The starting point to respectful relationships was in the earliest years of a child’s life rather than the popular media focus on adolescent years and beyond.
That was among the key messages at a forum organised by Brisbane Catholic Education for Year 11 and 12 students on consent and respectful relationships.
The virtual forum brought together speakers including police, counsellors and relationship experts with insights into a topic that has gained significant media coverage in recent months.
The students from across Catholic schools in southeast Queensland were told that the relationships that they formed in their later years of secondary school were impacted by what they had seen in their earliest times.
“This is about involvement in any relationship, not just a sexual relationship, and it starts from our earliest memories when we’re interacting with others,” one of the panel speakers told the gathered students and teachers.
“We have a lot of learned behaviour from our family and friends. And from peers.
“We are seeing this become a complex issue but, in terms of looking at how people interact in relationships, it doesn’t need to be complex.”
Another panellist spoke about the media focus around consent in relationships and its legal implications.
“Consent is really when someone has enough information to want to engage willingly in an activity – any activity,” the panellist said.
“When we ask about what consent is, some young men say it’s a legal requirement.
“What we’re trying to say is that it is a legal requirement but it’s also the morally correct thing to do.
“It’s about trying to build young people’s value systems or moral compasses. Building their value of empathy so that when they put themselves into someone else’s shoes it’s easier to understand.
“It’s not about trying to build better men – it’s trying to build better people.”
Brisbane Catholic Education Executive Director Pam Betts said the forum was valuable for enabling teachers and students to listen to experts and to ask their own questions and raise observations.
“The insights from our students were very impressive,” Miss Betts said.
“They were outstanding ambassadors for their schools, showing a grasp of the key points and the need for wider debate in an area in which we’re continuing to learn.
“I thank all partipants for being so open in this forum and for helping everyone learn more and further develop the conversation.”