Leading health promotion charity Life Ed Queensland has welcomed the historic decision by education ministers across Australia to implement mandatory consent education in all schools from 2023.
The mandate means all Australian schools will be required to teach age-appropriate consent education – which includes coercion, gendered stereotypes and power imbalances – from foundation to Year 10.
Life Ed Queensland chief executive officer Michael Fawsitt, said it was vital to teach respectful relationships education to this generation to help prevent bullying, abuse and violence, now and in the future.
“Respect and empathy are fundamental for healthy relationships,” Mr Fawsitt said.
“Children who lack these attitudes and skills, or who are themselves victims of bullying, abuse or violence, are at risk of being unable to form and maintain respectful relationships at school and as adults.
“This takes much more than a single lesson.
“It has to be constantly reinforced and sustained, which is why Life Ed has a program that supports children to develop these skills throughout their school years, working alongside classroom teachers.”
Renowned for its focus on children’s physical health, social and emotional wellbeing and safety, Life Ed has returned to schools in 2022 with a new name and logo – featuring educational mascot Healthy Harold front and centre – and an increased focus on mental health, respectful relationships and consent.
Two of the charity’s most popular programs, Relate Respect Connect and bCyberwise have been updated to meet the increasingly complex challenges children and young people face today.
Based on the ‘Recognise, React, Report’ model, the updated learning modules empower students to be alert to their own body cues that something is “not right” or unsafe; develop the skills needed to react (for example, stop, block, ignore); and report or seek help, in an age-appropriate way.
In another innovation, Life Ed has also adapted its program for the classroom, as an alternative to delivery in the familiar mobile learning centres or Healthy Harold vans.
“Moving our program into the classroom means we have more space to socially distance and implement small group activities,” Mr Fawsitt said.
“What hasn’t changed is the memorable and dynamic learning experience that students take away from our program, and that so many schools love, supported of course by our much-loved educational mascot, Healthy Harold.”
Burnett Heads State School principal Kirsten Clements said it had been wonderful to have Life Education and Harold back into the school with an adapted program to suit the needs of the learners.
“Life Education always delivers important messages to the students in a way that is meaningful, respectful and age-appropriate,” she said.
“With the ever-changing world, the Relate, Respect, Connect module is helping students understand how to connect with their own bodies and feelings to recognise when something doesn’t feel right.
“This is something that students can’t be taught – the feeling of uneasiness, the knowledge to recognise that something isn’t right, the understanding of connecting with their own emotions – this is something that students have to learn for themselves.
“As adults we can guide them, but that feeling, is something they need to recognise themselves.”
*As published on Bundaberg Today on 6 March 2022.