“I was particularly impressed by the organisation’s ambition plan for its RESPECT Project, which undertakes important work encouraging positive attitudes in young boys in order to combat generational domestic violence.”
Sharpe Advisory Director
What is Respect?
The RESPECT is a music program for boys under 12 years old, teaching them about domestic violence and gender equality, with a view to prevent and reduce domestic violence in the future. Over 12 weeks, the boys write, record and perform an original song, and also become active agents of social change and role models in their schools.
How does it work?
This 12 week early intervention harm reduction project takes place in primary school with facilitators who are also professional musicians, working alongside Family Violence counsellors. The learning style emphasises open discussion, allowing participants to solidify their learning about acceptable behaviour in relationships.
Participants write and rehearse an original song, and perform it at their school assembly, and at a showcase at Bankstown Central Shopping Centre, which is packed with audiences. The song is also filmed and made into a professional film clip, which is released online, garnering thousands of views. Each year RESPECT directly works with around 150 boys aged under 12 in schools and in our showcase performance.
The program’s success
The program transforms young men into active agents of social change and role models in their schools. This project has been assessed by Murdoch University as a model project that leads to long term change in the boys that are a part of it. It has been proven to increase awareness and understanding of Domestic Violence and healthy relationships in 98% of participants. Teachers tell us about the culture of the school shifting over the years that we return.
RESPECT has been assessed by Murdoch University as a model project that leads to long term change in the boys that are a part of it.
Craig Taunton (he/him)
Program Manager – RESPECT
Craig has been working in the community arts sector for the past 25 years, working primarily in South West and Western Sydney. With a background in music, performing arts and youth work, Craig has a large focus on young refugees and migrants. Craig has been working with Outloud since 2013, and has been involved in a wide range of workshops, projects and live performances.
Nicole Issa (she/her)
Nicole is a singer, songwriter, and performing artist born and raised in South-West Sydney on Darug Land. Nicole has a degree in Music and Psychological Science from Macquarie University, and is passionate about using music and creativity to develop and facilitate workshops that brings light to important issues and life skills. Nicole is also a vocal coach and a recording artist, and has performed at Metro Theatre and Splendour in the Grass (2019). Coming from a Lebanese migrant family, she wants to encourage others from CALD backgrounds to follow their dreams and pursue the arts as a career choice.
David Miller (he/him)
David has been working with Outloud since 2016 and brings a wealth of experience in music, songwriting and facilitation. David is Filipino and currently studying a Bachelor of Arts degree majoring in Innovation and Change at Western Sydney University. His passion for music dates back to his first performance in front of a live audience in the Philippines when he was five years old and has since been involved in programs, workshops and theatre projects to hone his skills and talents.
Van Nguyen (he/him)
Van has worked with Outloud from 2019. He brings about his skills and knowledge from his past studies which include a Diploma in Screen and Media, a Diploma in Sound Productions and a Bachelor’s Degree in Arts in Psychology. Van is also skilled in video and music production and also brings his music and performance skills as a musician to the program.
10 Years of RESPECT: History and Highlights
The Origins of RESPECT
In 2013, the RESPECT program ran in its first iteration, primarily focused on the arts development of young men. RESPECT program manager, Craig Taunton, and former director, Tim Carroll, envisioned that a group of young men would prepare a song to be performed in Bankstown for White Ribbon Day. The first RESPECT group from Bankstown Public School produced the original song “Women Are Great” under Craig’s guidance. It was a resounding success.
They produced a really cool song, and they performed it in Bankstown on White Ribbon Day. We had a number of other performances, but it was definitely the standout. A lot of people were standing there that day saying, “Wow. This is something special. We’ve uncovered something here”.Craig Taunton, Program Manager – RESPECT
In 2014, the program ran for the second time, now with the involvement of professional domestic violence counsellor, Bruce Chan. Through this partnership, RESPECT developed its educational focus on domestic violence and healthy relationships.
From 2015 onwards, with the support of the Smith Family, the RESPECT program has continued to expand across primary schools in Canterbury-Bankstown.
Listen to 2021 participant, Isaac, and his mother, Linda, share their experience of RESPECT on ABC Radio National.
