Government, Catholic and Independent schools have agreed to help drive community and cultural change around sexual assault and violence by signing a Statement of Intent to strengthen the understanding of consent and harm prevention in the school community.
Minister for Education and Early Childhood Learning Sarah Mitchell today welcomed the cross-sector agreement, saying it was an important first step by the education sector in leading meaningful change to address this community-wide challenge.
“The testimonies of so many young people have created momentum on a whole-of-society issue that requires a coordinated response across government and the community,” Ms Mitchell said.
“While this is a whole-of-society challenge, the statement signed by the three education heads acknowledges the key role schools and teachers, in partnership with parents and parent organisations, will play in supporting change for people of school age and in the broader community.”
“Through this Statement of Intent all education systems make a commitment to the young women who have spoken out with such strength: that we will do whatever is in our power as leaders and educators to make sure their sisters, or their daughters, and their friends, and future generations do not have to give similar testimony,” Ms Mitchell said.
The Statement of Intent identifies key areas where the education system and schools could lead meaningful change through:
- curriculum provision based on evidence and best practice
- increased support for teachers and school leaders
- making sure the views of students were heard; and
- strengthening community and parent connections.
Ahead of today’s signing, Ms Mitchell said consultation had occurred with the NSW Youth Advisory Council and her own Minister’s Student Council as students were the most important stakeholders in this conversation.
“The first thing we must do is listen to their lived experiences and views on how we can prevent harmful sexual behaviours,” she said.
Ms Mitchell also called on parents – as the most important educators of children – to support this work by talking to their children about respect and consent.
“These aren’t necessarily easy conversations around the dinner table and as parents we don’t always know if we have the language right.
“I recognise that so many schools already work closely with their families, community organisations, government agencies and most importantly the children and young people in their care to help address these important challenges. However, more can always be done.
“That’s where the education system and schools, in partnership with community organisations can help. We can offer the programs, resources and two-way dialogue to support parent and community engagement.”
As a concrete first action for the NSW public school system, the Department of Education will be reviewing and revising the resources offered to both teachers and parents to help support student learning on this important issue.