Youth Action welcomes the opportunity to make this submission to the Joint Select Committee on Coercive Control for their inquiry into coercive control in domestic relationships. Youth Action refers the Committee to the submissions of Women’s Safety NSW and Domestic Violence NSW, whom we support, regarding the introduction of a Coercive Control offence here in NSW. In making recommendations for change on behalf of young people, Youth Action’s submission focuses upon young people’s experience of Coercive Control and the non-legislative responses which should occur prior to, oralongside, the creation of a Coercive Control offence.
Strategies to prevent domestic violence must be informed by the experience of young people including the particular attitudes young people hold, and an understanding of the formation of those attitudes, in order to be successful.
Domestic and family violence (DFV) has considerable impact on young people across NSW. Young people experience domestic and family violence in their own intimate and domestic relationships, as well as through ‘witnessing’ or exposure to situations of domestic and family violence.
For the purpose of the submission, Youth Action defines domestic and family violence as outlined in It Stops Here: Standing together to end domestic and family violence in NSW. Youth Action adds emphasis to the relationships in a young persons life, including teen dating (intimate partner) relationships.
As such, Youth Action welcomes the opportunity to submit to the Blueprint for the domestic and family violence response in Australia.
We also take this opportunity to congratulate the NSW Government on its commitment to reducing and responding to domestic violence in NSW. In particular, we commend the recognition of the important role of young people and the corresponding changes to the NSW syllabus.
Youth Action asserts that addressing attitudes and gender stereotypes in schools has the potential to create lasting generational change, and is an important step in preventing domestic violence. Strategies to prevent domestic violence must be informed by the experience of young people including the particular attitudes young people hold, and an understanding of the formation of those attitudes, in order to be successful.
While the inclusion of domestic and family violence in the NSW syllabus is important, as is the development of a ‘toolkit’ to support teacher delivery, Youth Action believes that the policy can be strengthened, and associated risks mitigated, through consideration and application of the evidence-base for population preventative measures. Youth Action’s contribution to the discussion paper canvasses prevention measures for young people in a school environment to support current policy direction.
It is critical to address underlying causes in prevention approaches. Youth Action submits that young peoples experiences of domestic violence are different to adult experiences. Therefore understanding the issues specific to young people, as well as identifying the causes and contributing factors is fundamental to understand ‘what kinds of messages and/or communication channels will be most effective in encouraging positive attitudes and behaviours in relation to DFV?’
In the context of the consultation paper, Youth Action therefore submits the following information under Part 1, Question 1, of the consultation paper:
- the prevalence of violence for young people;
- the key drivers and causes of domestic violence for young people; and
- the effectiveness of, and evidence-base for a prevention approach in schools in NSW.
Youth Action recognises that primary prevention efforts are most effective when there is a coordinated range of mutually reinforcing strategies.
 Defined as aged 12-25
 Women NSW, ‘It Stops Here: Standing together to end domestic and family violence in NSW: The NSW Government’s Domestic and Family Violence Framework for Reform’ , February 2014, accessed via <https://www.women.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/file/0003/289461/It_stops_Here_final_Feb2014.pdf>
 Women NSW, ‘It Stops Here: the Domestic and Family Violence Framework for Reform, Public Discussion Paper’, p.7
May 2015: In 2014, Youth Action and the White Ribbon Foundation surveyed over 3,000 young people across Australia on their attitudes to Domestic, Family and Teen Dating Violence. This included questions on attitudes to gender equity and how common young people felt domestic violence was in Australia society.
This research forms the largest and most comprehensive survey of Australian young people’s attitudes in 15 years.
Two reports based on this research have been developed by Dr Jesse Cale and Associate Professor Jan Breckenridge from the Gendered Violence Research Network at UNSW.
The first of these reports details our findings broken down by Gender and Age. The second focuses on differences in response by whether young people are at School, University or not in education.
Below are the commitments we have achieved from the Baird Government on the 9 vital youth issues in our 2015 election agenda.
Prevention & Early Intervention Services:
Commit to increase the Child, Youth and Family Support program budget by $52 million.
74 Youth Action members lobbied their local candidates, and we received support from many politicians who have since been elected to the NSW Parliament.
The Government did not commit to increasing funding for the Child, Youth and Family Support program budget.
We will continue to campaign to highlight the amazing work that youth services and youth workers do, and push for a commitment from government for an increase in funding.
Commit to improving housing affordability for young people.
The Government has pledged to set up a $1 billion fund for social and affordable housing and $20 million for a Social Housing Community Improvement Fund. Further details on these plans are still needed, but this is a promising sign.
Because the government has not released details on this plan, Youth Action NSW will continue to campaign to hold them accountable, ensuring that the government makes a tangible impact on housing affordability.
Domestic & Family Violence:
Respond to the findings of the Youth Action & White Ribbon Foundation’s research on youth attitudes to violence.
WIN: The Government announced a significant plan to eliminate domestic and family violence and created a new Ministerial Portfolio devoted to this issue.
In June 2015, the Government announced the inclusion of Domestic & Family Violence into the mandatory NSW 7–10 Personal Development, Health and Physical Education (PDHPE) syllabus. Youth Action continues to advocate for the interests of young people in the process.
Fund training for rural youth workers to enable them to identify and work with young people on Mental Health issues, and to assist them to better understanding referral pathways.
WIN: As a direct result of our campaign, the Government pledged $250,000 for youth mental health first aid training in NSW. The training will develop the skills of youth workers, particularly those in rural and regional areas, to recognise the signs and symptoms of mental health problems in young people and respond effectively.
This training will be rolled out over the next 4 months in all areas of the state, so stay tuned to announcements on how you can access this free training!
Apprenticeships and Traineeships:
Funding for the expansion of the Sydney Alliance Working Start program – which links disadvantaged young people into local apprenticeships.
The Sydney Alliance Working Start program was not funded by the NSW Government. However, the Government has recognised the crisis in youth unemployment, and has committed to give scholarships to 200,000 disadvantaged youth to undertake industry apprenticeships and traineeships. The Government has also committed to providing $25 million for 25,000 scholarships for students to take on traineeships and apprenticeships in technology-based industries.
We will continue to work with government to ensure that support is provided to apprentices and trainees, not just before they get a job, but during the first 6 months of them starting work.
Fund a pilot of Justice Reinvestment in Bourke.
The Government has committed to funding a plan to develop a pilot Justice Reinvestment program in Bourke run by Just Reinvest NSW.
However, details as to the nature of this funding have not yet been forthcoming and so it is important to hold the Government to their election promise.
Commit to an independent review of School Suspension and Discipline Policy and Practice within the first 100 days of forming government.
No mention was made of the school suspension by the Government during the election campaign, but Youth Action is committed to pressing for an independent review of School Suspension and Discipline Policy and Practice.
Increase youth workers in schools through the Student Support Officer programs and through better linkages between schools and youth services.
WIN: Within its $150 million ‘Supported students, successful students’ funding package, the Coalition has devoted $51.5 million of flexible funding to respond to issues such as cyber safety or bullying. This funding is equivalent to an additional 200 Student Support Officers.
Alcohol and Other Drugs:
Develop comprehensive alcohol education programs for young people aged 15-17.
The Government has not addressed Youth Action’s recommendation that the Government develop a comprehensive alcohol education program for young people. Youth Action will continue to press the Government on this subject.
You can download the comprehensive election agenda below.