Australia-first animal welfare education programme launches for free to SA schools

February 18, 2020

RSPCA SA targets younger generation in quest for increased kindness

In a landmark move to shape society’s attitudes towards animals, RSPCA South Australia has today launched an Australia-first free education programme to every primary school in South Australia.

Called AWARE – Animal Wellbeing: Awareness, Responsibilities and Education – the programme is designed for children aged 5 to 12. Students at Highgate Primary School (one of the first schools to take up the programme) will today receive the first box of 36 readers, specially written to accompany the programme.

Over the next few days, all 600 South Australian primary schools will receive a box of the free readers. The animal-themed stories complement AWARE’s wide range of learning and teaching resources that are now available for students and teachers to access online.

RSPCA organisations interstate are keen to introduce the AWARE programme, meaning it could soon be accessible to all Australian primary schools.

Today’s launch follows a 6-month trial of the programme last year in 18 primary schools. More than 1400 students aged from Reception to Year 7 took part.

According to RSPCA South Australia’s Education Coordinator Emma Hawe, participating students and teachers provided “overwhelmingly positive feedback”. Coming from an extensive teaching career in Australia and the UK, Ms Hawe described AWARE’s potential to positively impact both children and animals as “boundless”.

“With so much community concern now about animal welfare, the time is well and truly right for this programme,” Ms Hawe said.

“Children are hungry to know more about animals and how to care for them, and teachers in the trial reported that having these new resources was a godsend, with students well-engaged and responsive.”

RSPCA South Australia CEO Paul Stevenson – a former secondary school teacher – has been an enthusiastic driver of AWARE’s development for the past two years.

“AWARE’s potential to influence an entire generation towards improved understanding and appreciation of animals is huge, which is why we are making it available for free,” Mr Stevenson said.

“Every year we receive more than 4000 reports of animal cruelty in South Australia and that number is not decreasing.

“The majority of reports relate to poor animal care and neglect – to animals suffering because their owners just didn’t know how to look after them properly.

“Teaching this younger generation about best practise animal care is key to reducing animal suffering.”

AWARE is part of a new strategic direction for RSPCA South Australia and marks a return to the organisation’s historical focus on education. Modelled on a highly successful programme developed by New Zealand’s SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), it provides teachers with learning resources that fit within the existing Australian curriculum.

Teachers and students access the resources via two online portals. The modules cover all areas of the curriculum, but with a particular focus on STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering and maths.

Ms Hawe highlighted the programme’s total integration with the Australian curriculum and the fact that it is free as the catalysts for its anticipated wide pickup by teachers, who are under pressure to deliver the existing learning areas of the national curriculum.

Equally important to teachers and parents is AWARE’s reinforcement of positive values and behaviour.

“Everyone benefits when animals are well cared for, so instilling values like kindness, compassion and understanding through learning resources that inspire and engage children has a ripple effect on entire communities,” Ms Hawe said.

“When students bring home what they learn about animal care and welfare, their families start to think about animals in a different way, including their duty of care for them.

“Pets are an integral part of many children’s lives, and research shows pet ownership nurtures the development of important social skills like empathy, reduces stress and promotes exercise.

“By promoting best practise animal care, the AWARE programme will contribute to all those positives for children’s wellbeing that come from living with animals while also, of-course, improving the lives of animals.”



11am at Highgate Primary School – 4 Hampstead Ave, Highgate

Uniformed RSPCA SA Rescue Officers and Inspectors will talk with students about their work for animals,
and introduce some native and domestic animals to them. Students will receive the AWARE readers.

RSPCA SA Education Coordinator Emma Hawe will be available to interview

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