Domestic violence is a taboo topic in several isolated regional areas of north-western NSW, according to Senior Constable Therese Carroll.
Carroll, a policewoman of 25 years who began as a school liaison officer at the start of 2021, said domestic violence in her local area was "often unreported; a lot of it involves the children".
But after NRL Voice Against Violence workshops were delivered by Alan Tongue in April to high schools in Nyngan, Cobar, Bourke, Brewarrina, Lightning Ridge, Walgett and Collarenebri, students have opened up to Carroll with their attitudes starting to shift.
"Kids have actually approached me about domestic violence," Caroll said in the lead-up to Women in League Round.
"They've taken on the message, had a think about it and it's given them the courage to step up and come and speak to me.
"And I think Alan's given them the strength to say, 'No, domestic violence isn't right'...
"Rugby league out here, it's part of nearly every household. They live and breathe rugby league out there.
"Obviously, they don't get a lot out this way because we're very remote, but the towns in this area just love their rugby league.
Tongue delivers Voice Against Violence program to Indie School in Wagga
"Whether they were male or female students, they've grown up with [the sport] ... The fact [the program] was rugby league helped them to understand and relate to it because it's just such a big thing.
"And the way that Alan delivered it in himself, he was very impressive and was very good in speaking to the children and getting that message across. They really, really gelled with him."
At the direction of Inspector Paul Quigg, the Central North Police District paid for the Voice Against Violence program – which is currently without Government funding – to address the schools.
Tongue, the former Raiders captain who is now the NRL's community innovation programs manager, combined rugby league drills with classroom lessons to illustrate points about domestic violence.
"We delivered our message right throughout some really challenging communities; there are some real challenges," Tongue said.
"But having that conversation with the young kids and trying to get that prevention message was really, really important for us.
"I know they just loved it. When you come into a school and you say you're here to talk about domestic violence, after a few minutes you share with them, 'Let's go out and throw the footy around'.
"Half the workshop's actually done with a footy in hand and connecting the message to movement is just perfect.
"It's a great way for all young kids to learn, but in particular that cohort around that region who were just so practical learning."
Voice against Violence - Alan Tongue
Carroll, whose role includes hosting presentations at schools as well as helping struggling students and giving them a trusted person to confide in, said the program's impact is still being felt.
She was so impressed by Voice Against Violence that she organised for the NRL's State of Mind program to address schools on mental health in October when COVID-19 restrictions have hopefully eased.
"It's the same as domestic violence; mental health isn't spoken about here. Most of our schools – even before COVID came in – have struggled to get counselling out here," Carroll said.
"Most people have to go to Dubbo if they don't want to do it online, which from up here that's three and a half hours away.
"I hope that the NRL get to expand [Voice Against Violence] and take it to further communities, not only just out here … I hope it's something that the NRL can keep going and keep out in the communities because I think it's just really, really worthwhile."