After just over a year of campaigning the #TeachUsConsent movement led by Chanel Contos has achieved its goal. On February 17, both state and federal education ministers unanimously agreed to mandate holistic and age-appropriate consent education in all schools from "foundation" to Year 10. In the wake of #MeToo and the #March4Justice rallies that took place early in 2021 after Brittany Higgins came forward with her experience of being sexually assaulted in Parliament, this mandatory consent education is an urgent and necessary step at tackling the systemic issues that allow these abuses to fester.
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How did Teach Us Consent take off?
The seeds of the movement, and thus the monumental decision to make consent education compulsory, were sown in February 2021 when Chanel Contos, a former student at Sydney private school Kambala, polled her Instagram followers asking if they or someone they knew had been sexually assaulted at school. Contos' call out on her stories was prompted by the fact that she was "sick of constantly hearing my friends' experience of sexual abuse", according to the ABC. As you can imagine the response was overwhelming.
The poll received 1500 views and 300 responses in just 24 hours, and most alarming of all, 203 of voters had replied "yes". Almost immediately Contos created a petition calling for better and more thorough consent education in schools, circulating it amongst her follows which at the time of writing has amassed 44,653 signatures and 6,756 testimonies. It was from here that the Teach Us Consent movement was born.
While an overall dialogue on consent was the main goal, the Teach Us Consent movement aimed to have the topics of topics of consent, rape culture, slut shaming and toxic masculinity enshrined into the school curriculum. During the year-long campaign spearheaded by Contos, the Victoria, Queensland and New South Wales governments had already agreed to make consent education mandatory, but the problem with their pledge was that it only bound state schools to the plan, leaving it as optional for independent schools. This will no longer be the case with the new mandatory changes to the curriculum.
What will the changes to the curriculum look like?
Consent education will look different from year group to year group. Students in kindergarten or "foundation years" will be introduced to the notion of consent by being taught about respectful relationships and seeking permission. Older students will learn about more nuanced and complex facets if consent, with educators delving into topics around power imbalances, gender stereotypes and coercion.
The mandatory changes are expected to be rolled out in time for the 2023 school year.