Performance and community
Since the inception of RESPECT in 2013, performance has been central to the program. Over the years, participants have performed their original songs at Outloud’s annual White Ribbon Showcase, as well as other community events including domestic violence conferences.
The White Ribbon Showcase, which began in 2008, now takes place at Bankstown Central Shopping Centre and is a highlight of the program for participants, their families, and the broader community alike.
I was just on stage packing up something and I heard a lady’s voice say, “Excuse me, excuse me.” I turned around and came over and she said, “I was watching your show and I just wanted to commend you for what you’re doing. I just came in to do the shopping tonight and I ended up watching the whole show. I was amazed.” And she said, “I was a victim of domestic violence myself and I remember I couldn’t talk to anyone about it. You, bringing it to the shopping centre, and having all these people talking about it is amazing. We need more of this.” And that said it all for me.Craig Taunton, Program Manager – RESPECT
In 2018, RESPECT participants from Punchbowl Public School performed their song “We are the Future” at the Women’s Domestic Violence Court Advocacy Service Conference in the Sydney CBD. This performance features strongly in one former participant’s memory, reflecting on his experience as a Year 10 student:
When I hear about RESPECT, I remember the bonds and the brotherhood that we made through the program. I also remember when we performed in the city and seeing the impact we had on the crowd. There were women crying in the crowd and people cheering. It was just one of the best moments.
After we performed in the city and our message touched the hearts of the audience, they came up and wanted to shake our hands and just tell us we did a good job and that the message was spread properly.
It made me see myself as someone who stands up to domestic violence acts. When I did the performance and those ladies came up to us after, I was really proud. It was a good moment for me and my boys to share to the rest of our primary mates.Tevita, RESPECT participant
Shifting attitudes and opening conversations
Researchers from Macquarie University (2015) and Western Sydney University (2019) have assessed the impact of the RESPECT program as highly successful in its focus on open discussion, narrative, music creation and performance. RESPECT fosters self-confidence, pride in advocating for healthy relationships, and respect for peers and teachers among participating students.
The program also helped me develop a mentality to never stay silent. Don’t be a bystander. If you see something’s not right, stand up and speak out against it.Tevita, RESPECT participant
It has changed my way of thinking. It has changed the way I treat people.Vasilije, RESPECT participant
Beyond shifts in individual participants’ attitudes, researchers have documented the positive impact of the program on school culture more broadly, including improved gender equity in playground interactions. All respondents interviewed as part of the 2019 study expressed that what they had learned about domestic violence in the program was important to them. In many cases, the learning that takes place within RESPECT groups has a lifespan well beyond the program.
I shared what I learned about equal relationships and equal rights with my cousins and changed their perspective on how they see women and people in general. And I have a little brother who looks up to me. He watches the video every now and then. It’s good to see that he gets the message from the video. And if he ever needs to learn anything about domestic violence and equal relationships, he just comes up to me and asks.Tevita, RESPECT participant
In 2021, a RESPECT group from Banksia Road Public School produced the original song “Fatherhood”— a unique and meaningful collaboration with participants’ fathers.
From RESPECT participants to alumni mentors
In 2022, the program expanded to involve alumni, now Year 10 students in high school, who are trained to facilitate RESPECT workshops with current primary school participants. Alumni mentors have taken up roles as leaders in their school communities and articulated their long-term commitment to values of respect and equality.
I want to be a domestic violence counsellor. I thought, when I was in Year 6, that I’d like to be a future ambassador. And doing this program in high school, I think it makes me one, doesn’t it?
I think it’s something that I could really do in the future. Because seeing these boys in the primary school, I could really relate to them. Because I’ve been in their shoes. I’ve been where they sit. So, I think I relate to them as they can relate to me.
It’s cool because they look up to us and we inspire them to be better people. It’s good to see we’re influencing them in such a positive way. I felt they were a bit more comfortable to ask us questions they wouldn’t ask their teachers normally, just because they didn’t see us as teachers or mentors. They just saw us as friends and brothers.
The program stayed the same, but it has evolved. The boys— they’re spitting mad bars! You can really understand the message, not just understanding what they say, but feeling it in your heart. And knowing what they are saying is the best.Tevita, RESPECT participant
2023 marks 10 years of the RESPECT program.
