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New consent education plan a “meaningful commitment” to violence protection

The Australian Education Union has welcomed Federal Labor’s commitment to invest $77m for teaching consent education in Australian schools on International Women’s Day.

Labor’s plan, which will provide professional development and training for teachers across Australia to talk about sexual consent and respectful relationships in an age-appropriate way and enable students experiencing violence to seek help, has been described as a meaningful commitment towards violence prevention by AEU Federal President Correna Haythorpe.

“The sad reality is that women and girls are still enduring harassment and sexual violence in Australia, whether it is in their homes, schools or workplaces,” said Ms Haythorpe.

“The first step towards making these spaces safer for women and girls starts with educating students about consent early.

“We welcome the commitment for additional support for teachers to deliver consent education and to equip them to assist students who need help.

“The conversation around consent education led in the past year by Chanel Contos has shone a light on the critical role schools play in preventing sexual harassment and violence in the community.

“Schools should be safe places for students to seek information and assistance and it’s crucial that we have a Federal Government committed to ensuring that is the case.

“The AEU is calling on all parties to follow suit and support teachers to deliver evidence-based and age-appropriate consent and respectful relationships education.”

For its turn, the Morrison Government has thus far committed to invest a further $189 million in various media campaigns and corporate initiatives over five years to strengthen prevention and early intervention efforts in family, domestic and sexual violence. Just $5 million of this is set aside to develop a survey of secondary school-age students on issues related to consent.

Further breakdown of the funding package includes:

  • $104 million over five years for the leading primary prevention organisation Our Watch, representing about a 65 per cent increase on annualised funding
  • $48 million for a new campaign that focuses on confronting the attitudes and expectations of some men which can condone or excuse violence
  • $32 million for a consent campaign focusing on young people 12 and older and their parents, building on $10.7 million already allocated in the 2021-22 Budget for this campaign
  • $5 million to develop a survey of secondary school-age students on issues related to consent.

This initial investment will form part of the Commonwealth’s commitment to the First Action Plan 2022-2027, under the next National Plan to End Violence against Women and Children 2022-2032, which is currently being finalised with states and territories following the public comment process which concluded on 25 February 2022.
 
Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Women, Senator the Hon Marise Payne said the best way to stop gendered violence was to focus our efforts on preventing it from happening in the first place.
 
“Through this package, we will help address the underlying drivers of gendered violence – in particular sexual violence. This includes attitudes and behaviours that excuse, justify and even promote violence against women,” Minister Payne said.

“Our Watch has played an important leadership role in coordinating prevention activities across the country. This investment, which is the largest ever made in the organisation, will help to expand its role as a trusted source of training and advice and a national centre of excellence on prevention.
 
“The organisation will be better placed to deliver on its priorities, including helping to drive change in the corporate sector, providing campaigns and resources that raise awareness about gendered violence, and developing safety programmes to be used in key settings such as TAFEs, universities, the media, workplaces and sports organisations.
 
“Our Watch will also boost its efforts in prevention for LGBTIQA+ Australians, Australians with disability and migrant women and develop further resources to educate young people about consent.”
 
Minister for Women’s Safety Anne Ruston said the Morrison Government was investing a total of $91 million to develop and deliver two new national campaigns which would run across mass media channels including television, cinema, social media and bus stops.
 
“We are making sure that crucial messages about consent are heard in every home around Australia to ensure we are all empowered to have conversations with young people, family and friends about this important issue,” Minister Ruston said.
 
“Almost nine in 10 Australians agree ‘adults should talk to young people more about the topic of consent’ but almost half of Australians are confused about the issue of sexual consent which leads them to actively avoid the topic.
 
“This campaign is all about encouraging parents to talk to their children about the issue of consent and, importantly, equipping them with tools to have conversations with young people over 12 about consensual and respectful relationships through a suite of online resources.
 
“Drawing on the success of campaigns such as Scotland’s Don’t Be That Guy, a second campaign will ask men to consider how they can hold each other to account because sexual violence should not be considered a women’s problem to solve.”
 
Acting Minister for Education and Youth Stuart Robert said Australian Sex Discrimination Commissioner Kate Jenkins and National Children’s Commissioner Anne Hollonds would undertake a survey of secondary school-age students on issues related to consent.
 
“We are providing the Australian Human Rights Commission $5 million to develop the survey in partnership with Chanel Contos, founder of Teach Us Consent,” Acting Minister Robert said.
 
“A baseline survey in 2022 will provide a world-leading data set, and support meaningful and practical advice for teachers and officials as they work to implement the recent decision of Education Ministers to strengthen consent and respectful relationships education in the Australian Curriculum.
 
“It will also further inform the Government’s work on respectful relationships and national prevention strategies on a range of issues.”
 
Our Watch chief executive Patty Kinnersly commended the Morrison Government for taking action and for prioritising prevention as one of the most important tools we have for ending violence against women.
 
“This record investment in Our Watch not only attests to the importance and impact of our work, but also to the belief, backed by national and international evidence, that violence against women is preventable,” Ms Kinnersly said.

“Our Watch is seeing record demand for our support and services in universities, workplaces and sporting clubs and organisations. People want to be part of this change, and this investment will allow us to reach more people in more places across the nation. 
 
“In addition to prevention services, we’ll also develop and share new primary prevention knowledge, policy, practice and campaigns, allowing us to reach more people directly, and to support and work with others in the sector to extend their community reach and impact too.

“By working in partnership with the government, the sector, community groups and all Australians, we can, and we will, achieve our vision to end violence against women.”
 
These measures respond to significant stakeholder feedback during the 18-month consultation for the next National Plan – to increase investment in prevention including public campaigns on respectful relationships and consent, and to work with men before they perpetrate and offer pathways to support.
 
A report released today contains the findings of the nation-wide research commissioned by the Morrison Government to inform the consent campaign.
 
The research conducted by Kantar Public found that while there is widespread recognition that sexual consent needs to be addressed among young Australians, adults largely avoid the topic due to concerns that they are not on the same page.
 
Half of all Australians (48 per cent) are conflicted in their understanding of the problem and lack confidence in their ability to define consent.
 
Positively, the research also found that there is a strong desire for clarity and leadership on the issue, with close to nine in ten (86 per cent) agreeing adults should talk to young people more about the topic of consent.  To read the report visit the Department of Social Services website.

If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault, domestic or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit www.1800RESPECT.org.au.

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