Youth still at risk

Published: April 7, 2011

Time spent as a same sex attracted youth and as a young person in general can be some of the toughest times in someone’s life, yet despite this there still appears to be major shortfalls in the sexual education of children, says Alex Dunkin.

The lack of education about sexual attraction and a lingering homophobia in schools are constantly obvious to the point that same sex attracted youths are three times more likely to commit suicide than their peers.

The national report by La Trobe University, Writing Themselves in 3, found 61 per cent of respondents received verbal abuse from homophobia, resulting in negative behaviour from those affected by the abuse.

Report co-author Professor Lynne Hillier said, “Some young people used avoidance behaviour, for example, 18 per cent hid at recess and lunch and/or did not use change rooms (16 per cent) and toilets (9 per cent). Worst still, 8 per cent left school altogether.”

Some of the results did surprise Hillier as state schools in Victoria, New South Wales, the ACT and Tasmania all have in place an anti-homophobia or sexual-based equity policy.

“These findings are a wake up call to every Australian to rethink how well we support the young people in our lives and to put policy into practice,” Hillier said.

In South Australia, SHineSA has helped the state government implement a sexual education program in schools and acknowledges the difficulties of teaching all students about sexual identity and attraction.

Coordinator of Teacher Education for SHineSA, Jane Flentje, said, “The hard to teach stuff teachers will say are about sexual diversity, sexual violence and stuff around homophobia.

“There are occasionally a couple [of teachers] that are homophobic but mostly some teachers are ignorant.”

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