NRL anti-violence program expands into Tonga
The expansion of NRL's Voice Against Violence program into Tonga will encourage men to be more involved in the conversation regarding a serious social issue.
The NRL visited Tonga at the start of September to address the Tongan Government and a number of local organisations who are eager to support the NRL in delivering the anti-violence model.
Those organisations include; Families Free Of Violence (FFOV), Legal Aid, Women's Crisis Centre (WCC), Ma'a Fafine Mo E Famili (For women and families), Tonga National Centre for Women and Children (TNCWC), TALIFA and Ministry of Internal Affairs – Women's Division ( MIA).
In a fight that has predominantly been led by women, ex-Samoan International and NRL Community Manager Steve Meredith said it's vital to work with these services in Tonga while using the game's voice to complement the country's action plan to stop violence and invite men into the conversation.
"From a ministry of internal affair perspective this is a priority for Tonga - the prevention of violence and also the support of victims of violence," Meredith said.
"In Tonga violence is a taboo topic, as it is across many communities across Australia, and one of the key things to address it is to firstly acknowledge that it's an issue. And one challenge, in particular, that Tonga has faced is having that conversation with men.
"With the success of the roll-out of the program here in Australia, in PNG and Fiji, we've seen that the program has definitely had the ability to start these conversations with men and engage them in a unique way that our game does.
"Women have been leading this charge for quite a while in Tonga so for our expert partners they were impressed and almost brought to tears that now men are starting to have these conversations."
Since the success of the Tongan International team at the 2017 World Cup, the nation has seen a significant growth in the local football registrations from 18 teams last year to 30 teams this year.
From the expansion at the junior level and with the support of the Australian and Tongan governments, the NRL will deliver the program to the under 15 and under 17 players that compete in the Tonga Championships.
NRL's Head of Government and Community Relations, Jaymes Boland-Rudder said it's important the program is also rolled out to the Tongan youth.
"We want to empower our young footballers to take a stand and call out inappropriate behaviour to make sure that the communities in which they live are free of violence," Boland-Rudder said.
"Us discussing this issue and delivering the program to the under 15 and under 17 boys is so that there's a level of ownership by the young men who will be future leaders in their communities about the need for them to take some really positive actions and ensure that their families and their family environments are happy and safe environments.
"For us to be able to engage with these young men and use our unique ability to connect with them is going to make such a big impact in addressing this serious issue and ultimately hopefully preventing domestic and family violence in the future."