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Thursday, 21 June 2007
Page: 128

Mrs MAY (9:45 AM) —I recently had the privilege of launching the SHE young women’s group facilitators manual, which was funded by the Australian government’s Domestic and Family Violence and Sexual Assault Initiative, through the Office for Women. The manual—a much-needed and valuable resource that is an additional component of the highly successful Strength, Health and Empowerment young women’s groups—was produced by the wonderful team of Kellie Wilk, Di Macleod and Narelle Poole from the Gold Coast Centre Against Sexual Violence, with graphics design and layout by Celeste Edwards. Given that violence is estimated to occur in one in three relationships, this valuable resource is both timely and important. It will provide the means to develop skills and strategies for young women to utilise in both their present and future relationships.

The SHE concept was created by Di Macleod, the coordinator of the Gold Coast Centre Against Sexual Violence. A component of the concept is educational groups for young women aged between 12 and 18 years of age. The concept was originally trialled at Keebra Park State High School for a four-week period. In 2006, the federal government provided funding to further develop, facilitate and evaluate four six-week SHE groups and to write a manual for other professionals to utilise.

Even though violence against women is prevalent, it is often confusing and difficult for young women to identify and deal with. Research shows that, rather than seek help, young women are more likely to confide in their peers. However, many young people do not have the information or resources to assist their peers, particularly with regard to relationship violence.

The teenage years are where individuality, personality characteristics, values, beliefs and behaviours are emerging and being challenged. Di, Kellie and the team know that by working with young women in an educative group and utilising a social learning approach, issues can be explored to assist them in making informed choices about their relationships and to increase their knowledge of support and referral options.

The SHE groups are held within the community or at local high schools. The groups provide a supportive and fun environment for young women to discuss the elements of safe, healthy relationships. Through the groups, young women learn that violence is unacceptable in all forms—that violence is preventible, not inevitable. They learn that information and resources about healthy relationships is available and that appropriate support can be provided.

I commend the government for providing the funding for the manual and I commend the Gold Coast Centre Against Sexual Violence for continuing to provide high-quality counselling, support and information services to women who have been sexually violated. I also commend them for this very effective community education program they have developed to enhance the status of young women on the Gold Coast. I wish them every success with this latest resource in the future.