The Gender as a Health Determinant module seeks to integrate gender-based violence prevention learning across a range of schools at Western Sydney University.
The Gender as a Health Determinant module came about through the advocacy of a Western Sydney University student seeking to embed actions related to the prevention of gendered violence in her Master of Public Health course.
Developed by the university’s Respectful Relationships team, within the Social Determinants of Health unit, the module is delivered on a biannual basis to postgraduate students in courses including Master of Health Sciences, Masters of Public Health and Masters of Nursing. This cohort comprises a significant proportion of international students, both at Western Sydney and offshore campuses.
From pilot to multi-school integration
The course was originally developed as a ‘pilot’ initiative. Following positive student and staff feedback it was promoted across complementary networks, including the Respectful Relationships Task Force, Ally Network, and SAGE (Science in Gender Equity) working groups.
Within two years the Respectful Relationships team was helping to integrate this unique approach across the Business, Humanities and Communication Arts, Medicine, Health Sciences, and Social Sciences schools.
These were facilitated in house as well as by Our Watch as part of the Upskilling Preservice Professionals pilot.
What were the challenges?
The challenges involved in developing an approach which seeks to integrate prevention work across a range of schools included:
- avoiding duplication by identifying related content within curriculum units of work
- understanding curriculum development processes and constraints
- contextualising core prevention and response concepts to host disciplines
- developing pedagogical approaches to best support the new content and their integration
- identifying the readiness of the school, including ensuring academic staff were onboard with the approach and had an understanding of the core components of gendered violence and prevention.
Overcoming the challenges
The approach to embed prevention and content on gendered violence across a range of schools is an ongoing process.
While Western Sydney University has been successful in selected units across five schools, there is still much to do and continued success will rely on intensive collaboration across the university.
The Respectful Relationship unit needs to partner with curriculum review processes to identify opportunities to create or enhance prevention and response content, while simultaneously building the capacity of students, academics and professional staff to do this work.
The approach in practice
On the ground this means working alongside advocates to access curriculum writers and support them in identifying which core prevention and response knowledge and skills students need in order to incorporate an understanding of gender inequality into their professional understanding, practice and identity.
This skill and knowledge building is typically focussed on the constructed nature of gender, intersectionality, gendered drivers of violence, and the social ecology.
Next, the challenge lies in identifying ways to translate that into discipline related content in a way that maintains fidelity to the core concepts. While this can mean creating new content, it’s often preferable to review existing content for opportunities to embed gender equality and update accordingly. Reviewing and updating existing content can be done in several creative ways, such as integrating content in case studies, class activities and other existing teaching materials.
Between March 2020 and March 2022 over 1,000 students have directly received information related to gendered violence prevention and response as a result of these partnerships.
Students have come from undergraduate and postgraduate courses across five schools, receiving information relevant to areas as diverse as health promotions, sports management and social design.
Participating students have been involved in partnership pedagogy – reviewing and evaluating campaign and training materials and co-developing teaching tasks, artefacts and assessment materials.
Some individual student outcomes include:
- reviewing Western Sydney University’s Responding to Disclosures training suite
- co-designing and co-delivering a bystander intervention campaign
- updating an existing case study to include prevention and response content.
Among academics, momentum to integrate prevention and response into curriculum continues to increase. Some actions include:
- resourcing for sessional academics to participate in curriculum pilots and training
- elevating units to core across multiple courses
- development of new units
- whole-of-course reviews.
As part of Educating for Equality, there will be a continuation of the Respectful Relationships mapping of local prevention and response initiatives across the institution.
The Respectful Relationships team is simultaneously exploring ways to embed prevention and response content through curriculum review and academic training processes.
About Our Watch
Our Watch is a national leader in the primary prevention of violence against women and their children in Australia. We work to embed gender equality and prevent violence where Australians live, learn, work and socialise.Learn more about Our Watch