ACT News

New program tackles the ripple effect of domestic violence

A mob of teenagers is embroiled in a skirmish with the local police and the stakes have never been higher.

A cry goes up among the fuzz as they throw another losing hand in the game of rock, paper, scissors. Former Canberra Raiders captain Alan Tongue barks at them to hit the deck and give him another set of push-ups.

Former Raiders captain Alan Tongue and domestic violence victim Angela Barker.
Former Raiders captain Alan Tongue and domestic violence victim Angela Barker.  

The activity is designed to show the ripple effect of domestic violence on communities around Australia.

The year 10 Harrison School students were the first to go through a new family violence education program, trying to tackle the growing rates of abuse among young people in the ACT.

If current estimates hold true, one in three of these students will experience violence at the hands of a loved one at some point in their lives.

But Mr Tongue, who developed the program alongside Barnardos, is hoping education can counter this ripple effect by teaching young people how to have healthy and respectful relationships.

"If you set the right example here, it will keep safe the next generation and the next generation and the next generation. Together we can make change," he said.

Watching from her wheelchair with a half-smile on her lips was Angela Barker.

When Angela was 16, her ex-boyfriend wrapped his hands around her neck, slammed her skull against a steel park bench, and stomped her face into the ground, leaving her in a near-vegetative state.

It took five months for Ms Barker to be able to stick her tongue out again, and five years to regain the ability to speak.

She has since become a vocal anti-domestic violence campaigner and has shared her story with more than 27, 000 students.

A DVD of her documentary 'Loves Me, Loves Me Not' is now in every high school in Australia.

Ms Barker believes the program being implemented in schools around the territory is "brilliant".

"Violence and abuse in any form is not acceptable and cannot be condoned or tolerated, be it bullying in the school ground, harassment in the workplace or violence on the street or in the home," she said.

"It destroys many lives, devastates families and the cost to this country is enormous. The stats show that … it is not one race or one religion. It is not the wealthy or the poor. It can be anyone and it needs to change."

The "Stop. Think. Say no to Family Violence Program" will teach people in schools and sporting clubs across the ACT the impact domestic and family violence has on women, children and communities and what they can do to prevent it.