Read More: Int Women’s Day, Meeting with Chanel Contos, How to Have Conversations Around Consent and SchoolTV Resources.
International Women’s Day
Yesterday’s College Assembly was a celebration of International Women’s Day where we took the opportunity to thank and acknowledge the significant contributions and achievements of women across the globe’s social, economic, cultural and political arenas and also in our context to the development and improvement of the College itself. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity.
Our special guests at the assembly were from our two neighbouring girls schools, Mrs Kerrie McDiarmid (Principal St Clare’s College) and students from St Clare’s College along with Ms Daisy Turnbull (Director of Wellbeing St Catherine’s School) and students from St Catherine’s School.
Our own Ms Belinda Buchan, PDHPE Teacher and recent awardee of the inaugural Percy Watson Teaching Excellence Award, gave an inspiring speech where she challenged us to stand up and challenge behaviours and practices that make equality more difficult to achieve in all walks of life for women.
Ms Buchan pointed out that there have been many leaps forward in gender equality, however, reports of gender inequality still exist between young women and young men, and is evident by the issues of the past few weeks surrounding positive, respectful relationships and consent, making this International Women’s Day even more important for our community.
Ms Buchan also challenged us to embrace feminism as its key aim is to end gender discrimination and bring about gender equality. She quoted Australian scholar, teacher, writer and consultant Dr Dale Spender to support her argument.
“Feminism has fought no wars. It has killed no opponents. It has set up no concentration camps, starved no enemies, practised no cruelties. Its battles have been for education, for the vote, for better working conditions, for safety in the streets, for child care, for social welfare, for rape crisis centres, women’s refuges, reforms in the law.
If someone says, ‘Oh, I’m not a feminist’, I ask, ‘Why? What’s your problem?”
Gender equality should be as important for men as it is for women. Thank you to all women who are part of the College community, our teachers, support staff, parents, sisters, aunts, grandmothers and two nearby girls schools, who play a critical role in contributing significantly to making Waverley an educational environment that is forward thinking, that wants to do better, can do better, and will do better.
Meeting with Ms Chanel Contos
Nine eastern suburbs principals met this week in relation to Ms Chanel Contos’ online petition and the accompanying testimonies. We were very grateful that Chanel joined us at the meeting (via Zoom). She explained to us her reasons for launching the petition and spoke of her resolve to reduce the rate of sexual assault of young women in our schools and more broadly in society. She told us she would like school students to receive a more holistic sex education from an earlier age. She felt it was important that schools use their position to challenge a culture that objectifies women, normalises sexual abuse and assault, and shames and blames the victims of those assaults. She also pointed out that schools do not adequately address the needs of LGBTIQA+ students in sex education programs, which leaves them isolated and vulnerable. Chanel’s overall message, however, was one of optimism: that we should not be looking back in blame but looking forward to what we can do to instigate change.
It was a very valuable and productive meeting, giving us the opportunity to talk candidly about the scale of the problem, what we have done so far to address it, and what we will do from here. Our meeting with Chanel helped reinforce the fact that there is much more we can do, and do earlier. We have made a commitment to audit our programs and share best practice with each other. We will find ways for our young men and women to spend more time together in school settings so they can get to know each other for the good young men and women they are. We will also meet as a group frequently to keep the issue at the front of our minds. Our aim is to implement sustainable programs over the long term that will lead to a cultural shift.
The testimonies have lifted the lid on a toxic culture that has shocked us all; we are determined to work together, with our communities, to challenge and dismantle that culture.
Attendees: Cranbrook School Mr Nicholas Sampson; Kambala School Mr Shane Hogan; Kincoppal-Rose Bay Ms Maureen Ryan; St Vincent’s College Mrs Anne Fry; Sydney Grammar Dr Richard Malpass; The Scots College Dr Ian Lambert; St Catherine’s School Dr Julie Townsend; Ascham School Mr Andrew Powell; and Waverley College Mr Graham Leddie.
