Consent and Respectful Relationships Education

An Albanese Labor Government will provide the support schools need to make sure Australian students receive age-appropriate consent and respectful relationships education to help prevent violence and keep kids safe.

Every Australian wants to keep our kids safe and make sure they know how to form healthy relationships with friends and loved ones as they grow up.

Age-appropriate, consent-based respectful relationships and protective behaviours programs can help keep children and young people safe from abuse and assault, tackle gender inequality and family violence, and improve behaviour in the classroom.

Labor will:

Partner with participating states, territories and school systems to support the rollout of consent-based respectful relationships and protective behaviours programs with $77.6 million in grants to help schools invest in teacher training and partner with quality external providers.

Work with the Education Council to review how the existing minimum standards for consent and respectful relationships education in the national curriculum are being delivered in schools around Australia to identify any opportunities for improvement.

Set up a National Respectful Relationships Education Expert Group to help school systems deliver evidence-based programs that suit their school community.

The problem:

The current approach to consent education isn’t working. Some schools are doing a great job, but many others don’t have the support and resources they need, leaving young people missing out on high-quality, evidence-based education.

Just one in five parents say their child’s school offered protective behaviours programs that help keep kids safe from child abuse – this leaves our kids vulnerable.

Too many school students experience sexual harassment and assault – the viral Teach Us Consent campaign has led to more than 6,700 young women sharing their experience of being sexually assaulted as school students and 45,000 people signing the petition calling for better consent education in schools.

Education Ministers recently agreed to strengthen mandatory consent education in the national curriculum, but schools need more support to deliver these lessons in the classroom.

The Morrison Government has dropped the ball on respectful relationships and consent education – first they waited for the situation to reach crisis point before acting, then they botched the response.

The Government first announced their RespectMatters resources in 2015 but they stalled for six years.

They tried to slash funding for the program in half in the 2020 Budget.

And when the materials were finally released, including the notorious “milkshake video”, many of them had to be taken down after experts described them as “bizarre, concerning, confusing” and “harmful.”

The details:

Consent Education Grants

Labor will invest $77.6 million to deliver high quality, age-appropriate, consent-based respectful relationships and protective behaviours programs in Australian primary and high schools.

The funding will be delivered in partnership with states, territories and non-government school systems and will support schools to invest in teacher training and release time, roll out “whole-school” approaches to violence prevention, and partner with quality external providers.

Participating states, territories and non-government school systems will be able to partner with the Commonwealth in a co-funding arrangement to pilot or expand best practice, evidence-based respectful relationships and protective behaviours education in their schools. The grant funding will be able to support all Australian schools, subject to participation by school systems, with states and territories expected to make a significant contribution to the funding and deliver of programs.

The Commonwealth grants will incentivise action by school systems with the aim of achieving more consistent, high quality education in schools across the country.

The funding will be rolled out from 2023 and will be informed by the Rapid Review and advice from the National Expert Respectful Relationships Expert Group.

Rapid review of consent education

Respectful relationship education is already a requirement of the curriculum in all Australian schools, but not all programs operating in schools are evidence based and best practice.

We need to know what’s happening in the classroom so we can help schools fill the gaps.

Labor will work with states and territories and non-government schools through the Education Council to review how respectful relationships and protective behaviours programs are currently being taught in schools. The review will help identify areas for improvement, like improved resources or better support from education departments.

The review will be conducted in 2022 and will inform the implementation of the Consent Education Grants Program.

This work for the Education Council will be led by the National Respectful Relationships Education Expert Group.

National Expert Group

Labor will establish a National Respectful Relationships Education Expert Group to support the roll out of high-quality, age-appropriate, evidence-based respectful relationships and protective behaviours programs across Australian schools.

The Expert Group will:

Review delivery of consent, respectful relationships and protective behaviours education in Australian schools.

Accredit external providers so schools know they are delivering high-quality, evidence-based programs.

Work with and advise school systems on how to deliver tailored evidence-based respectful relationships education that suits their school community.

The Expert Group will be funded for an initial three years and will be supported by a unit in the Department of Education, Skills and Employment. The expert panel will be funded through existing departmental resources.

The benefits:

International and Australian studies show that respectful relationships education is one of the most promising strategies to promote gender equality and prevent domestic and family violence, sexual assault and sexual harassment.

Reviews of school based protective behaviours programs have found them effective in increasing children’s skills in protective behaviours – helping keep kids safe from abuse. Children who participate in child safe protective behaviours programs are more likely to disclose their abuse if it has occurred and seek help.

Respectful relationships education is an important student wellbeing initiative that supports students’ resilience, helps children develop healthy relationships and meet their full potential.

Respectful relationships programs are also good for learning outcomes. The evaluation of OurWatch’s respectful relationships pilot in Victoria found clear, consistent positive impacts on students’ attitudes, knowledge and skills. Two thirds of teachers reported improvements in classroom behaviour and almost half of teachers said their own relationships with their students improved.

Better behaviour in Australian classrooms means better learning environments and better student outcomes.