National school walkout and debate about consent shows demand for better prevention education

Our Watch

Today, hundreds of students across Australia are expected to stage a walkout to demand better consent education, while the NSW Parliament will debate the Chanel Contos petition that received over 42,000 signatures calling for better consent education.

Our Watch CEO Patty Kinnersly said the walkout was a clear message from young people that Australian schools needed to be sites for vital work to prevent violence against women.

“Chanel Contos’ petition and an ongoing national conversation reflect the evidence that schools have a key contribution to make in national efforts to prevent violence against women,” Ms Kinnersly said.

“The evidence is clear – respectful relationships education for both primary and secondary schools can effectively prevent violence against women.

“Respectful relationships education is broader than one-off programs, workshops or even lessons for students; this approach must be whole-of-school, which means looking at school cultures, structures and policies to ensure they promote and support gender equality for students, teachers and the wider community.

“Schools are ‘mini-communities’ where respect, non-violence and equality can be modelled and promoted, shaping attitudes and behaviours at an early stage of life.

“When a whole-of-school approach is taken, schools can be powerful places to support students and staff to prevent violence and build lifelong behaviours and attitudes that will create a safer society for all Australians.”

Emerging evidence from Our Watch’s Respectful Relationships Education Pilot in Primary Schools launched last month showed promising signs of how primary schools could help prevent violence against women, with reports of increased student wellbeing and a decrease in stereotypical attitudes on what girls and boys could do.

This supports Our Watch research from 2015, which also showed how respectful relationships education in secondary schools could lead to positive changes such as students’ increased knowledge about gender, inequality and violence, male students recognising and reflecting on their own behaviours and relationship with other students, and schools reviewing and updating policies to better promote gender equality.

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