Show Some Respect Campaign (North-West Tasmania)

What is the campaign?

The ‘Show Some Respect’ campaign was launched by The Advocate newspaper in north-west Tasmania in May 2012. The objective of the campaign is to support police, ambulance and fire officers, teachers and nurses by encouraging community members to show some respect to front-line service workers.

Why was it established?

The campaign was launched by The Advocate following growing community concern about the treatment of front-line service workers. While there was not necessarily an increase in violent incidents directed at front-line service workers, some community members said there had been a steady decline in community values and respect for others over many years.

The catalyst for the campaign was an incident in which a police officer activated capsicum spray at a 13 year old boy. Selectively-edited video footage of the officer spraying the child was put online and resulted in community outrage. A full investigation was ordered and the officer was charged with assault. During the investigation, full footage of the incident was uncovered and showed that the child was only sprayed after another police officer was assaulted. The officer involved was exonerated, but only after a lengthy and stressful investigation.

This incident, which had a significant impact on the officer involved, accompanied by concern about a lack of community values, prompted The Advocate to take action and launch the campaign.

How was it implemented?

The Advocate developed the campaign, but worked with key community stakeholders to implement it. In the early stages, the editor of The Advocate met with the Tasmanian Police and other emergency workers to gauge their interest in the campaign. After receiving a positive response, the editor consulted more broadly to ensure all relevant stakeholders were aware of the campaign, and able to provide input.

The Advocate surveyed readers to develop a better understanding of community issues and concerns. A total of 600 survey responses were received. From these responses, the community picked three issues/concerns for the campaign to focus on, and developed a pledge [insert link] for community members to take.

By signing the pledge, community members agree to uphold the values of respect and also call for:

  • Greater empowerment for police to better deal with public order issues
  • Tougher sentencing, particularly in relation to the serious assault of emergency personnel
  • Increased funding for parenting and family programs to help grapple with entrenched, intergenerational issues.

The Advocate was initially unsure whether the pledge would resonate with the community, but found hard copies of the pledge started appearing in various community venues. Indeed, the local football club, the RSL club and some schools actively circulated the pledge to members/students.

As part of the campaign, The Advocate also held a Show Some Respect public forum. The forum panel included a representative from the Tasmanian Department of Health and Human Services, the mayor of Devonport, a magistrate, police and other emergency workers. The event was attended by 100 community members. The forum started with front-line workers sharing their own experiences of disrespectful behaviour. The forum then discussed community issues and concerns, and options for how the community could respond.

Along with the pledge and public forum, The Advocate set up a Facebook page to keep community members informed about the campaign, and ran a series of articles in the newspaper on the importance of respecting front-line service workers.

A local school managed to tie the Show Some Respect campaign into a bullying and respect campaign it was running within the school. Students completed a series of workshops on respect and bullying, focusing on respect for themselves, respect for the school community and respect for the broader community. At the conclusion of the workshops, a whole-school assembly was held and a representative from The Advocate shared with students the newspaper’s efforts to promote respect within the community. 

The Show Some Respect campaign does not target any particular group or segment of the community. Rather the campaign recognises that everyone in the community has a responsibility to show respect and encourage others to do the same. There was a view that if the campaign targeted a specific group, other community members may divest themselves of the responsibility to engage with the campaign, and the targeted group may feel unfairly targeted and disengage completely.

What impact has the campaign had?

According to key community members, the campaign has had a number of positive impacts. The campaign has made people more aware of the issue of violence against professionals, and the need for everyone in the community to show some respect. Some stakeholders said the community had tolerated a decline in community values for many years. The Show Some Respect campaign made people more aware of this decline and the need to reverse it.

Some emergency service workers said the campaign had given the community a better understanding of the challenges they face. They felt that as a result of the campaign the community was more supportive and appreciative of front-line service workers.

The campaign, and in particular the public forum, brought to light some challenges facing front-line service workers when dealing with people with a mental illness. Consequently, police have been working more closely with mental health professionals to ensure people with a mental illness are serviced as effectively and efficiently as possible. Such cross-sector cooperation, however, is limited by limited resources.

The campaign also highlighted the value of education and prevention. There is a view among key community members that front-line services tend to focus more on treating symptoms rather than the cause, and being reactive rather than proactive. As a result of the campaign, efforts have been made to try to prevent violence or situations that lead to violence from happening in the first place (eg. having police conduct more regular curfew checks, and sending fire fighters to blue light discos to build relationships with young people in the community).

What were the limitations/areas for improvement?

While there is a general view that the campaign has raised awareness of the need for respect among some community members, some questioned whether the campaign was reaching the right people. A stakeholder commented that community members who disrespect professionals are unlikely to read about the campaign in the Advocate, nor learn about the campaign through other channels such as Facebook.

Some said educating the community-at-large about respect may make community members more willing to speak up in support of professionals who are being unfairly treated or threatened, but others suggested that at the moment many community members would still find this intimidating.

According to The Advocate, another potential limitation is that the newspaper can only bring issues to light and highlight the need for respect, it’s up to the community to embrace the campaign, become passionate about the issue, and demonstrate respect for others. 

What were the critical success factors?

Community members closely involved in the implementation of the Show Some Respect campaign identified the following factors as critical to the success of the campaign, and whole-of community approaches more broadly:

  • ensure at the campaign’s inception that key community stakeholders are ‘on the same page’
  • keep the campaign focused – in this case the campaign focused on front-line service workers
  • obtain buy-in from visible community members
  • involve the media
  • don’t target a particular group or segment of the community as this may create an us v them mentality, and result in people disengaging from the campaign.

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