Stop it at the Start

Published on Tuesday, 20 November 2018
Last updated on Tuesday, 04 February 2020

Article hero image

This week, Friday 23 November is White Ribbon Day, a national day of action to end men's violence towards women and a new campaign Stop it at the Start, is working to achieve similar goals as White Ribbon by recognising and reducing violence towards women and girls at the outset, thorough changing disrespectful thinking and language.

Jointly funded by the Australian, state and territory governments the Stop it at the Start campaign encourages all adults – parents, family members, teachers, early childhood educators coaches, employers, community leaders, and other role models – to think about the impact of what they say and do and talk to young children.

In early childhood settings this would include addressing unconscious behaviours which reinforce stereotypes about small boys and girls.

Minister for Women, Kelly O’Dwyer, said the campaign aims to change the way we understand the link between disrespect and violence against women.

"The statistics on this issue are shocking – one in six women have experienced physical or sexual violence by a current or former partner since the age of 15. This figure increases to nearly one in four women when violence by boyfriends, girlfriends and dates is included," said Ms O'Dwyer.

"It's also concerning that one in four young people are prepared to excuse violence from a partner.

"This is a cycle of violence that starts with disrespect. Throwaway comments… can make young people think disrespect is a normal part of growing up. We need to ask ourselves – is that what we meant?

"While not all disrespect ends with violence, the cycle of violence certainly starts with disrespect.

It's good to remember that our behaviour is a powerful influence on others, particularly the young," she said.

The campaign draws attention to the power of language and how repeated disrespectful language and/or actions by boys toward girls can escalate, for example:

Have you ever thought or said What a child might think
"He's going through a phase" Girls: "If I just accept it, he'll grow out of it and stop"
Boys: "I have a right to act this way"
 Boys will be boys  Girls:  It's just what boys do – I should get used to it. 
Boys:  We're just like that, it's fine. 
 He didn't know he was doing something wrong  Girls:  It wasn't his fault 
Boys:  I'm not responsible for this. 

One of the key messages for early childhood settings is the importance of avoiding behaviours which reinforce gender stereotypes. Commonly used phrases imply boys should take control and supress their emotions, and girls should be passive and accommodating.

According to the Stop it at the Start campaign these can have a negative effect on the confidence and self-esteem of young people and may perpetuate outdated ideas about male and female roles.

For example, telling a boy he shouldn’t cry may make him feel as though he can't express his emotions and telling a girl she's a 'tomboy' may make her feel as though she isn’t feminine enough.

Minister for Families and Social Services, Paul Fletcher, said the campaign is about demonstrating the small steps can make a big difference.

"It's important to know that we can help stop it at the start. Each of us can play a role by intervening when we see disrespectful behaviour or talking to our kids about respectful relationships."

Visit for more information and to view the range of resources, including a respect checklist and an excuse interpreter.

Related Articles

There are currently no related articles.