The importance of educating our children and young people about consent and relationships, and questions about how sex education is currently presented in our schools, are issues which parents have raised repeatedly over the years. Council responded last year by teaming up to launch a new alliance with other like-minded organisations and key experts.
The Relationships and Sexuality Education Alliance (RSEA) is a group of passionate advocates and partner organisations aiming to harness their collective experience and expertise to influence and advocate for universal access to Comprehensive Relationships and Sexuality Education for all children and young people in the ACT.
Council believes that we needed expert input from the Alliance partners to move towards an age- appropriate and comprehensive program for our schools — to help keep all our kids safe and sensibly informed.
Other Alliance members include:
- Sexual Health & Family Planning ACT (SHFPACT )
- YWCA Canberra
- Institute of Child Protection Studies
- Katrina Marson, a criminal lawyer who has worked in both prosecution and defence — principally in the areas of family violence and sexual offences.
- Dr Kelly Frame, who has worked in education for over a decade, teaching secondary, undergraduate, and postgraduate students and academic staff.
What is Comprehensive Relationships & Sexuality Education?
The Alliance is advocating for comprehensive and age-appropriate lessons, activities, curricula, and programs that address relationships, sex, sexuality, sexual health, families, puberty, bodies, and reproduction. It is critical that the education is not limited to only some aspects, and it must address sexual wellbeing protection and sexualised violence prevention. Such a program would be based on:
- the evidence of what works to promote healthy and respectful relationships, decreases sexual violence and protect against negative sexual experiences
- broad community partnerships that are ongoing and include schools, families and community
- a holistic approach focusing on improving knowledge, changing attitudes, and building skills
- being age-appropriate and consistent – building on prior learnings – beginning in early childhood to support an ongoing conversation
- supporting a positive approach to sexuality, relationships, and wellbeing that builds on the right to health and wellbeing and teaches young people to communicate appropriately and openly about themselves and their relationships
- linking students and families with supports and services that offer information and help in the community
- supporting diversity and inclusion and representing everyone’s lived experience including people with disability and from different ethnic and religious communities
- being appropriate for particular groups’ learning or communication needs such as visual content, delivering to small groups, or specific pace of learning
- including evaluation and protection mechanisms to ensure effective learning and protection to support the safety of participants.
A comprehensive program would provide information and guidance on:
- bodies and physical development (such as puberty) including diversity in sex characteristics
- the science of human reproduction and the social science of the importance of family
- social/emotional development (friendships/relationships)
- understanding of human sexuality and gender
- expressing and responding to personal boundaries and questions of consent
- supporting informed decision-making and consequential thinking
- health-literacy, health-promoting, and health-seeking behaviours.
Why is it important?
Recently, we have seen many young people stepping forward to ask for better relationships and sexuality education. The Alliance believes a comprehensive evidenced-based relationships and sexuality education will give young people the knowledge and tools they need to successfully navigate their adulthood. Research shows that this type of education decreases sexual violence, protects against negative sexual experiences, and promotes healthy and respectful relationships.
How you can be involved
Anyone interested in adding their name to the call for comprehensive education in this area is invited to become a member of the RSEA. You can join up on the RSEA website. Associate members will receive updates from time to time on the work of the Alliance, along with invitations to Alliance meetings and events. Membership is free.
Show your support by becoming a member.
See previous article on this same topic.
This article appeared in ParentACTion Magazine, Term 1, 2022.