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Educating Girls

What does Meriden say about consent?

Dr Julie Greenhalgh

The recent petition that has been circulating in Australia regarding the issue of consent calls for the holistic teaching of “Consent” to be introduced at an earlier stage in the secondary years. At Meriden, the issue of Consent is addressed implicitly in the PDHPE syllabus of Year 8, and then again, explicitly in Year 9, in accordance with the latest NESA syllabus.

However, at Meriden we do not view the teaching of Consent solely as a topic of content. It cannot be “ticked off”, somewhat like the teaching of Newton’s Laws of Motion. Rather, consent is an attitude of the heart that only survives the onslaught of peer pressure or opportunism if it has been embedded and nurtured from a young age and practised at home and at school.

In my mind, the teaching of Consent should start well before Year 8. In fact, little girls and little boys can be taught empathy and interpersonal responsibility. Learning that humans must be respected and cared for starts with toddlers. “No hitting”, “share your toys”, “listen to your sister”, “take turns” etc are all important lessons for all families that lead to an understanding of the value and worth of all people, and of the responsibility that we all share in caring for one another. Moreover, the glorious diversity that is a distinct feature of this School enables the girls to appreciate the worth of all people regardless of…anything.

Furthermore, the Christian basis for decision-making at Meriden emphasises the notion of community service. Interactions, therefore, are encouraged to be conducted in a spirit of kindness, so that any inter-personal behaviour is based on the wellbeing of the other person. Authentic Christian faith demands the care of others.

So, at Meriden, we aim to contribute to a societal culture of respect by valuing and caring for one another in all areas of the School. Every year, every day. We do this in many ways including the use of students’ names as often as possible; the correct pronunciation of these names; strong pastoral, wellbeing and service programs; small class sizes; good supervision by staff; and zero tolerance of bullying.

We also actively teach our girls and encourage our parents to contribute positively to the safety of the girls. Parent Forums, for example, are held several times each year so that parents can hear advice from well-qualified experts in areas such as safe partying.

Regardless of the quality of the School’s teaching of this topic, we cannot address this topic alone. While schools are ideal places to educate students in lessons of History and Music, for example, the teaching of Consent can only be effective if it is taught in partnership with the home, and from a young age, in a spirit of respect and care for one another.

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