Should self-defence classes be mandatory for schoolgirls?


Women are considerably more likely to experience repeated and severe forms of abuse, including sexual violence. Personal safety statistics from the Australian Bureau of Statistics indicate that an estimated eight million Australians (41 per cent) have experienced violence (physical and/or sexual) since the age of 15, including: 

  • 42 per cent of men and 31 per cent of women who have experienced physical violence
  • 6.1 per cent of men and 22 per cent of women who have experienced sexual violence

The rates are even higher for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women and the UN has described violence against women in Australia as “disturbingly common”. While there may not be a comprehensive solution to this complex problem, some experts believe that one potential approach is to make self-defence classes mandatory in schools.

Given the divide shown in the above statistics, and the fact that (on average) one woman is killed by her current or former partner each week in Australia, taking some kind of action to improve levels of personal safety for Australian females does seem long overdue.

Pros of mandatory self-defence classes for schoolgirls


Self-defence classes empower women by teaching them practical skills to protect themselves. The confidence that comes with these skills can have a significant impact on their overall sense of security.

- Advertisement -

Mel Thomas is the founder of KYUP! Project. It’s pronounced key-up, which is a Korean martial arts power shout that roughly translates to ‘the spirit of self- protection’. This Australian non-profit organisation tours the country, delivering violence prevention and empowerment programs to teens through school workshops.

Ms Thomas believes that “empowering girls with self-worth and self-defence skills has a knock-on effect for the whole community”. 

“Girls feel more confident and better equipped to deal with unsafe people in unsafe situations,” she told The Bursar.

“By the time a girl starts high school in New South Wales, she will know how to swim between the flags and dress a snake-bite – but what about when a situation doesn’t feel right? Knowing how to protect yourself is a life skill as vital as water and driver safety,” she says.

- Advertisement -


The knowledge that women are increasingly likely to be capable of defending themselves could possibly reduce the violence statistics, just by deterring potential attackers.


Canberra girls only self defence workshop with Kyup!

By teaching self-defence from an early age, instilling a culture of self-reliance and personal safety in students as young as kindergarten could have meaningful impact, with the disciplined mindset required to learn the life skill of self-defence being applied to situations beyond physical violence. 

Father-of-two teenage daughters, Tom Adam is chief instructor and founder of Canberra Martial Arts & Fitness. He’s been teaching Hapkido (a Korean self-defence system) for more than 15 years and sees dozens of women in his courses each month.

Mr Adam strongly believes that mandatory self-defence classes for schoolgirls could turn the tide on violence against women. 

“My teenage daughter has the respect of her peers because she has the confidence to use her voice and more – for example to retrieve items taken from her. She never uses force, just the appearance that it would follow if her instructions are not followed,” he told The Bursar.

- Advertisement -

He believes that the ability to do this imbues women and girls with a sense of confidence that shifts the way they carry themselves – shifting the way they’re approached, assessed and treated, as a result. 

But what about the boys? 

Kyup! founder Mel Thomas

Ms Thomas also has two daughters, and she offers a slightly different perspective.

“Statistically, it is men’s violence against women, children, and other men, so boys are just as much at risk as girls,” she told The Bursar.

“I’m an advocate for empowering boys with self-defence skills. In fact, the only difference between the program that I teach to the girls and the program that I teach to the boys is one word: the girls’ is about self-worth and the boys’ is about self-respect.” 

And with the news that one Melbourne-based self-defence business has experienced a 200-300 per cent increase in calls from Victorian parents and schools in the past week, as a direct response to allegations of recent armed robberies and attacks on school students, self-defence being mandatory for all school students may be something many people are keen to explore.

- Advertisement -
Share This Article
By Charlie
Charlie Writes is a Sydney based, London born, Caribbean writer, interviewer and poet. A colourful 27 year career has taken Charlie from typing poems on the spot on her 1970’s typerwiter named June, to donning a hard hat as a roving reporter in the construction industry. All while living out her favourite quote that the greatest adventures begin with a simple conversation.