ROSINA MCALPINE:    He really, truly, with all his heart, thought he did the best for us. I don't condone violence in any way, but I also know that he would say things like: when I was young and growing up, my father used to hit me for no reason. I never hit you for no reason. So in his mind, he'd moved closer to what would be ideal parenting.

CLAUDIANNA BLANCO:    Dr McAlpine has spent many years researching and sharing supportive parenting approaches; essentially, breaking her family's cycle of violence.

ROSINA MCALPINE:    I learnt little by little what it meant to be a good parent, what supportive parenting looks like. It's all about educating our children how to be in the world. It's not about disciplining and punishing or rewarding them for how to be in the world, but giving them those internal compass, the life skills that they need. So for me, breaking the cycle was learning how to be a good parent.

CLAUDIANNA BLANCO:    Breaking the cycle is not just about adults reflecting on their own their own attitudes. Assistant Minister Justine Elliott says part of the campaign is to encourage an active, open, and ongoing conversation about respectful relationships and gender equality.

JUSTINE ELLIOT:    People take great notice of what key adults in their lives say, like their parents and their teachers and their coaches and their community leaders. And so, there are many steps all of us as adults can take. Some are small and simple steps, such as discussing what could seem like a harmless joke, in fact, isn't – we should have a discussion about that – or talking to younger people about having the confidence to speak up when we witness disrespect. So it's important to start that dialogue.

CLAUDIANNA BLANCO:    Dr McAlpine says it's never too early or too late to talk to your children about respect.

ROSINA MCALPINE:    We need to be, as teachers, as parents, at every stage, not making excuses, stopping and educating, having those conversations around what is respectful behaviour.

CLAUDIANNA BLANCO:    There are many resources provided by the Stop it at the Start campaign that can help you recognise unintentional excuses. Start a conversation and navigate through your child's responses.

JUSTINE ELLIOT:    Have a look at web page that we have. There's a respect checklist and a conversation guide, and it's really important for adults to have a look at that and see how they can engage in a conversation with younger people about respect.

CLAUDIANNA BLANCO:    Translated resources in several languages are also available for the culturally and linguistically diverse communities in Australia, the Assistant Minister says.

JUSTINE ELLIOT:    Well, we know that often the rates are higher amongst certain groups, in multicultural groups. Also, we have an increase of rate with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and this campaign, Stop it at the Start, has very specific resources for different multicultural groups.

CLAUDIANNA BLANCO:    The leaders of the culturally and linguistically diverse communities also play an important role in addressing these issues in a culturally sensitive way, Maria Dimopoulos explains. She's the board chair of Safe and Equal, a peak body for domestic violence specialist services in Victoria.

MARIA DIMOPOULOS:    We need to address it in a way that recognises the role of culture, the role of settlement, and the important ways in which multiculturalism might impact on those experiences. So rather than seek our culture or our faith as a deficit, how do we use those frameworks to build strong, meaningful engagement in our communities, in our shared vision, to eliminate violence against women and children.

CLAUDIANNA BLANCO:    The Stop it at the Start campaign has entered Phase 4 for this year and the evaluation conducted so far has shown that the campaign is working, Assistant Minister Justine Elliot says:

JUSTINE ELLIOT:    82% of people who saw the campaign understood and accepted their role in showing young people how to act respectfully. It's really vital to reach young people before they form some entrenched views and normalise behaviour.

CLAUDIANNA BLANCO:    So let's educate our children about respectful behaviour. By recognising the cycle of violence, we can stop it at the start and become positive role models. And remember, if you or someone you know is impacted by sexual harassment or assault, you can call 1800-RESPECT. That is 1800-737732 or visit In an emergency, call Triple Zero.

Thanks for listening to this episode of the Settlement Guide. This podcast was hosted by me, Claudianna Blanco, written and produced by Yumi Oba. Our managing editor is Roza Germian. Until next time.