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Sex education for all -

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Sex education for all

The World Today - Friday, 4 July , 2008 12:23:00

Reporter: Meredith Griffiths

ELEANOR HALL: The Senate Inquiry into the sexualisation of children was tabled in the Federal
Parliament this week and one of its recommendations was a national approach to sex and relationship
education in schools.

Many young people have been complaining that what they're taught in class is not relevant to their
lives.

Now researchers from the University of Western Sydney have put together a program that they say
will work for 16 to 25-year-olds.

Their findings are being presented at a conference in Melbourne today as Meredith Griffiths
reports.

MEREDITH GRIFFITHS: Rape crisis workers say about 70 per cent of sexual assault victims know their
attacker and in the remaining 30 per cent, the perpetrator is usually someone they've gone on a
date with or met socially.

For the past three years Associate Professor Moira Carmody from the University of Western Sydney's
Social Justice and Social Change Research Centre has been running a program with young people
trying to prevent such attacks from occurring.

MOIRA CARMODY: They found it very useful in terms of feeling like they were more in charge of what
was happening and that it was about negotiating with the other person.

There were also a number of examples where people talked about being in a club and a bar and say, a
young woman was very drunk and this person saw her being led off to a taxi by three guys, and she
intervened and took the girl with her and took her home.

Guys talked about standing up in front of blokes who were really harassing women who were quite
drunk in a club and saying, "Back off mate".

MEREDITH GRIFFITHS: First she interviewed young people about their sexual behaviour, experiences
and concerns, then used that information to devise the six week program that has been run in six
communities in Sydney and regional New South Wales.

MOIRA CARMODY: It's really about what they're doing because a lot of programs tend to focus just on
biology and safe sex, but they don't - as some of the young people said to me - they don't tell us
how to pick up.

They don't tell us how to work out how to do consent, how to communicate with people. Those sort of
things were what they were interested in.

MEREDITH GRIFFITHS: As part of the program the young people did role plays, were trained to
interpret body language, practise standing up to people, raise issues with their friends, and they
were encouraged to reflect on their behaviour and expectations.

Associate Professor Carmody says the young people found their new skills useful when they picked up
someone in a club or a bar.

MOIRA CARMODY: They said look, this is what I'm kind of interested in, what are you interested in,
so they kind of negotiated before they even got, you know, down to the action so to speak.

Now this might sound a bit, you known, sort of mechanistic and a bit of a passion killer but in
fact they didn't experience it that way. They felt very kind of empowered by it and felt they were
knowing what they were buying if you like.

MEREDITH GRIFFITHS: The 48 mainly female participants were interviewed at the beginning and end of
the program, and then again six months later.

Karen Willis from the New South Wales Rape Crisis Centre says she's supporting the program because
it's changed people's behaviour.

KAREN WILLIS: It actually encourages people to talk about what they're doing, to check on their
partner to make sure it's ok, to make sure that they are both on same page and they are thinking
along the same lines, because certainly a lot of the research suggested that people make mistakes
in their assumptions about what other people are wanting and not wanting.

And we would really to decrease that because that obviously can lead to criminal as well as
unethical behaviour.

MEREDITH GRIFFITHS: Associate Professor Moira Carmody will publish her findings in a book later
this year and hopes the program will be adopted in schools, youth centres, universities and TAFE
colleges across the country.

ELEANOR HALL: Meredith Griffiths reporting.