'The Good Society' position statement for SHV

The Government's release of 'The Good Society' website is a response to urgent calls from the community about teaching consent education in schools. But for some, it missed the mark.

In response to calls for action from women such as Grace Tame, Chanel Contos and Brittany Higgins, the Australian Government's recently released a website 'The Good Society' as a tool to educate students on sexual consent.

'The Good Society’ website provides a model for teachers to educate high-school students about healthy relationships and mutual respect. The content of the website has received considerable criticism since its release, with concerns it is confusing, unrelatable and lacks any real-world application. Additionally, concerns have been raised around the lack of Sexual and Reproduction Health industry consultation.

Broadly, consent education falls within curriculum guidelines of Health and Physical Education and multiple cross curriculum capabilities. Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) addresses consent, including sexual consent throughout a student's schooling.

Sexual Health Victoria (SHV) supports all steps towards promoting young people’s understanding of, and ability to experience healthy and respectful relationships. Any resource which promotes consent education in schools is welcomed. However, it is our experience that young people have direct and explicit questions about sex and sexual consent. We encourage teaching young people early as it creates a foundation of skills, knowledge and understandings on which to build upon throughout school years. This knowledge underpins crucial conversations as it applies to their own relationships in secondary school and beyond.

Discussing sexual consent is a subject that teachers often ask us how to address with their students. Speaking indirectly or using euphemisms may reinforce the belief that sex is a shameful or difficult to talk about, yet it does not need to be. We believe not talking directly can create barriers to learning for some students, requiring an additional layer of interpretation to understand the key messages.

We encourage everyone to think more broadly about relationship education and implement a whole-school approach. It is SHV's firm belief that relationships and sexuality education is a shared responsibility between school, home, and community.

Consent education is not only about teaching young people how to identify problems in relationships, but also about having the skills to negotiate positive, pleasurable, respectful sexual experiences if or when they feel ready.

SHV offer training courses for teachers, parents and carers, youth and community workers providing the skills and confidence to be part of the conversation with the young people in their care. SHV also has a podcast ‘Doing It’, which has over 40 episodes available for download.

We encourage teachers, parents, carers, and students to explore our website and listen to our podcast's doing it to learn more about consent, sex, and healthy relationships.