In 2020, WHISE began its partnership with the Department of Education and Training (DET)’s Respectful Relationships area teams, from Bayside Peninsula and Southern Melbourne to establish the Critical Friends Network (CFN). 

Critical Friends Network

The Critical Friends Network (CFN) is being reinvigorated to ensure that those working in our schools, under the Respectful Relationships (RR) initiative, have the support and encouragement they need. 

The CFN is a vital part of the Respectful Relationships (RR) initiative in the SMR and is a group of diverse professionals who have been recruited and trained by WHISE and the Department of Education and Training (DET). Their shared commitment to promoting gender equality in schools makes them essential. 

The CFN held an induction training session in August 2022, with seven participants attending to increase their level of confidence around performing the role of a Critical Friend and supporting schools to use the tool and resources available for Respectful Relationships (RR) implementation. 

Partnering with DET), the CFN has been training local professionals with prevention of violence against women, health promotion, family violence prevention and youth service expertise. Critical Friends play a key role in providing valuable feedback, guidance, and support to schools, ensuring that the Respectful Relationships whole of school approach is effective and responsive to the community's needs. 


Project: Critical Friends Induction Training

Net Social Benefit to Community $35,627

The net benefit per participant is $5,938.

Benefit Cost Ratio 28.49

Social Impact as calculated through the Australia Social Value Bank for the delivery of the Critical Friends Network.
The values used in this cost benefit analysis have been derived using the wellbeing valuation method from data gathered through the HILDA (Household Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia) and Journeys Home Survey.

Following on from COVID-19, schools have been focusing on students’ class participation and campus experience, resulting in a drop out in RR at schools and less traction on RR.  

WHISE will continue working to reinvigorate CFN, planning and participating in several Community of Practice meetings, forums, and consultations to bring stakeholders’ attention to RR.  


"Really great/informative session."

"I felt the training was informative and provided a new lens to apply my knowledge regarding gendered violence. I felt a need to utilise real respectful relationships plan to exemplify shaping the school culture."

"Fantastic and progressive initiative. The speakers were very engaging and enjoyed the active learning. Would have liked more time with the critical friends as a separate group."

""It was very engaging and informative; I learnt a lot. I do wish there was more time to talk in the group with just critical friends which I understand was a spacing issue."