Years 5-12 Programs – Consent
Further to my communication with all parents and caregivers on 23 February regarding respectful relationships and consent. Please see below information on the topics we cover in respective year levels in classes and the outside experts we bring in to support these programs. Our House-based Student Formation, Wellbeing Program, and Service Learning Programs add further scaffolding to each student’s overall development and understanding of these essential topics and learnings.
The boys cover the unit of learning ‘Developing Healthy Relationships’. In this unit we cover relationships, behaviour and identity, rights and responsibilities, respectful relationships, peer pressure, and emotions when making decisions.
The boys cover the unit of learning ‘Exploring Change’. In this unit we cover changes in your body, puberty (affects individuals differently), personal hygiene, changing feelings towards other people, anger and puberty, help seeking strategies to manage change, and human reproduction. These are further enhanced by Elephant Ed who hold four workshops with our students on:
- Workshop 1 – Puberty – changes during puberty and everyone developing differently
- Workshop 2 – Embracing change – Understanding growing up implies new experiences, strategies to manage physical, social and emotional change and hygiene
- Workshop 3 – Introducing Sex – Names and functions of reproductive body parts, consent and communication and answer the ‘5 W’s’
- Workshop 4 – Identity 1 – Gender stereotypes, Identity, sexuality and attraction and promoting acceptance and equality of all people.
The boys cover the unit of learning ‘Let’s All Get Along’, ‘We’re All In This Together’ and ‘Managing Safety and Risk’. In this unit we cover communication and relationships, conflict resolution, power in relationships, domestic violence, child abuse, seeking help, homophobic/ transphobic bullying, sexual harrassment, advocacy in Australia and positive and negative risk-taking behaviour. These are further enhanced by Brainstorm Productions who cover sexting, social media impacts and healthy relationships.
The boys cover the unit of learning ‘Do I, or Don’t I’ – In this unit we cover alcohol causing domestic violence, relationship breakdown and consequences of risky drinking. These are enhanced by YSafe (Yasmin London) and Brainstorm productions who respectively cover sexting /consent / e safety and sexting/social media impacts/healthy relationships.
The boys cover the unit of learning ‘Building Identity’, ‘Talking Sexual Health’ and ‘Men’s Health’. Within Building Identity we cover relationships, respectful relationships, rights and responsibilities in relationships, intimate relationships, decision making in intimate relationships, healthy dating, domestic violence and key signs of an abusive relationship.
In regards to Talking Sexual Health we cover relationships, consent, power in relationships – no means no, sexual abuse, sexual harassment, the #MeToo movement, gender, sexuality and discrimination, challenging norms and stereotypes, sexual choices and their consequences, contraception, safe sex, sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Within Men’s Health we cover, health of Australian males, stereotypes and expectations, body image, males & risk- alcohol & drug use, violence, family, domestic and sexual violence. These are enhanced by Brainstorm productions who cover sexting/social media impacts/healthy relationships and YSafe (Yasmin London) talking about online relationships, pornography and digital wellbeing.
The boys cover the unit of learning ‘Better safe than sorry’.
We cover sexting and consequences, effects of alcohol and relationships and party safe / helping friends in need. These are further enhanced by the following programs;
- Johnny Shannon – Pornography, Consent
- David Kobler – Consent, Pornography, sexual assault
- Brainstorm productions – sexting/social media impacts/healthy relationships
- YSafe (Yasmin London) Digital Footprint and Online Reputation
- Paul Dillon (DATA) – Drug and Alcohol Safety
The boys cover the unit of learning within the Sports Lifestyle and Recreation subject around ‘Sports Coaching roles in teams’ .
All of Year 11 attend the following presentations;
- YSafe (Yasmin London) Online Relationships, Pornography and Digital Wellbeing
- Paul Dillon (DATA) – Drug and Alcohol Safety
- Year 12 Retreat
- Brent Sanders – Consent, making smart decisions, actions/consequences
- Party Safe – Red Frog Promotions
Boys also need to have ongoing conversations about consent with their parents and caregivers. Dr Michael Carr-Greg (psychologist) states that parents need to start having conversations around consent sooner rather than later, as some teens experience their first sexual encounter well before the subject matter is delivered. It is not enough for parents or carers to assume that your teenager knows or understands what consent means and the implications surrounding it. It is important for them to learn about boundaries to enable them to respect themselves and others.