I think I carry the values with me wherever I go and whoever I talk to, I carry the values of RESPECT because I am really proud to be a part of this program.Tevita, RESPECT participant
You always have to show your values— it isn’t just for the program, it’s for your entire life.Vasilije, RESPECT participant
School program, ongoing
UNITY is a new project from Outloud for girls and gender diverse young people aged 10-12.
This two-term music mentoring program teaches singing and songwriting through the lens of healthy relationships, boundaries, consent, and body neutrality. Participants will then write, rehearse and perform their own song about what they think about these topics and how they want the world to be in the future.
This will be a weekly program over two terms per cohort. We will employ local female facilitators, musicians and counsellors that reflect the diversity of the communities that is reflected in our schools.
UNITY is the sibling project to our successful RESPECT program, which has been running in Bankstown primary schools for 8 years, educating young boys about domestic violence, gender stereotypes and respect for women. Three different Universities have evaluated RESPECT and has proven that it increases awareness and understanding of Domestic Violence and healthy relationships in 98% of participants.
With this new program, UNITY will provide young girls with the knowledge, skills and strength to healthily address key concerns including healthy relationships, consent, body image and bullying.
Why do we need consent and healthy relationships education in primary schools?
The program comes in response to recent widespread concerns around negative gender, cultural and social stereotypes. National counselling service Kids Helpline reported a sharp surge in searches for ‘sexting’ and ‘cyberbullying’ by teens aged 13 to 18 during the COVID-19 pandemic and image-based abuse leapt by more than 172 per cent last year.
“We’re increasingly seeing young girls and gender diverse students face what seems to be an impossible situation – they feel immense peer pressure to take part in activities they don’t feel safe doing, and then are punished for doing them,” says Finn O’Branagáin, CEO and Artistic Director of Outloud. “It is critical to invest in early intervention to give young people the tools to deconstruct social messages and normalise positive behaviour patterns. This allows children to lay down a baseline of boundaries and expectations of how they should be treated, rather than waiting to unlearn thought patterns later on. Through our commitment to building on strengths rather than fears, we are working closely with young girls, teachers, social workers and community leaders to ensure the project is collaborative and evidence-based to adequately address the complex needs of young people.”
UNITY will run over two terms across different public schools in Bankstown and will provide girls with the autonomy to take what they’ve learnt in these workshops to write a song under the guidance of professional musicians. The song is produced, a complementary music video is filmed and the musical piece is presented at school assemblies to classmates, teachers and parents, and shared with the public online.
The UNITY Launch
The launch of the program on November 4 2021 acknowledged World Youth Day. Outloud hosted a webinar with speakers including consent education activist Chanel Contos, Zena Dabaja, the principal of Birrong Girls High School, Armani Heydar, a domestic violence activist and artist, and young participants of the consulting group. You can request to view the launch replay.
Check out a song by a pilot group to see what what the finished project might look like:
You can watch the RESPECT program music videos here.
Praise for Unity
“The launch of the UNITY Program is a fantastic initiative for girls in our local schools. Programs like this allow for important and sensitive subjects to be discussed in a safe environment that engages young people. I’m excited to see what comes out of the program across different schools in the local area. Thank you to Outloud for continuing to work with schools in our community to run important projects like UNITY.”Hon Jason Clare MP, Minister for Education, Member for Blaxland
“The Respect Program has been working with boys in schools now for 8 years and we have often been asked by the schools about having a similar program for the girls. So the UNITY Program is very exciting for me because creating healthy relationships in our younger generations means equipping all young people with the right tools. I’m really proud that we are evolving and now able to offer the same kind of support to young girls. It’s been a long time coming.”Craig Taunton, RESPECT Program Manager
“The Respect Program has been working with boys in schools now for 8 years and we have often been asked by the schools about having a similar program for the girls. So the UNITY Program is very exciting for me because creating healthy relationships in our younger generations means equipping all young people with the right tools. I’m really proud that we are evolving and now able to offer the same kind of support to young girls. It’s been a long time coming.”Zena Dabaja, Principal of Birrong Girls High School
“It’s really important that we invest in our girls and future women. By explicitly developing their skills to feel empowered, safe and confident in themselves, they can carve out a clear path to supporting each other and demand safety, respect and consent.”Yasmin (12 years old) was a participant in the working group