The Palaszczuk government will review sexual education in Queensland schools to examine whether consent and reporting is being adequately addressed.
Education Minister Grace Grace has instructed the Director General to work across non-government and state education systems, as well as P&Cs and school communities, to examine the issue.
The measures will include examining the Respectful Relationships Education Program (RREP) to “ensure it adequately addresses sexual consent and reporting and seek the views of young people through the Minister’s Student Advisory Council”.
Ms Grace said Australia’s health and physical education curriculum would also be assessed to see if it was “addressing the needs of students in relation to these issues”.
Viral petition yields harrowing stories
The announcement followed disturbing claims from young Queensland students of sexual assault and rape among the thousands of allegations in the petition created by former Kambala student Chanel Contos, who called for better sex education in schools.
“Young Queenslanders have been sharing their personal stories of disturbing behaviours, including sexual violence, during and after their school years,” Ms Grace said.
On Sunday Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said she would raise the matter with Ms Grace this week.
Parents have a role to play
Ms Grace said parents and the community had a responsibility to support young people in addressing issues of sexual harassment, assault and consent.
“Education can play a role, and Queensland introduced compulsory respectful relationship education into state schools in response to the Not Now, Not Ever report of the Special Taskforce on Domestic and Family Violence in Queensland,” she said.
Greens MP for South Brisbane Amy MacMahon wrote to Ms Grace calling for consent to be taught in Queensland state schools.
“We’re finally having all these discussions about the scourge of rape and sexual assault in workplaces and schools across the country, but meanwhile Queensland schools aren’t even required to teach about consent – it’s a massive blind spot,” she said.
“I’m calling on the state government to make inclusive, trauma-informed and evidence-based education programs on sex, consent and respectful relationships compulsory in Queensland schools.
“If we’re serious about ending rape and sexual assault, we should start by giving young Queenslanders tools to understand and navigate respectful relationships, and address some of the underlying problems driving domestic abuse and sexual violence.”
Individual schools decide how they provide programs
An Education Department spokesperson said government schools are required to provide health and wellbeing education, including respectful relationships education, as part of the Australian Curriculum or as pastoral care.
“Individual state schools determine how they provide age-appropriate programs in consultation with the local school community,” the spokesperson said.
“It is primarily up to parents and carers to educate children about sexuality and relationships. Parents may elect for their children not to participate.
“The Department of Education provides children and young people with knowledge and skills to make informed decisions about health behaviours.”