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S02.3 Respecting gender and sexual difference to promote sexual health: making schools safe spaces for all
  1. Kerry Robinson
  1. University of Western Sydney, Sydney, Australia


Drawing on international evidence of best practice, and recent and ongoing research funded by the Australian Research Council (ARC) and the Young and Well Collaborative Research Centre (CRC), this presentation highlights how teachers and health professionals can most effectively engage with, and approach gender, sexuality, and sexuality education, to ensure that schools offer relevant and informative education, and safe and supportive environments for all pupils irrespective of gender and sexual identity.

In this presentation it is argued that: (i) comprehensive sexuality education needs to start in early childhood and be built on in primary and secondary schooling; (ii) comprehensive sexuality education needs to be collaboratively informed by sexuality educators and health professionals; (iii) sexuality education programs in school need to be developed in partnership with parents and include parental education on best practices around talking with their children about sexual knowledge and relationships; and (iv) comprehensive sexuality education is critical to building young people’s sexuality literacy, respect for gender and sexuality difference, and awareness of sexual ethics, which are all central to children and young people’s health and well-being and the development of their sexual citizenship.

A mixed-methods approach was employed across the major research informing this presentation. The ARC Discovery funded project included an exploration of primary school children’s understandings of respect, sexual knowledge and relationships and the origins of this information, as well as parents’ and educators’ perspectives and practices talking with children about sexuality education. Data were gathered through surveys, focus groups and individual interviews with parents and educators, and focus groups and interviews with children. The CRC funded project, Growing Up Queer, included a validated online survey of LGBTQI Young People, aged 16–27 years, completed by 1,032 participants nationally. Two focus groups were also conducted, one with LGBTIQ young people, and the other with staff from a support service for gender and sexuality diverse young people.

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