Why we need sexuality education

This page provides evidence of why sexuality education is important, supporting evidence and information on inclusive sexuality education.

The latest national research has revealed that most young people learn about sex and sexual health (93 per cent) from school-based sexuality education programs (Writing themselves in again, 2005).

Family members were also found to be a significant source of information at 61 per cent.

However, students reported low levels of confidence to discuss sexuality or contraception with parents.

With the latest research telling us that school children are turning to schools and their families for reliable information, it is important to support schools and parents to do the best job they can.

Research tells us that many young people are sexually active in some way and this has increased over the last decade. Research reports two issues of concern:

  • a low level of consistent condom use
  • increased rates of unwanted sex, particularly in relation to alcohol use.

There are numerous competing messages about sexuality in the world. Many are misinformed and sensationalist, yet are often presented in highly communicative styles, through pop videos, advertisements, internet blogs, mobile phones, film, reality TV and television serials.

The primary purpose of many of these messages is to sell a product, not to equip young people with what they need to know for a healthy and fulfilling adult life.

Comprehensive, whole-school sexuality education, that provides consistent and accurate information to all young Victorians from an early age and is respectful of diversity, can contribute to positive behaviour change.

Young people can make good decisions about their sexual health if education policies, programs and services are available to help them.

A shared partnership approach between schools, parents and the local community will ensure sound, evidence-based and responsible sexuality education is readily available for all Victorian young people.

Questions and answers

This document provides answers to some frequently asked questions about sexuality education in schools.

Inclusive sexuality education

To be meaningful for all, it is essential to ensure learning and teaching in school-based sexuality education programs recognise and respond to the diversity of student needs. Forms of diversity include sexual orientation, gender, culture, religion and disability.

The SSAFE (same-sex attracted family environments) in schools project provides an outline of some key research findings. To ensure sexuality education is comprehensive, it should be inclusive and respectful of sexual diversity.

The SSAFE in Schools collection of resources was produced by the same-sex attracted family environments (SSAFE) in schools project, Family Planning Victoria and funded by the Premier’s Drug Prevention Council and VicHealth. The SSAFE resources are now available on this website.

See also: Sexuality education programs and suicide prevention, Teaching Programs page.

Supportive evidence

  • Hillier, L., Bradonjic, Z., Catching On Evaluation, (2006) Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, Melbourne.
  • Hillier, L., Turner, A., Mitchell, A., (2005) Writing themselves in again Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Victoria.
  • Leahy, D., Horne, R. & Harrison, L., (2004) BassCoast Sexuality Education Report: Needs Analysis & PD Evaluation, Deakin University, Melbourne Victoria, 2004.
  • Lindsay, J., Smith, A.M.A. & Rosenthal, D.A. (1997) Secondary Students HIV/AIDS and Sexual Health 1997, Monograph Series No.3, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Victoria.
  • Milton, J. (2003) "Primary School Sex Education Programs: views and experiences of teachers in four primary schools in Sydney, Australia." Sex Education: Sexuality, Society and Learning3(3): 241 - 256.
  • Renold, E. (2000) "'Coming out': gender, (hetero)sexuality and the primary school." Gender and Education12(3): 309-326.
  • Renold, E. (2003) "'If you don't kiss me, you're dumped': boys, boyfriends and heterosexualised masculinities in the primary school." Educational Review55(2): 179-194.
  • Smith, A., Dyson, S, Agius, P., & Pitts, M. (2003) Secondary Students and Sexual Health2002 Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, La Trobe University, Melbourne, Victoria.

Links providing supporting research evidence