Violence is the inappropriate use of power. Power is not bad in itself. However when it is used inappropriately, as in violence against women, it is important that people with positional power use it to change behaviour and attitudes.
Dr Phil Lambert is the General Manager, Curriculum, of the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority. He is a Fellow of the Australian Council of Educational Leaders and the Australian College of Educators. In 2012 he was awarded the Public Service Medal (PSM) for his lifelong contribution to education.
Phil trained as a teacher, completed a Masters of Education, and was subsequently awarded a Doctorate at the University of Sydney. He rose swiftly through the education ranks and, as a result of his work, he was made an Adjunct Professor at the University of Sydney and at Nanjing Normal University in China. In 2013 he was awarded the prestigious Australian College of Educators’ Award, the Sir Harold Wyndham Medal.
Phil Lambert wears many hats: significantly, he is a White Ribbon Ambassador and the Deputy Chair of Our Watch, previously known as the Foundation to Prevent Violence against Women and Children. But the hat he believes has given him the strongest voice in the fight against domestic violence is his role as an educator. In his previous position as Regional Director of Public Schools in Sydney, he was well placed to influence thinking in schools. Now, he says, he has the opportunity to see what is happening at the policy level to then influence schools to change attitudes on violence against women.
Phil is convinced that primary prevention is the key to effecting change, which is why schools play such a significant and crucial role in curbing domestic violence. He says role modelling really starts in the foundation years where children are taught to respect each other. They need to take responsibility – for themselves and for others. They are also encouraged to speak out if they think a friend or a family member is being hurt. It is all about breaking the silence.
In the fight against domestic violence, the whole school community needs to be involved – starting with the principal, who will influence and engage teachers, students and parents. ‘Schools have an important role to play in creating a better society and we trust our teachers to be good role models both academically and socially.’ Teachers have the capacity to change attitudes and behaviour in the classroom on a daily basis. White Ribbon’s ‘Breaking the Silence’ initiative, which Phil helped create, focuses on school principals and senior teachers to encourage and support them to embed models of respectful relationships in the school culture and classroom activities. It gives students the opportunity to learn and experience respectful relationships, preventing the perpetration of violence against women and girls.
Phil says Australia is fortunate that the Australian Curriculum includes important content about students developing skills, understanding and attitudes towards respectful relationships. However, he believes that politicians, community leaders, business leaders, religious leaders, the judiciary and the police all need to speak out about violence against women and to champion gender equality as one of the key elements underpinning respectful relationships between boys and girls and between men and women. ‘We need people who will stand up against domestic violence and demonstrate the right values. Leadership is about demonstrating the values you believe in. There has been some success but we still need more committed people who can lead and effect change.’
Overall, Phil thinks Australia has made great progress in its campaign against domestic violence. He attributes much of this to the work of White Ribbon Australia and to the efforts of individuals and groups led with relentless commitment, largely by women, over many years. When he started working with White Ribbon to develop the ‘Breaking the Silence’ initiative in schools, he says there was very little reference to primary prevention of domestic violence. But this has changed. Knowledge has increased and there is now a bipartisan national campaign.
Australia is on an ‘upward trajectory’ and is definitely on the right pathway to achieving gender equality and eliminating violence against women.