The federal government has dumped a “bizarre” milkshake video from its new consent education website, less than 24 hours after defending the material.
Videos included in the government’s new ‘The Good Society’ education service – which tried to explain issues around sexual consent and assault through metaphors including tacos, swimming with sharks, and milkshakes in a milk bar – were ridiculed as “terrible” by leading politicians.
One video, which prompted perplexed reactions, showed a young woman smearing ice-cream and sprinkles on a man’s face, in an apparent lesson about consent.
On Tuesday morning, it was revealed the education campaign was funded by the federal government to the tune of nearly $4 million. By Tuesday afternoon, two of the videos had been dumped.
“In response to community and stakeholder feedback, two videos have been removed from The Good Society website,” education department secretary Michele Bruniges said.
“The department will continue to engage with experts to evaluate the materials that appear on the website to ensure they are fit for purpose and reflect current experiences and community issues.”
TND has asked exactly which two videos have been removed. However, the controversial milkshake video appears to have been deleted.
TND has also contacted education minister Alan Tudge for comment.
Dr Bruniges noted the website included 350 resources about “respectful relationships”.
“The website is designed to be a live and dynamic resource, with content added, removed, and modified, to ensure it remains current and appropriate,” she said.
It represents a swift reversal of tune from the federal government, which had defended the videos just 24 hours earlier.
“Content on The Good Society website was created by experts and reviewed by a Resource Review Group of subject matter experts,” a department spokesperson told TND on Monday.
“Community members, teachers, and school leaders were also consulted to ensure the content was engaging for students and consistent with community standards.”
The education department said it would “update and refine content as required”, but noted the material “isn’t compulsory” and that schools would “ultimately decide which resources are appropriate for use in their individual classrooms”.
Mr Tudge, in launching the consent education campaign last week, praised the material.
“These materials will provide additional support to better educate young Australians on these issues and have been designed to complement programs already being offered by states and territories,” he said.
Earlier, Victoria’s acting premier slammed the videos, describing them as “confusing”, “cringeworthy” and “terrible”.
James Merlino on Tuesday called for the federal government to pull all content on The Good Society website, which launched last week.
“I was pretty disappointed. It was confusing. It was cringeworthy, it just did not hit the mark,” he said.
“The feedback I’ve heard from students is they’re confused about what it’s even trying to say. It’s a big fail and it’s not a resource that I’ll be recommending to Victorian schools.”
Mr Merlino, who is also the state’s Education Minister, singled out one of the videos entitled ‘Moving the line’, which is designed to teach Year 10 to 12 students about consent.
“I just stopped watching it, it was terrible,” Mr Merlino said.
“The best thing is for the Commonwealth to do is acknowledge, ‘Yep we didn’t get that right and we’re going to redo those resources because they’re just no good’.”
Other obscure demonstrations in the videos include a man with a spear gun attempting to coerce his female partner concerned about sharks to swim at a beach, and a man eating a taco in reference to sexual assault.
Respectful relationships education has been included in the Victorian school curriculum since 2016.
In April, components on consent became compulsory in all primary and secondary government schools.
Mr Merlino said the “nation-leading” program should be rolled out nationwide.
Later, NSW Education Minister Sarah Mitchell described the videos as “pretty woeful”.
“It’s a missed opportunity about an issue that’s really important,” she said.
“I don’t really see the benefit of a milkshake or taco metaphor. I think we should be a lot more upfront with young people when we talk about these issues.”
Former Sydney school student Chanel Contos, who launched a petition earlier in 2021 calling for earlier and improved education on sex and consent, took to Instagram to criticise the videos.
“You can’t teach the logistics of sex talking about the ‘birds and the bees’ and you can’t teach the intricacies of consent using milkshakes,” she said.
“That video is belittling to Australian youth and was clearly not expert informed.
“I know what consent is and honestly I am confused by the message.”
In a statement to announce the new website on April 14, federal Education Minister Alan Tudge said the new resources were developed in conjunction with Our Watch, the eSafety Commissioner, the Foundation for Young Australians and other groups.
But Our Watch and the Foundation for Young Australians have distanced themselves from the project.
FYA said it had introduced to the government a young person in its network who “may have taken part in a confidential reference group process in 2017”.
But the organisation said it had not been asked to “review, use or endorse the materials subsequently”.
Our Watch said it was consulted between late 2017 and early 2019 when the materials were being developed and provided advice.
“We have not been asked to use or endorse the materials subsequently,” it said in a statement.
Act for Kids, a charity that works to prevent and treat child abuse and neglect, has raised concerns about the videos in a letter to Mr Tudge last week.
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