Young People as Agents of Change to Reduce Harm

When young people get active in social change on issues that matter to their mental health and physical well-being, great things can happen. Ask Andrew, Beenush or anyone of our young peers at R4Respect in Logan, Queensland.

As young people we are on a mission to reduce the harm that occurs from domestic and dating violence, on-line abuse and other forms of inter-personal violence. We are inspired by the motto that young people can be agents of change, not simply targets for change.

Andrew, for example, sees the harm that family violence causes in his Pacific Island culture —harm to children and young people, families and community wide. He wants it to end. 

Through our unique peer-peer educational activities, our small team have reached over 5000 young people in the past year in schools and community events with messages of what respect means —what is ok and what crosses the line into harm.

R4Respect was developed by YFS Ltd. The CEO, Cath Bartolo was prompted to set up the R4Respect youth model as she had seen the disturbing youth attitude surveys showing that 1 in 4 young people think it’s pretty normal for guys to pressure girls into sex.

YFS did their research on youth participation programs and found that:

  • Peer-led interventions can be effective in influencing young people’s understanding of health related matters (Denison et al., 2012; McCleod et al., 2015).
  • Information, communication and technology (ICT) provides opportunities to foster the active participation of young people on health issues in a space that they are most comfortable: online (Anker et al., 2011).

The R4Respect youth team members believe in the peer-peer approach:

  • “Our whole motive is young people talking to young people …It takes out the factor where kids might be intimidated by adults…”
  • “We connect with other young people because we come from many cultures – Africa, the Pacific-Islands and Indigenous culture”.

We ‘shake in their boots’ when they step out in front of groups. But we know that if young people keep quiet not a whole lot will change.


Anker, A., Reinhart, A., & Feeley, T. (2011). Health information seeking: a review of measures and methods. Patient Education and Counselling, 82, 3, 346–54.

Denison, J., Tsui, S., Bratt, J., Torpey, K., Weaver, M., & Kabaso, M. (2012). Do peer educators make a difference? An evaluation of a youth-led HIV prevention model in Zambian Schools. Health Education Research, 27 (2), 237-247, doi:10.1093/her/cyr093.

McLeod, D., Jones, R., and Cramer, E. (2015). An Evaluation of a School-Based, Peer-Facilitated, Healthy Relationship Program for At-Risk Adolescents

Children & Schools, v37 n2 p108-116 Apr 2015

National Plan to Reduce Violence Against Women and Children 2010-2022. Australian Government, Canberra.  Retrieved from

Our Watch (2015a). The Line Campaign. Survey of Research Findings. Hall & Partners/ Open Mind. May. Retrieved from

This update was kindly provided by Andrew Taukolo on behalf of Members of R4Respect, who attended the 2017 No More Harm National Conference.