Educating to reduce animal cruelty

Educating children to reduce animal cruelty and learn responsibility

Educating children to reduce animal cruelty and learn responsibility

The RSPCA AWARE (Animal Wellbeing: Awareness, Responsibility and Education) program is a free educational platform paving the way in Animal Welfare education nationally.

Not every child grows up with animals or knows how to relate and care for them. Children need to be taught how to responsibly and safely interact with animals, to keep both the child and animal safe. Learning to care for animals has also been shown to help teach children how to build trusting, compassionate relationships with other people later in life.

Last year, the RSPCA investigated over 73,000 reports of animal cruelty and cared for more than 100,000 animals in RSPCA facilities across the country. Many of these reports resulted from the owners’ lack of awareness of how to properly care for their animals. Education is by far the most powerful tool to reduce animal cruelty in Australia. The RSPCA AWARE program provides the resources to address these issues in an interesting, enjoyable and effective way, helping students to build empathy towards animals. It is a free educational platform paving the way in Animal Welfare education nationally.

AWARE teachers and schools understand that education is key to prevention of animal cruelty and neglect. According to a recent report by Animal Medicines Australia, 69% of Australian households now own a pet. With an estimated 30.4 million pets across the country, animals have a significant presence and impact on our society. Empathy development through positive interaction with animals is well known, therefore animal welfare education at school encourages development of social awareness and ethical understanding with students. By integrating RSPCA AWARE into schools, RSPCA aims to inspire generational change in attitudes towards animals among young people. 


AWARE is the RSPCA’s free educational program created by teachers for teachers, as well as parents and other educators. Using real world animal welfare examples to deliver curricula-aligned educational outcomes, to create generational change in young people’s attitudes towards animals. 

There are two online portals—one for teachers and one for students—that provide loads of ready-to-use activities, downloadable from the selection of units and lesson plans. RSPCA AWARE Teacher’s Portal is designed for primary and middle school teachers looking for engaging and innovative resources. The dedicated Teachers’ Portal contains units of learning for students from Foundation to Year 8 and includes additional resources such as bilingual glossaries, PowerPoint presentations, videos, and research papers to support various animal welfare subjects. These downloadable, ready-to-use units and resource materials are specifically tailored to align with the Australian National Curriculum and contain applicable Australian Curriculum codes for ease of integration. Students will gain age appropriate, real-life knowledge to develop empathy, compassion, respect, and responsibility for the lives of animals in their community.

Resources for teachers have been designed to integrate into subjects that schools already teach and align with the Australian Curriculum. For example, one unit – ‘The Cost of Having a Companion Animal’ – uses maths to teach children about the cost of caring for pets. This way, animal welfare becomes a real-life, meaningful topic. It also prevents AWARE resources from being yet ‘another thing’ for busy teachers to fit into their school day. The unit is adaptable for Years 2-6, delivering Maths and English with the general capabilities tabulated for easy cross-reference.

“The AWARE by RSPCA program is an amazing resource to support high levels of student learning engagement,’’ says Maree Palmer, Teacher, Springwood Road State School. ‘’Capitalising on the student’s natural interest in animals enabled the authentic introduction of animal welfare education.  As an educator, I value the program’s use of STEM principles to facilitate learning and assessment that aligned with both Australian Curriculum standards and general capabilities,” she continues. 


Already, 3500 teachers in Australia are registered to use the free RSPCA AWARE resources.

Feedback from teachers revealed that:

  • 100% of teachers felt that the engagement levels of their students were heightened when involved in the units of learning, with teachers explaining that all students were eager to partake.
  • 100% of teachers stated that the units of learning were well aligned to the National Curriculum. 
  • 94% of teachers felt that the units of learning provided sufficient detail for effective teaching and learning.


AWARE offers full Units of Learning including resource materials so teachers can pick and choose what works best for their classroom! Log in to the dedicated Teachers’ Portal and download resources at any time.

RSPCA AWARE aims to create generational change in attitudes towards animals by delivering strong, positive animal welfare messages through education.

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This article was first published in Education Matters Primary Magazine, September 2022. To read the issue download it here. 


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