Today’s episode features Chanel Contos, the founder of Teach Us Consent and author of the book Consent Laid Bare. She was the keynote speaker at the Daniel Morcombe Foundation’s Bright Futures NSW forum on October 16, which focussed on how to prevent harmful sexual behaviours in educational settings.
In this episode Chanel tells us how her groundbreaking research on consent – started by an Instagram post during the pandemic – has paved the way for significant reform in consent education in Australia’s education system.
And now, Chanel commutes regularly to Australia from London, where Julia Gillard recently appointed her as Chair of the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership Youth Advisory Committee.
Such is Chanel’s influence, she will be speaking at the National Press Club tomorrow, November 1. This podcast gives a vital preview to that important national discussion.
In February, 2021 Chanel posted an Instagram story asking followers if they or someone close to them had been sexually assaulted by someone when they were at school. She was inundated with replies. So much so that it led her to start the Teach Us Consent website, and a petition with 44,000 signatures and more than 6,600 stories of sexual assault.
Chanel says “I didn’t think it would have that sort of effect, although I did know that of course, this balance was something that was experienced quite universally across Australia, unfortunately.
“I think this behaviour has been so normalised to us, and that’s such a key factor in this, and I think especially women, but also young boys as well in this kind of peer on peer teenage sexual abuse, it’s become something that we’re kind of told we’re very dramatic if we speak up about it or that it’s not important enough or not bad enough or other stories are worse and more extreme.
“But I think the fact that it gave people the confidence to say, just because this isn’t an explicit explicitly violent form of sexual abuse, that doesn’t mean that it’s okay and it doesn’t mean that I can’t say something about it. Which is why it was so explosive.”
Largely thanks to Chanel’s awareness raising – calling for consent education to be included in the national curriculum, in February 2022 Ministers of Education from around Australia unanimously committed to holistic and age appropriate consent education at every school in every year from kindy through to Year 10, starting this year.
“I think the fact that there was just this overwhelming commitment from a lot of Australians and politicians that this was just in no way, shape or form OK, and it came with a solution that addressed, again, this very specific type of sexual violence,” she says.
“I don’t think consent education in the Australian curriculum may be able to prevent all types of child sexual violence, but I think for a large proportion of Australians who are enacting this sort of violence out of entitlement, we can really counteract that kind of mainly male entitlement to those sort of things.”
Chanel says that while Australia has made great progress, it still has a long way to go to fully understand informed consent.
As Denise Morcombe says in the Keeping Kids Safe podcast introduction, it’s time for difficult conversations to shine light on this hidden topic.
This podcast talks openly about child abuse, child sexual abuse, child sexual exploitation and harmful sexual behaviours. Keeping Kids Safe A Bright Futures podcast featuring Chanel Contos is released today October 31, via Daniel Morcombe Foundation website or wherever you get your podcasts.