New research reveals more than three quarters (79%) of Australians say the sex education they received at school did not prepare them for real life experiences, with less than half (41%) saying their education was adequate.
Concerningly, more than a third (33%) of Aussies say they did not receive any sex education at school, with less than a fifth (19%) saying they learnt about consent and relationships at school – despite more than two-thirds (66%) of Aussies becoming sexually active when they were 18 years old or younger.
The research commissioned by Act for Kids also found one in five (22%) women, and one in ten (10%) men felt pressured the first time they had sex, illustrating the vital need for more open conversations about sex, consent and relationships, and age-appropriate evidence-based sex education.
This Child Protection Week (4-10 September) Act for Kids wants every parent and carer to ‘Get Comfy’ discussing the reality of sex, consent and healthy relationships with their kids and for a strengthening of sex education programs in all Australian schools.
Act for Kids CEO Dr Katrina Lines said the research shows there is a significant knowledge gap when it comes to consent and sex.
“It’s time to change the way Australians talk to children and young people about sex, relationships and consent – far too many people don’t understand the importance of consent and therefore may not feel comfortable to say no,” Dr Lines said.
“Consent should be taught to children from a young age before kids begin primary school with conversations starting in the home environment, such as teaching them how to say no and the meaning of yes versus no. It can be as simple as using the correct language for body parts rather than euphemisms, or explaining your actions in your child’s routines, such as bathing,” she said.
20-year-old Hayden Ryder believes sex education in Australia needs to be changed.
“I absolutely learnt my sex-ed from porn. I think there is a problem with sex-ed in Australia. What would have helped me when I was learning was that it’s not just anatomy and sexual organs, that there are feelings and consent and a relationship.”
One of the worrying issues the research identified was more than half (55%) of Aussies and 60% of young people aged 16-24 years old aren’t comfortable discussing sex with their parents and a third (33%) of parents haven’t spoken to their child about sex.
“It’s time for Aussies to get comfy with discussing the reality of sex, bodies, consent and relationships. Australians need to remove the ick and make it part of everyday conversations. If parents don’t feel they can answer questions, it’s time for them brush up on their own education. We know the correct education and modelling behaviours in school and at home can help to empower people from childhood, adolescence and to adulthood to feel less pressure when it comes to sex and relationships.” Dr Lines explained.
18-year-old Lilah McLennan says the sex education she received in high school came with a stigma and only taught students safe sex.
“There was no talk of consent. And going to the school I went to because it was a religious high school you were always felt to feel shame in some way. There needs to be more a lot more open discussion in sex education,” Lilah said.
Act for Kids is calling on the government to mandate a minimum standard for evidence-based sex education programs in Australian schools to empower young people with better knowledge and confidence when it comes to sex, relationships and consent.