Director of Students | Chris Pye

Gender Relations


This past week, in the media, the brave on-line petition by numerous young women brought into sharp focus the pattern of sexual violence that is a sad, disturbing blight on our society. St Mary’s College stands united with our governing body, Edmund Rice Australia, in our ongoing commitment to taking brave steps in addressing the issue of sexual consent and enshrining programs and practices that, in partnership with parents, aim to support the development of respectful young men.


Our College’s Pastoral Program is informed by the Victorian Government’s Respectful Relationships Program. Every year from Year 7, each student completes a one term unit on the topic ‘Gender and Identity.’ Our students are educated on what constitutes respectful relationships in domestic and social settings, how to identity gender-based violence, the link between negative sexual stereotyping and explicit sexual material, how to make good decisions in social environments and how to assertively seek help if one is exposed to any form of gender-based violence. 


Our staff has undertaken professional development on Ethical Schooling by Leanne Higham, an academic from La Trobe University. She is an author of the Respectful Relationships Program. In her sessions, Leanne advocated that schools, in partnerships with parents, are formative to build positive attitudes and values in regard to gender relations.  She promotes the importance of respectful language in schools towards all genders, particularly our female students. Our staff undertook structured professional development to acquire school-wide professional language norms that creates an inclusive, respectful climate within our school.


Our school provides numerous opportunities for our boys to have respectful social interactions with our girls. These include: Peer Mentoring at Year 7 and 10, musical and drama productions, a Year 12 College Formal, Outdoor Education Programs and numerous House Sport events. Here, we see positive relationships being formed between boys and girls. We set high standards in regard to the respectful, thoughtful manner boys must bring to these activities and all interactions with girls in these settings.


Our school is an enthusiastic participant in ventures that promote respectful behaviour towards women, such as: International Women’s Day, Bullying No Way Day and R U Okay. These establish and support inclusivity, one of the founding touchstones of the Edmund Rice charism. 


The courageous, disturbing testimonies from these young women in the recent media, demonstrate that there is still much work to be done by schools, and the wider community, on the issue of how women are treated by men. As a school committed to preserving the dignity of each person and, in partnership with parents, helping form responsible, respectful relationships, we welcome the Victorian Government’s commitment to exploring the idea of more explicitly creating teaching and learning strategies on the area of sexual consent. We look forward to building on work already undertaken in this area. 


Director of Students | Chris Pye