The Australian – April 14, 2016
Natasha Bita – National correspondent, Brisbane
Students as young as 12 will study sexualised personal ads and write their own advertisements seeking the “perfect partner’’ as part of a new school curriculum supposed to combat family violence.
The classroom material includes an example ad from a “lustful, sexually generous’’ person seeking “sexy freak out with similarly intentioned woman’’.
Another ad — to be analysed by Year 8 students aged 12 and 13 — is from a “30-year-old blonde bombshell, wild and sexy, living in the fast lane’’.
“Can you keep up?’’ it asks.
A third example cites a “hot gay gal 19yo’’ who is seeking an “outgoing fem 18-25 into nature, sport and night-life for friendship and relationship’’.
Children are instructed to “write your own personal ad for the perfect partner’’.
The Building Respectful Relationships material, which is meant to prevent family violence, is replacing religious education lessons during class time in Victorian state schools this year. The Andrews Labor government yesterday announced it would spend $21.8 million over the next two years to expand the program to kindergarten and primary schools as part of its $572m package to combat family violence. The funding will target 120 “lighthouse schools’’ and train thousands of teachers, and up to 4000 childcare workers, to teach the respectful relationships program.
Victorian Education Minister James Merlino said the Australian-first program had been developed in response to the recent Royal Commission into Family Violence. “By having this program in Victorian schools and kindergartens, our student will learn from a very young age that the best relationships are respectful ones,’’ Mr Merlino said.
Victoria pioneered the Safe Schools Coalition, designed to protect gay and intersex students. The federal government has ordered Safe Schools to change its curriculum by removing teaching material and web links deemed unsuitable for young teenagers.
Victoria’s new 203-page curriculum document, prepared by the state Department of Education and Training, teaches high school students about respectful relationships, sexual harassment, gender-based violence, the laws of consent and the dangers of “sexting’’. A section on “respectful partners’’ also exposes young teenagers to sexualised personal ads. The curriculum guide instructs teachers to use the sample ads, or else collect their own from online dating sites or newspapers.
“If using your own, you need to ensure that they reflect a diverse range of ages and sexualities,’’ it says. “Make sure that you look at these (online dating) sites before the students, as you need to ensure they are age-appropriate.
“You will need to explain some abbreviations or get the students to work out what they mean.’’
The guide says the activity is “designed to get students to think about the characteristics of an intimate relationship and how the expectations of this relationship can differ from other types of relationships’’.
“Ask students to write their own personal ad for the perfect partner,’’ it says. “This could be done as a homework or assessment task.’’
Apart from the sexualised examples, the case studies include a “30-year-old single mother” who “seeks understanding man for romantic relationship possible marriage’’. Another states: “Slim dark-skinned older guy — looks young and fit — seeks guy 25-40 who likes love and affection, kissing etc’’.
Students are told to answer questions such as “What are older people looking for in a relationship?’ Does what is important in a relationship change as people age? Does it change for same-sex relationships? Does it change for cultural reasons?’’
Students also learn about what constitutes sexual harassment- including staring, suggestive comments, and sending sexually explicit emails or text messages.
The document sets out the ages of consent for sex, and spells out that sexual contact between family members, doctors or teachers is against the law. Students are taught that sexual acts are not consensual if they submit because of force, fear or fraud, or are asleep, unconscious, drugged or drunk, or incapable of understanding the sexual nature of the act. The teaching guide advises teachers to prevent children disclosing their sexual abuse in class. It says it is important students are told in advance they will be discussing violence to “allow them to withdraw if they find these issues personally confronting’’.
“Students also need to be protected from making harmful disclosures,’’ it says. “In other words, every student has the right not to offer an opinion. If teachers feel students may say something inappropriate, a useful strategy to prevent this is protective interruption which means interrupting students before they disclose, while at the same time informing them they can talk privately with the teacher after class.’’
The document reminds teachers that they are legally required to report to Child Protection if they believe a student is at risk of harm or neglect, or is being subjected to physical or sexual abuse.
The document cites Australian Institute of Criminology statistics showing that one in four children and young people witness or live with family violence in their home.