Education Minister Sue Ellery releases consent program that will be mandatory in WA schools

Chanel Contos, the young activist who sparked a national debate on the need to improve sexual consent education in schools, hailed WA’s decision to impose consent lessons on children from kindergarten to grade 10 .

Education Minister Sue Ellery released a draft of the updated curriculum on Tuesday for consultation with school districts and teachers.

“While consent education is currently taught on an ad hoc basis in WA schools, its inclusion in the WA curriculum will ensure that it is taught to all students while they are in school,” said she declared.

Ms Ellery said the changes were “developmentally appropriate”.

“In pre-primary, it will be about helping students understand personal space and saying no,” she said.

“In elementary school, it will be about repeating strategies for saying no, understanding what personal limits are.

“And in high school, it’ll be around rehearsals and role-playing about how to say no, how to make informed choices, how to hear no — not just how to say it — how to hear it and understand it.”

Nationally, education ministers agreed in April to mandate consent education as part of the physical and health education curriculum.

Ms Ellery said she had asked WA’s School Curriculum and Standards Authority to put the job at the top of its to-do list, meaning WA would be one of the first states to roll it out.

She said it was important to note that the national debate around consent had been led by young people.

As a university student, Ms Contos, 24, made calls in 2021 for children to learn about consent and respectful relationships in schools from an early age after a website she created was was inundated with revelations from thousands of women who had suffered sexual abuse in their teens.

Now director of the Center for Sex and Gender Equality at the Australian Institute, Ms Contos said it was exciting to see mandatory consent education from an early age.

“It’s important to realize the reality of this whole subject for my generation and below is that the way we perceive and experience sex has been heavily impacted by pornography, so we need a solid education to ensure our relationships are as respectful as possible,” she said. said.

Ms Ellery said Ms Contos had pointed out to education ministers that it was assumed that girls can say no and boys can hear no.

“And certainly his experience and that of his cohort of students was not,” she said.

“The curriculum is already a busy place — we don’t easily, and without a lot of thought, add things to the mandate in the curriculum. But it is important.

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Ms Ellery stressed that all schools would be required to use the updated curriculum, although some faith-based schools may choose to teach the information “in a context that matches their faith”.

“They will be able to do it, but the program itself has to be taught,” she said.

Although consent education is not compulsory in Years 11 and 12, Ms Ellery said most schools would still cover the issues using guest lecturers or pastoral sessions.

Jacqui Hendriks, professor of health promotion and sexology at Curtin University, hailed the proposed changes as an improvement on WA’s previously vague sex education curriculum.

She said the new document explicitly states that lessons on respectful relationships for grades 9 and 10 will have to include a reference to “sexual relationships”.

“I love that it starts right in pre-primary and goes all the way to 10th grade,” she said. “I think there’s clear language around the different types of things schools need to cover at each level of the year.”

“I would really like us to put more resources into professional development so that staff are able to provide these materials, because we let them down on it…and if they don’t have time to plan for s Adapt…that’s where we have problems.

Students from Bob Hawke College in Subiaco who spoke to Ms Ellery at the launch said they believed introducing lessons about consent from an early age would help embed the values ​​of respect.

“It’ll be really good when we do it at such a young age…the conversation will get bigger and bigger because we know what we’re talking about,” said 9th grader Ashley Knight. “And I don’t think it will be that awkward, because we’ve been talking about it for so long.”

“For me, it’s just a matter of mutual respect,” said 8th grader Beau Zencich.

Schools will start teaching the new lessons from 2024.

The McGowan government is also rolling out its Respectful Relationships Teacher Support Program to 22 more schools, in addition to the 38 that had already entered the training.

The program provides professional learning and resources for teachers on the underlying attitudes that cause family and domestic violence.

Minister for Women’s Interests and the Prevention of Family and Domestic Violence, Simone McGurk, said the teaching consent would complete the curriculum.

“Evidence shows that early education is a powerful tool to reduce sexual violence which we know can have lifelong consequences,” she said.

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