The community outreach arm of the Cronulla Sharks Football Club, Sharks Have Heart and their platinum partner Capital Bluestone, are helping to fund a part time coordinator for the acclaimed school based domestic and family violence, sexual assault and consent awareness education program, Love Bites, that has been made available in the Shire by Sutherland Shire Family Services since 2011.
The Love Bites program developed by NAPCAN (National Association for Prevention of Child abuse and Neglect) is based on best practice standards for education programs as recommended by the Federal Government funded Australian Domestic and Family Violence Clearing House and other leading academics in the area of violence against women.
Consistently reaching over 1,200 Year 10 students each year since the program was launched, Love Bites in the Shire has a “reputation as one of the best practice models of delivery nationwide, consistently delivering over 10% higher satisfaction from surveys than the national average”, said NAPCAN CEO Richard Cooke.
Participating schools register with Sutherland Shire Family Services for a free 2-day workshop delivered by trained volunteers drawn from a pool of professionals such as sexual assault caseworkers, domestic violence caseworkers, youth workers and police. Both male & female facilitators present the program as a team, modelling respectful relationships while delivering relevant content & reflective creative workshops on the topics of domestic & family violence, sexual assault and consent awareness. The workshops feature intensive content delivery, and conclude with creative sessions on Day 2, where students have the opportunity to express key messages of respectful and healthy relationships through art and music.
The program has no ongoing Government funding and relies on community partnerships. Through the recent Cronulla Sharks support, numerous Shire High Schools will continue to have access to the program. Sutherland Shire Family Services, coordinator of Love Bites in the Shire, is thankful to Sharks with this support allowing them to continue to deliver this important program to Year 10 Students in the Shire.
Over 12 local high schools have hosted Love Bites. Engadine High, Menai High, Heathcote High, Cronulla High, and Endeavour Sports High, are long term advocates of the program and have offered it to students consistently for many years. “It is a valuable program that really engages students through active learning and reflection” said Shareen McCubben, Student Support Officer from Endeavour Sports High School, “our students often rate the sessions highly for the engaging way they are delivered.”
Local Love Bites Coordinator for Sutherland Shire Family Services, Amber Schacht, sings the praises of participating Year 10 students in the program, “We see the students wholeheartedly engage with the content in a mature and appropriate way. The feedback we get from the programs is incredible, with over 95% of students feeling more confident in getting help for themselves or a friend, and over 82% reporting as learning “something new” about relationships, consent, domestic violence or sexual assault.”
Sutherland Shire Family Services’ CEO, Diane Manns adds “Love Bites works to deconstruct the myths that exist in the local community about domestic violence and sexual assault. The program was refreshed in line with community expectations in 2017, and the new program provides important messaging and education that is essential to helping young people grow and have respectful relationships.”
The 2019 school program was successfully launched on Tuesday afternoon at an event at Sharks Leagues Club, where Love Bites was showcased to a group of local VIPs, businesspeople, School representatives and attended by Sharks players. Students and School representatives had the opportunity to mingle with Sharks co-captain Wade Graham and other players, who will also participate in some of the upcoming sessions in schools this year. “We are thrilled to be able to support Sutherland Shire Family Services continue to offer this valuable program to local schools,” said George Nour, General Manager of Sharks Have Heart, “it also gives us an opportunity to further engage with our community by delivering positive messages on values that matter”.
Also announced at the event was the inaugural Love Bites Reflections Award, where participating schools can submit reflective creative works on the theme from the sessions from either the workshops or other classes throughout the year, with a gallery showcase event and presentation event with prizes for students to occur later in the year. The award will encourage students to reflect on the messages Love Bites raises, and for the entire school to become involved in the dialogue about healthy relationships.