By Judy O’Sullivan
The Relationship Violence No Way Programme is an ongoing service funded and run by the South Australian Health Department through Southern Primary Health Marion Youth. I work as the coordinator for this programme which employs 20 young people on a casual basis to develop and deliver workshops in local high schools on Relationship Violence Prevention, Challenging Rape and Safe Partying and Friendship and Bullying Issues. The Peer Educators are young people aged 18-25 who have some experience of violence in their own lives and who wish to educate other young people about healthy relationship choices. The Peer Educators are a diverse group of young people representing Indigenous, Iranian, Iraqi, Egyptian, Malaysian, Lebanese-Australian, Croatian, Anglo, same sex attracted, Muslim, Sikh and Christian communities. Many have had serious challenges in their lives including mental ill-health, domestic and relationship violence, refugee experiences, bullying, sexual assault and being placed under guardianship of the minister.
Given that these young people have been courageous enough to take on a role to advocate for social change in areas that are so personal to them, especially within the rough and tumble of a high school classroom, my main challenge is to make this work safe and meaningful. The Peer Educators receive (soon to be accredited) training in group work, communication and the topic areas we cover, first aid and child safe environments to prepare them for their role.
One of the things I am most proud of is that when our group heads out into schools, students who may be going through huge challenges in their lives can see that someone like them has not only managed to live through it all, but has come out the other side articulate, passionate and purposeful. Our Peer Educators themselves say that working for the programme gives them space to say that all the awful things that happened to them were not entirely in vain and hope that they may prevent someone else from treading the same path.
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