Clash looms over sex ed videos

Farrah Tomazin

The Andrews [Victorian] government is on a collision course with the powerful Christian lobby over new classroom videos that use animated penises and other sexual imagery to teach students about porn, relationships and raunch culture.

In the latest controversy over the government’s Respectful Relation­ships curriculum, the Australian Christian Lobby has written to Edu­cation Minister James Merlino, ur­ging him remove web links and re­sources they believe cross the line.

The web links take teachers to a number of video lessons with titles such as “Porn — what you should know”, “The truth about desire”, and “When’s the Right Time” (which asks students to consider when they are ready for sex).

But while teachers have discre­tion over whether to use the re­source, ACL state president Dan Fynn said the content was troubling because “it assumes a level of sexual interest and activity which is incon­sistent with the age of their intended audience”.

One of the Lobby’s main concerns centres on a video lesson for stu­dents in years 7 and 8 which features illustrated images of male and fe­male anatomy, topless cowboys, scantily-clad women and a barrage of messages about sex.

“If you’re mixing penises with bums, vaginas or mouths, you should really use a ‘party hat’,” says the narrator of one segment, in refer­ence to the use of condoms.

Elsewhere on the video, a giant penis stands on a theatre stage, while the narrator declares that porn “usually makes the penis look like the boss of the whole show.”

“I’m a great big dick!” says the penis, before scurrying backstage.

Mr Merlino said he watched the videos this week and did not think there was anything wrong with them, particularly as children are al­ready exposed to similar imagery on music clips, magazines or billboards.

The government would not remove any content, he said, because the Respectful Relation­ships curriculum was designed to smash gender stereotypes and teach young people to respect one another, in line with the recommendations of the royal commission into family violence.

“I’m a father of three kids — two in primary school, one in prep — and I want my children to learn about re­spect. I want my kids in high school to watch those videos. I don’t want my girls being victims of family viol­ence, and I don’t want my son to develop disrespectful attitudes to­wards girls and women,” he said.

“I’m not going to be writing re­sources or imposing change on ma­terials that are written by experts and absolutely age-appropriate.”

Mr Merlino’s refusal to back down has set the government on a collision course with the ACL, which is al­ready angered by other parts of Labor’s agenda, such as the Safe Schools initiative, inherent requirement tests for faith-based agencies, and plans to give transgender people the right to change their birth certi­ficates without needing to have sex-change surgery.

Mr Flynn said the group would seek a meeting with Premier Daniel Andrews as soon as possible to raise concerns that the government had an “ideological agenda” that was out of step with many parents and chil­dren.

The Coalition also attacked the Respectful Relationships program on similar grounds this month, even though the resource was first piloted under the Napthine government in a bid to end gender-based violence.

“We know that adolescence is a crucial period when young people develop attitudes towards relation­ships, and that’s why this resource specifically targets students in the important middle years of secondary school,” said then education minis­ter Martin Dixon as he launched the resource in 2014.

Mr Merlino said while the program had been expanded, much of its middle-years content was the same as it was when the Coalition was in power.

Sunday Age (Melbourne), 23 October 2016.