Respect a good choice

Kate FieldingSouth Western Times
Peter Rigden has been championing the 'Choose Respect' message for more than a decade and has no plans to stop, even in retirement.
Camera IconPeter Rigden has been championing the 'Choose Respect' message for more than a decade and has no plans to stop, even in retirement. Credit: Kate Fielding / South Western Times

There are two little and simple words that Peter Rigden lives by – choose respect.

And it is those words, along with Peter’s worldly experiences, that has inspired the retired school principal to be a driving force behind a community campaign for more than a decade.

Peter has been chairman of Bunbury’s Choose Respect program since its inception 11 years ago.

The former Carey Park Primary School principal and teacher at numerous schools of 40 years said he knew he needed to do something during his time at the Bunbury school.

“There was significant bullying and a really, fairly poor tone around the school as far as interaction between students,” Peter admits.

“We wanted to look at a way in which we could address that, but a way in which we could also take it to the families, into the homes.

“There’s lots and lots of programs in schools that are fantastic, but they tend to remain within the school environment and if you’re going to make a change, then it needs to be 24/7 – not something that we do for say six hours in a school, then the other 18 hours a day they’re out in their environment and losing that continuity of what we’re trying to do.”

Peter and a group of dedicated volunteers found the Choose Respect campaign and thought “let’s give it a go”.

The message can now be found at numerous locations across Bunbury and is embraced by sporting clubs and events in the city.

Peter says there is a certain sense of pride in seeing the message more and more around the city, but it is the constant feedback of people, and in particular children, using the phrase that shows he and the other volunteers are making a difference.

“It’s just this chipping away, people coming on board, doing what they can, influencing those around them, taking on that really simple idea of choosing respect and treating others with care and consideration,” Peter said.

“One of the things that was really fantastic was just how simple it is, it’s just a simple little concept and that little tiny bits will make a big difference.

“That was really what we wanted to do – we knew that we couldn’t change things overnight, it was always going to be a long term process.”

While Peter’s involvement in the program stemmed from his position at Carey Park primary, he described it as a “natural progression” to continue on with the campaign post retirement.

He said he felt he had a “community obligation” to continue it and his commitment to the cause is obvious.

He praises the work of volunteers and the support of former Bunbury MLA John Castrilli in getting State Government support to get the program off the ground.

“We’re only a voluntary group, it’s only people who have got an interest in it or really want to try and help and support do something within our community to make it a safe and happier place,” he said.

“We’re always trying to just chip away, get it out there and that’s the simple thing – to make sure that it’s visible and people see it and they hear it.

“Seeing it and hearing it will make a big difference in the ability to be able to make a conscious decision to stop and think before they act and perhaps choose a better way of interacting with others which is showing care and consideration.”

Peter retired last year after 13 years as principal at Carey Park and four decades at schools, mostly in rural areas.

He said it was a lifestyle he never imagined and described his career as taking any opportunity that fell in his lap, but one he had no regrets in letting go.

“I think it was a good time for me and now I’ve got time to do other things,” he said.

“I want to travel, we’re doing lots and lots of travelling but also I want to continue to support the community as much as I possibly can.”

The group’s Annual General Meeting will be held on September 23 at Hands Oval and Peter encourages people to take an interest.

“We don’t want to scare people off that if they come they’re going to get roles and they’re going to have to do things,” he said.

“It really is just a way of celebrating what we’ve achieved so far over this last year and to talk about the things that we’re going to be looking to do in the future.

“We’d love people to come along and just sit and listen, hear what we’re doing and maybe one or two might think ‘yeah I think I can get involved in a certain way’.

“We’d love to see as many people as possible at the AGM.”

For more information on the AGM, email or call Leanne on 0434 147 257.

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