Calls are mounting for experts to play a leading role in the development of the new national curriculum on consent and relationships in order to avoid a repeat of content such as the infamous ‘milkshake’ videos.
Ahead of a meeting of federal and state/territory education ministers next month, one community organisation that delivers evidence-based puberty and sex education in schools has told the Rationalist Society of Australia that experts need to be tasked with developing the content and resources.
While Body Safety Australia Chief Executive Officer Deanne Carson (pictured) said she welcomed the commitment of education ministers to implement a new consent and relationships curriculum, she remained cautious.
“Of course, this is something that we have been advocating for for nearly 10 years…but I was also cautious because we have seen that sometimes things are done in a way that’s not informed,” she said.
“We know that if this work isn’t done properly it can cause more harm than good. And I had reason to be concerned, for instance, when those milkshake videos came out. Not only were they ridiculed by young people but there was some embedded content that was actually incorrect and quite harmful.”
Ms Carson suggested that the national approach to developing the curriculum should rely on expertise.
“There are a few things that we feel are really important. The first is that the resources that are developed need to be put together by experts. It needs to bring together an expert panel of academics, providers, teachers, child psychologists and adolescent psychologists, and people who have been doing this work and have the evidence base in this area,” she said.
Last week, the RSA wrote to the federal education minister and state and territory counterparts to urge them to draw on relevant expertise in developing the curriculum.
Ms Carson said that other guiding principles included ensuring that teachers have access to sufficient training and support, that external providers meet a benchmark of best practices and that parents and caregivers are all invited into the conservation.
In almost 10 years of working in the space, she said that the need for better consent and relationship education was clear.
“Children and young people reach out to us because they have been harmed or they’re dealing with relationships that are harmful. We know that it doesn’t matter what demographic children are living in, there is abuse, there is neglect and there are relationship harms occurring,” she said.
“Not only have we seen this ourselves but the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse showed very clearly the number of people in Australia, of all genders, affected.
“We’ve also had a number of courageous and fierce young women come out and speak about the need. Chanel Contos, Brittany Higgins and Grace Tame have all harnessed the Royal Commission findings and have kept this conversation on the front pages of the newspapers.”
Si Gladman is Campaigns & Communications Coordinator at the Rationalist Society of Australia. You can contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @si_gladman