In the wake of recent parliamentary sexual abuse revelations and the petition started by Chanel Contos, the Greens have used International Women’s Day to call for $190 million to be allocated in the May Budget to fund respectful relationships education including sexual consent in all schools across the country.
$190 million over four years would support rolling out Our Watch’s respectful relationships education program, which has been successfully piloted in Victoria and Queensland.
The full roll out would be preceded by a pilot program in all remaining six jurisdictions to help tailor the training, estimated at $12 million over two years for development, implementation and evaluation.
Greens Leader in the Senate and spokesperson on women, Senator Larissa Waters, said:
“What starts with sexual harassment and failure to understand consent in schools ends with rape in Parliament House.
“The last few weeks have proven that we have a lot of work to do as a country to tackle gender-based violence and predatory sexual behaviour. We were all horrified by the thousands of disturbing testimonies from school girls collected as part of Chanel Contos’s petition calling for better and earlier consent education.
“We’ve been disgusted by Canberra’s culture of cover-up and male sexual entitlement revealed by Brittany Higgins’ rape allegations and the subsequent allegations of harassment and assault from other Liberal staffers levelled at the same man.
“And we’ve watched in horror over the past 10 days as our own Prime Minister has ducked and dodged to avoid doing anything at all to respond to allegations of rape against his own Attorney General.
“When Australia’s sick culture of misogyny and sexual entitlement renders Parliament House itself an unsafe workplace for women we know we have a serious problem.
“We can fight this culture and protect women from sexual violence by educating boys and girls from a young age about consent, gender inequality and appropriate and respectful relationships and boundaries.”
“As last year’s Respect@Work report clearly stated, Australia needs respectful relationships education in schools that addresses the causes of gender-based violence, including sexual harassment. This training must be age-appropriate, evidence-based, of a high standard and delivered by experts.
“While many schools currently have some respectful relationship programs after it was included in the national curriculum in 2015, delivery of the content has been inconsistent, piecemeal and can vary in quality from school to school. The Greens believe that only a fully funded and administered national program can ensure that all students at all schools receive the same level of education around consent and respectful relationships.
“That’s why we’re calling for the government to budget $190 million to support a national roll out of Our Watch’s respectful relationships training program that has been piloted so successfully in Queensland and Victoria.
“The training takes a whole-of-school approach to primary prevention of gender-based violence including sexual harassment and abuse, not only providing in-class education but addressing school culture, policies and procedures and promoting gender equality among school staff.
“With the National Action Plan for the Reduction of Violence Against Women and Children currently under review this is an ideal opportunity for the Commonwealth to commit significant resources to a program that is proven to reduce violence and improve equality.
“The women of Australia deserve no less,” concluded Senator Waters.
Senator Mehreen Faruqi, Greens spokesperson for Education, said:
“Governments must recognise that school education is as much about ensuring young people become respectful members of the community as it is about learning the ‘hard’ skills and knowledge required for the modern world.
“A national rollout of school-based programs about respectful relationships is long overdue.
“In our patriarchal society, boys, in particular, are at risk of developing harmful attitudes and behaviours which can lead to sexual violence and harassment.
“You only need to look at the sexist culture of parliament and the behaviour of the boys’ club to see what harm the private boys’ school clique can do in the absence of intervention.”