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SA’s Commissioner for Kids urging leaders to enhance intercourse training in colleges after younger individuals flag considerations

The South Australia Children’s Representative urges policymakers and education leaders to have “contemporary, mature and pragmatic” conversations with young people about relationships and sexual health.

Important points:

  • The youth and child representative interviewed more than 1,200 young people
  • Participants said they felt “concerned” about their lack of understanding about consent
  • Others said their training came too late – after experiencing harassment or assault

Children and Youth Commissioner Helen Connolly today published a report on sex education in South Australia examining the importance of sex education in schools.

When preparing the report, she received 1,225 survey responses from regional and metropolitan South Australians, ages 12-22, regarding the “quality, appropriateness, accessibility and timeliness” of their sex education.

She said the responses indicated that young people want sex education that is “more inclusive and responsive to current realities, pressures and complexities” of their lives that are different from previous generations.

“The evidence shows that an approach that focuses on gender, power and rights is much more likely to lead to positive health outcomes, both in terms of knowledge and the attitudes and behaviors that flow from it,” said Commissioner Connolly.

Children and Youth Commissioner Helen Connolly said co-creating sex education content with teenagers has the potential to be a game changer.

ABC News: Claire Campbell

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Young people are unaware of many things with consent

The report said that 49 percent of girls ages 16-17 and 31 percent of boys had experienced “some form of undesirable sexual behavior” in the previous 12 months.

More than a quarter said they had had unwanted sex.

Of LGBTQ students in South Africa, 33.5 percent said they had never seen LGBTQ people mentioned in a supportive or inclusive way during their relationship and sex education.

Meanwhile, just under half – 44 percent – of children between the ages of nine and 16 said they had experienced sexual images in the past month.

Cell phones have revolutionized the way teenagers and young adults flirt and date.

ABC South East SA: Kate Hill

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Commissioner Connolly said young people feel they do not have a good understanding of the social and practical aspects of consent and do not know how to deal with image-based abuse, including unwanted pornography and harmful use of sexting.

The report found that there were “significant inconsistencies” in school sex education, with some of the respondents saying that their education about relationship and sexual health came too late.

“[We] went through approval for the first time in grade 12 and the class was already over so it lasted about two minutes, “said a non-binary 17-year-old.

“When we ‘found out’ about this, most people had experienced sexual harassment or assault, and schools didn’t play a role in helping them.”

Support offers in the event of sexual assault:

“Awareness of borders is fundamental to protecting younger people,” said another 20-year-old woman.

“Speaking from experience – if we were taught more about boundaries and discussions than just consent, this could save many young people from manipulation.”

“‘When I was younger I wasn’t aware of a lot and I didn’t know that I didn’t want to have sex in my first relationship,” said a 17-year-old man.

“Also, since my elementary school education, I hadn’t realized that women experience sexual pleasure.”

“Student-oriented” education key

The report found that young people want “quality and stigma-free education” that enables them to understand risks, gain access to health care, and also understand the legal framework surrounding consent and other issues such as sexting.

Her suggestions include more student relationship and sex education, as well as teaching that “feels more like an open conversation rather than a lecture”.

Commissioner Connolly said the “virtual tsunami of sexual assault and rape commentary” this year means that it is “right and right about the time” for leaders and decision-makers to start conversations with young people.

“This holistic approach, which in addition to sexual health, safety and well-being also integrates issues of gender diversity and gender equality, means that access to sex education, which is inclusive and reflects the diversity of the experiences of young people, is seen as a fundamental right,” she said.

“Embedding it in education to align with international best practices and delivering it through engaging content, ideally created in collaboration with the students themselves, has the potential to be a total game changer, and it lies our responsibility to ensure that this happens sooner rather than later. “

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