Dr Michael Carr-Greg Advice for SchoolTV
The College provides a SchoolTV subscription to parents regarding a range of informative programs and topics relevant to adolescent development. Dr Michael Carr-Greg has just released a special edition on consent. Other editions are available to you, include sexting, pornography, raising boys, and respectful relationships.
Tips from our Psychologist Team on having the conversation
A conversation about consent with your son might feel uncomfortable, but it is one of the most important conversations you will have, and it needs to happen more than once as he moves through adolescence.
What age is the best time to start having these conversations with your son? As a guide, the students at Waverley College are learning about developing healthy relationships in Year 5, and about Sexual Health and Boundaries by Year 6.
What to cover in the conversation
It may be helpful to use the following points as a checklist when engaging in conversation about consent with your son:
- Sexual consent is a mutual agreement between people to engage in sexual activity and must be free and voluntary.
- If someone is under 16 years old, they can not legally consent to the sexual activity.
- Sexual activity includes sexually touching, sexual acts, recording, and possession/dissemination of sexual images/videos of anyone under the age of 16 (including if it was taken of themself) can be classified as child pornography.
- If someone witnesses the non-consensual sexual activity, then they are ‘in company’ and are just as liable for the acts and utterances of the other participant/s.
- Someone can change their mind and withdraw consent at any time. Regardless, of whether someone is having sex for the first time, the only time or the hundredth time.
What means ‘yes’
- A clear ‘yes’ from all involved ensure consent.
- ‘Yes’ can be verbal or non-verbal cues that show clear interest or enthusiasm.
- Non-verbal cues can be hard to read. So to be safe, a clear verbal ‘yes’ is the most effective way to ensure you have consent.
What means ‘no’
- A clear ‘no’ is a definite ‘no’
- If someone has not clearly said ‘yes’
- If someone is very drunk
- If someone is unconscious
- If someone is asleep
- If someone is not saying ‘no’ that doesn’t mean it is a ‘yes’
- If someone says no through their actions. For example pushing or turning away, silence, avoiding eye contact or becoming upset, these are all signs that the other person is uncomfortable and means ‘no’
- If someone says ‘yes’ because they have been held against their will, forced or threatened to say ‘yes’ than that means ‘no’
- If someone is told ‘no’ in any of the situations listed above and the other person keeps going, that is sexual assault.
How to start the conversation
These conversations can be challenging to navigate, below are some pointers to assist you in starting this conversation with your son:
- Think about where best to have this conversation. Often boys like to be physically doing something when they are reflecting or engaging in more serious conversations. Going for a walk with your son or whilst driving a car can create a more comfortable environment for him to open up and converse.
- Ensure that the tone of the conversation is positive, supportive and inclusive.
- Ensure you are having a direct and unambiguous conversation. The more confident you are speaking about this topic, your son will feel more comfortable.
- Find out what they already know, do not assume their knowledge. Start by asking an open ended question such as “I know the school has been talking about consent recently, what do you know about that?”
- Show empathy and be non judgemental. If your son is not sure, or is saying things that are not reflective of the message we are sending, acknowledge that he knows some things, but there is more to learn in this space – take it as an opportunity to educate him, while still being supportive.
- Challenge your son to think about what consent looks like in their world, such as “What could ‘lack of consent’ look like if you went to a party this weekend?”
- Ask your son to identify what some of the signs may be, that a person is not interested in sexual activity; developing young people’s capacity to read social situations and cues is an important tool. We cannot assume that they will automatically know this.
- Ensure the conversation is reciprocal, you don’t want to be the one doing all the talking, as they may interpret this as a ‘lecture’ and become less engaged.