Jenny Leong presents the Petition for Holistic Consent Sex Education in Parliament

Jenny Leong MP, NSW Greens spokesperson for Women's Rights and Member for Newtown presents a petition for Holistic Consent Sex Education on behalf of 20,986 residents of New South Wales who have raised their voices in support of stronger consent education and better consent laws in our schools and our society.


Ms JENNY LEONG (Newtown) (16:01): On behalf of The Greens and the 20,986 residents of New South Wales who have raised their voices in support of stronger consent education and better consent laws in our schools and our society, I proudly present this petition to the House. Way back in February a young woman named Chanel Contos became a household name overnight when she started collecting testimonials from people across the country shining a light on the assaults, harassment and misogyny they experienced every single day in school settings. Pretty soon those testimonials grew to the thousands: story after story after story of young women being harassed, raped, shamed and bullied, and of young men acting appallingly out of an unchallenged feeling that they owned women's bodies and that they were entitled to do whatever they wanted to those bodies. They were stories of young women who felt unprepared and ill equipped to protect themselves or their friends—and desperately felt that they should not need to have to protect themselves.

One thing was made perfectly clear from these testimonies and the 20,000 people who signed this petition: Young people are not getting the education around sex and consent they need. We can hear their call loudly: "Teach us consent." They want to learn how to behave and recognise behaviour. They want to know what is not okay and where they can go to for help. They want to know how to respond when they experience these assaults or violence. They want everybody to be taught how to be respectful of each other. This petition calls on us as legislators to act to ensure that holistic consent sex education—which acknowledges toxic masculinity, rape culture, slut shaming, victim blaming and sexual coercion, and emphasises on communicative consent, affirmative consent and offers content for all people in our school system and community—is included school curriculums.

The petition also calls for urgent reform to our sexual consent laws in New South Wales. Yesterday it was so wonderful to see real progress on that front in this place with the introduction by the New South Wales Attorney General of the Crimes Legislation Amendment (Sexual Consent Reforms) Bill 2021. Much credit and gratitude must go to the powerful leadership of Saxon Mullins for driving that reform. We will have affirmative consent in New South Wales because of her strength and determination. Earlier today a small group of young activists draped more than 6,000 ribbons over the front fence of Parliament House, just like the one I hold in my hand: one ribbon for every testimonial shared with Teach Us Consent and Chanel Contos.

There is a reason this issue has taken centre stage in the media over the past several months. It is because it is something every woman understands intimately. If I were to walk out on the street right now and ask the first woman I see whether she had ever been harassed, assaulted, pressured, slut-shamed, felt uncomfortable in an intimate setting or not really known what to do when someone ogled her or made a comment about her, or touched her in a way that she did not want, the answer would no doubt be "yes." It has happened to me and it has happened to others in the Chamber and if we do not change how we educate our young people, it will happen to our daughters and our grand-daughters too.

It might feel uncomfortable to hear these stories but, trust me, it is nothing compared with the impact that it has on those who are subjected to sexual assault and sexual violence. Reading through the thousands of testimonies there are recognisable phrases, and the consequences of failing to address them confront us—"We were friends", "I was at a party", "While I was sleeping he wouldn't stop", "I was scared", "I froze", "I didn't know what to do", "I would never have consented to public sex if I had been sober", "Afterwards I went to the bathroom and cried", "He was a friend", "I was trapped, scared", "He groped me", "I didn't tell anyone", "No-one knows", "I was raped by a boy I knew", "I was felt up while I slept by someone who was my friend", "I was 12 years old the first time", "I was afraid to walk down the corridors at school", "The school hasn't taught us enough".

We know that teachers are doing the best they can with what they have, but I do not think any member in this place can say we are doing enough. When we ask, "Are we doing enough?", the answer is overwhelmingly "No". I congratulate everybody who has signed the petition calling for consent to be put on the agenda and for us to make reforms so that no young woman, no young person in our society, ever faces the kind of violence and assault that we have heard in the testimonies shared here today.

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