On Thursday, June 24, 2021, students were seen marching in the Adelaide CBD against sexual violence. The focus was to demand the Australian Government act on implementing and improving consent and sexual education in their schools. (Image source: Argyro Vourdoumpa via The Greek Herald)
Content warning: This article contains discussion around sexual violence and harassment that may be distressing for some readers.
By Crissalen Jumamoy I @Crissalen_
Thousands of youthful students across Australia on Thursday, June 24, 2021, left school mid-afternoon to protest and unite against sexism and sexual violence. The protestors demanded the Australian Federal and State government to acknowledge, discuss, and put into action mandatory and holistic ethics-based education for their young people.
The education reform desired includes addressing important issues such as sexual assault, consent and coercion, LGBTQ+ identities, sexual education, healthy relationships, and misogyny.
According to The Australian Bureau of Statistics, gender-based violence, specifically towards women, begins within school communities.
The highest rate of sexual assault crimes that were reported to police were women aged 15-19 with the highest offenders’ rate being males aged 15-19.
Between 2018-19, police charged approximately 300 children aged 10-14 with a minimum of one sexual assault case.
In Adelaide, the protest was organised by Youth Against Sexual Violence (YASV) South Australia with the help of Justice4Women SA.
The prime organisation, YASV, was formed less than a month ago with the aim to provide resources for women and youth while pressuring the government for education reforms.
A primary organiser of YASV, Anna McGrath, believes the protest is an important method to speak out about what is an ongoing issue.
“In recent years, but also throughout history, young women and youth in general have had a lot of experience with sexual violence and the toxic cultures that enable it.”
The speakers throughout the day consisted of former Labor MP Kate Ellis, Karen Keavye, and three young women still in high school.
A student from Unley high school, Bella, during her public speech says she is sick of explaining that when someone says no, it does not mean to convince or coerce them into a yes.
“It is wrong and again I say I am a child.”
Two students from Brighton Secondary School agree that education reform will make a significant difference to the way young people understand consent.
“If we can bring in these morals and new learnings into our society at a young age. It will definitely bring down the harassment and issues we struggle with today,” one student said.
“It will help with the future generations, and we all want to protect each other, we don’t want people to go through the same thing,” the other student says.
The protesters united at Victoria Square (Tarntanyangga) before marching towards the SA Parliament chanting “What do we want? Consent education! When do we want it? Now!”
Former federal Labor MP, Kate Ellis says we all must continue to fight because “every Australian woman deserves to be safe.”
Two Adelaide high students say it is important to protest to make sure we can feel safe anywhere we go.
“People say ‘that’s just one less voice’ but if everyone had that mindset, then no one would be here, and our voices wouldn’t be heard,” says the Adelaide high students.
“It’s really important for us to be here today to show survivors of sexual abuse or assault they aren’t alone,” another attendee says.
Many students from Adelaide high were the main attendees of the protest. One of their students, 17-year-old Jenny, was a public speaker for the day and spoke about her experience with sexism as a woman of colour.
“The suppression and fetishisation of women of colour has been so heavily prevalent in society, fetishisation is not a compliment. It is a problem,” she says in her speech.
Another student from Adelaide high discussed how they were told to consider moving schools because the school couldn’t do anything about their sexual harassment case.
“A lot of the time when people report these cases, nothing is actually done about it… They just want you to stay silent about it a lot of the time,” the student says.
Their friend from Adelaide Botanic High School agrees that “we shouldn’t be objectified for being students at school.”
On the same day of the protest, Adelaide University’s Vice-Chancellor Peter Hoj issued a public apology to sexual assault and harassment victims within their university.
InDaily reported the University of Adelaide’s plan to set up an Integrity Unit and mandatory training on “behavioural expectations and inappropriate behaviours”.
YASV encourages calling out problematic behaviour and supporting survivors of sexual violence during our day-to-day lives.
We strongly advise if you or anyone you know has experienced sexual violence to contact one of the services below.
Yarrow Place – 1800 817 421-64
1800Respect – 1800 737 732
Shine SA Sexual Healthline – 1300 883 793