Creating the culture of respect

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Recent events including the awarding of the 2021 Australian of the Year to Grace Tame as well as the thousands of harassment and assault stories that have been shared as a response to a petition by Chanel Contos have sparked a national discussion on the need for more active steps to improve and foster a culture of respect.

This has prompted action by governments and the education sector towards creating a safe and respectful environment where students are encouraged to speak up and look after each other.

Governments review curriculum and reporting

Parliaments across different jurisdictions are taking steps in response to this petition. In NSW, a coalition of MPs across Liberal, Labor and Greens are sponsoring an initiative to improve the sex education curriculum and reform consent laws, while the NSW Education Minister Sarah Mitchell has also spoken directly with Chanel Contos.

The Queensland government has responded to the petition by announcing a review into sexual education across independent and state schools. Education Minister Grace Grace also highlighted that while the schools can play a role, parents and the community also had a responsibility to support young people in addressing issues of sexual harassment, assault and consent.

Nationally, the Federal government has announced the plan to roll out new teaching materials on consent and respectful relationships as part of their “Respect Matters” program.

Proactive actions by the education sector

Many in the education sector are also responding to the issues raised by the petition. A meeting of 480 schools by the Association of Independent Schools NSW (AISNSW) with the NSW Police Sex Crimes Squad held discussions around consent education, protocols on reporting, and the safety, welfare and wellbeing of young people with the aim to work on a strategy on addressing these areas.

The Australian Boarding Schools Association (ABSA) has also been assisting its members with a range of initiatives. The association has partnered with provider Elephant Ed to provide a webinar series for boarding students sharing vital information on managing safety and wellbeing online. They’ve also been running webinars for boarding school parents on the topic of Consent and Sexual Violence.

We can all play a role

As the Principal of Wenona School Briony Scott highlighted in her recent article, sexual assault is a cultural issue; not a school sector, or a “it would never happen here”, or “but my kid is a good kid” issue. Everyone across society has a role to play in having conversations and taking steps to create a more respectful culture.

The WA government has a resource called ‘Talk Soon. Talk Often’ to support parents and families on how to start a conversation with their children, while Kids Helpline provides useful resources that parents can share with their teenagers.

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