It's a win for education in Queensland this week, with the news that following a state government review of its respectful relationship program, the state has announced they will introduce more explicit sexual consent education in Queensland schools towards the end of 2021.
The news comes after education minister Grace Grace ordered the review in March this year, following thousands of anonymous claims from Queensland students that they had experienced sexual assault and rape were published on Chanel Contos' petition for better sex education. The petition, started by 23-year old former Kambala student Contos, was put forward because she "was sick of constantly hearing my friends' experience of sexual abuse", according to the ABC, and calls for a bigger focus on consent in sexual education and a focus on single-sex private schools.
View this post on Instagram
The claims Contos received were not only highly distressing, but painted a picture of our young populations lack of knowledge and respect for consent across the nation, with a high number of Queensland students reporting claims of sexual assault at the hands of their male peers. Since February, Contos has been petitioning for better consent education within schooling systems.
The review that has now brought the change in Queensland, investigated whether the state's Respectful Relationships Education Program "adequately addresses issues of sexual consent and reporting in schools", and was conducted by the Education Department, the review consulted 70 stakeholders including state and non-government education leaders, students, principals, unions, parent bodies and sexual assault support services, ABC reports.
"Their message to me was that they'd like more explicit, age-appropriate education on consent and the reporting of sexual assault," Grace told the ABC after seeking the views of young people from her Student Advisory Council on the Respectful Relationships Education Program. "They also said this needs to start earlier. These needs will be reflected in the strengthened RREP." She continued. "What we've found from consultation is that there's a strong need to build and promote a culture within schools that encourages people to seek help."
It was also noted that teachers felt the need for high-quality professional development to ensure they felt equipped and confident in teaching the topics, and to respond to disclosures of assault or abuse, which is a vital step in comprehensive consent education and creating a safe environment for students to report any abuse that has taken place.
This is a significant win for the states students, but the first of many steps necessary to ensure students are effectively educated and protected against assault and violence in and out of school. When the conversations around sexual education begin and end with consent, we all have a better chance of carrying the same understanding with us through life. The revised RREP will be released at the end of the year, with plans to have it in motion in 2022. It will be aimed at all students spanning from Prep to Year 10.