Consent classes will soon be made mandatory for students in Victorian state schools over concerns the issue wasn’t always being addressed head-on.
Acting Premier James Merlino has moved to make teaching consent compulsory in all government schools from next month under an expansion of the Respectful Relationships program.
The initiative previously did not explicitly direct schools to teach consent and instead focused on relationships, sexuality and safety.
Mr Merlino said Victoria and other states should not be complacent on ensuring consent was taught well in classrooms.
Respectful Relationships “is proven to make a real difference and is a recommendation of the Royal Commission into Family Violence,” said Mr Merlino, who is also the state’s education minister.
“It is a program that should be rolled out nationwide. But we have to listen to students, who say they want and need a greater focus on this issue in the classroom.
“It is why we will mandate the teaching of consent in all government schools in an age-appropriate way.”
Under the plan, teachers will be given access to extra resources, guidance and professional development to help ready them to appropriately teach the sensitive topic.
Mr Merlino said his department had been in consultation with sexual assault petitioner Chanel Contos in recent weeks, committing to “continue to further improve our resources to ensure they meet the needs of our schools”.
“Clearly this is an issue across the country,” he said.
“I would encourage every other state and territory and all schools to approach this issue in the same way: listen and take action. Because our students deserve to be heard.”
Opposition Leader Michael O’Brien backed the initiative, although he believes parents – not schools – need to take the lead on teaching consent.
“There’s more that can be done in the classroom but let’s not sideline the role of parents,” he told reporters on Sunday.
“Ultimately, parents have got the primary job to talk about values with their kids. They can be supported by what happens in schools, but let’s not cut parents out of the process.”
The move comes as more than a dozen students and parents of Melbourne’s Wesley College raised allegations of harassment and assault on campus.