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Jeremy Donovan - What I would say to my 15-year-old self

Jeremy Donovan and Son_Photo Andrew Rosenfeldt.jpg

An adult man in pale t-shirt has placed his hand on the shoulder of a young man in long sleeve top. In the background is grass, shrubs and a green fence.
Jeremy Donovan with son. (Photo courtesy of Andrew Rosenfeldt)
10 Dec 2019

Stop it at the Start is a national campaign aimed at reducing violence against women and their children. It encourages adults to reflect on their words and actions, and start a conversation with young people about respectful relationships.

Children are keen observers of what we say and do, and are greatly influenced by them. When it comes to teaching respect, every adult influences a child’s idea of what is right and wrong, whether they mean to or not. We can all have a positive influence on our young people, and set the standard for what is and what’s not acceptable, right from the start.

Jeremy Donovan (father and cultural mentor) shares what he would say to his 15-year-old self about respect.

Jeremy’s reflections

Growing up, I had very little respect for anyone, even myself. I was angry and confused, and this led me down a self-destructive path in my life in which I hurt myself and those around me.

I had no parents or role models to teach me what respect was, or to show me what a healthy relationship between a man and a woman was.

So I went along with things and I mirrored the disrespectful attitudes and behaviours of those who were around me at the time.

If I could speak to my 15-year-old self, I would say don't be afraid to treat people with love and respect. Learning how to respect people, both men and women, is going to help you grow up to be a strong man.

Don’t be afraid to feel things, to have emotions. Being a man isn't about being tough, never crying and all of those sorts of things we've heard for so long. Being a man is about making those around you – your family and your community – stronger.

We’ve all heard sayings like ‘don’t cry like a girl’ or ‘man up’ and many of us have repeated them without a second thought – even me, because it’s become such a common turn of phrase. Today, it’s one of my most hated sayings. We may not mean it, but what young people might learn is that women are lesser than men, or weaker somehow; that boys should resist experiencing and showing normal and healthy emotions. As you get older, you’ll do your best to never repeat these sayings again.  

Over the course of your life you will change. You’ll meet different people and each person will show you new things. You’ll become more aware of the positive and negative influences around you. You will leave things behind, things that were wrong, that hurt you and hurt others around you, like disrespect. This is okay, this is part of our growth as human beings. We’re always learning, and sometimes we need to face challenges to come out the other side wiser, stronger and healthier. It will then be up to you to take the things you’ve learned and pass them on to the younger people around you. This is part of our culture.

As unlikely as it must feel to you right now, one day you will have your own kids who will depend entirely upon you, look up to you, listen to you and learn from you. You will strive to be a positive role model for them. This will be the most important and rewarding thing you will do in your lifetime.

Addressing and changing disrespectful attitudes towards women starts with all of us.

Find out more

Watch the videos and check out the other resources at Resources for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.

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