Key Research Reports


Emeritus Professor Bruce Johnson speaks at the launch of the project's Stage One Report: ‘It is not all about sex’: Young people’s views about sexuality and relationships education

The Engaging Young People in Sexuality Education research project addresses two questions:

1) What are young people’s views on school-based sexuality and relationships education?
2) In what ways could sexuality and relationships education be improved?

This report focuses on findings from the first stage of the research project, consisting of an online survey of over 2,000 students in 31 secondary schools in South Australia and Victoria. The research was conducted in government secondary schools in South Australia (14) and Victoria (17).

Summary of findings

School-based sexuality and relationships education programs were a significantly used and trusted source of information for the majority of students in this study. However, students offered a number of suggestions to improve sexuality and relationships education. They wanted less repetition of the biological aspects of human sexuality, and more explicit and accurate information about gender diversity, violence in relationships, intimacy, sexual pleasure and love. While a number of students (particularly girls) felt uncomfortable or embarrassed during sexuality and relationships education lessons, many still viewed the lessons to be important and relevant to their present and future lives. The findings of this study clearly show that students want to have some input into what and how they learn in sexuality and relationships education. They highlight the importance of continuing to engage with students about these issues.

Growing Up Queer: Issues Facing Young Australians Who Are Gender Variant and Sexuality Diverse

This pilot research – Growing Up Queer (February 2014) – was conducted by Professor Kerry Robinson, Dr Peter Bansel, Dr Nida Denson, Dr Georgia Ovenden and Cristyn Davies from the University of Western Sydney in collaboration with Twenty10 incorporating GLCS NSW, a place where young people who identify as being of diverse genders, sexes and sexualities, their families and communities, can receive holistic, relevant and innovative therapeutic and practical support. The research, based on a national online survey and focus group/workshops, aimed to investigate the issues these young Australians are facing in relation to: gender and sexuality identity; family relationships; education; work-place experiences; and accessing relevant resources and support organisations.


The Fifth National Survey of Australian Secondary Students and Sexual Health 2013 involved over 2,000 Year 10, 11, and 12 students from the Government, Catholic and Independent school systems and from every jurisdiction in Australia. The project was authored by: Anne Mitchell, Kent Patrick, Wendy Heywood, Pamela Blackman, Marian K Pitts.


The Young People and Sexting in Australia report (April 2013) presents the findings of a qualitative study of young people’s understandings of, and responses to, current Australian laws, media and educational resources that address sexting. While there are many definitions of sexting, for the purposes of this report we are referring to the production and distribution of naked or semi-naked photographs via mobile phones and social media. The report was written by Kath Albury, Kate Crawford, Paul Byron, and Ben Mathews.

The project involved a review of both international local and academic research as well as popular media addressing sexting, and a review of educational resources for young people. Three focus groups were conducted with young people aged 16 and 17 in 2012, and a working paper based on those findings was then distributed to adult stakeholders in the fields of law enforcement, youth and children’s legal support, education, criminology, media and communications, youth work, youth health care, counselling and youth health promotion. This report therefore draws on both the focus group discussions, and a workshop consultation with the adult stakeholder group.


Building Capacity in Sexuality Education (2012): Debbie Ollis, Lyn Harrison and Anthony Richardson. This Northern Bay College Experience report is included here for 2 main reasons. Firstly young Australians who are gender variant and sexuality diverse are often invisible in sexuality education and worse bullied and harassed in schools, so this report makes clear their rights and needs. Secondly the Growing Up Queer research project used similar research methods to give the young people a voice and opportunities  to contribute to the development of resources that will improve the quality of their health and wellbeing as our Engaging Young People in Sexuality Education Research Project  aims to provide.


Old enough to know: Consulting children about sex education and AIDS in Africa (2012), Colleen McLaughlin, Sharlene Swartz, Susan Kiragu, Shelina Walli & Massa Mohamed

This compelling study, comprising of a sample of eight schools in three countries in sub-Saharan Africa -Kenya, South Africa and Tanzania - examines the sources, contents and processes of children´s community-based sexual knowledges and asks how these knowledges interact with AIDS education programmes in school. Old enough to know showcases the possibilities of consulting pupils using engaging, interactive and visual methods including digital still photography, mini-video documentaries, as well as interviews and observations. These innovative methods allow children to speak freely and openly in contexts where talking about sex to adults is a cultural taboo. The study also sheds fresh light on teachers´ fears and struggles with a lack of training and limited opportunities for reflection on practice. It engages in dialogue with conflicting voices of community stakeholders who are both aware of the dangers faced by children living in a world with AIDS and who are also afraid of the many cultural, religious and moral restraints to sex education in Africa.


 They Need to KnowA report on teachers’ use of the South  Australian Relationships and Sexual Health Curriculum (SHine SA), Uni SA 2012

Bruce Johnson used a mixed method research approach involving focus group interviews and an online survey with  teachers from South Australian government secondary schools. This report outlines what contemporary issues the teachers face teaching about sexual health, and how they address them.


Writing Themselves In 3: The third national study on the sexual health and wellbeing of same sex attracted and gender questioning young people

Written by Lyn Hillier, Tiffany Jones, Marissa Monagle, Naomi Overton, Luke Gahan, Jennifer Blackman and Anne Mitchell from the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, at La Trobe University in 2010. Writing Themselves in 3 is the third of the Writing Themselves In national reports which have been conducted six years apart since 1998. In 2010, a total of 3134 same sex attracted and gender questioning (SSAGQ) young people participated in Writing Themselves In 3 (WTi3), almost double the number in 2004 and more than 4 times that of 1998. The participants, who were aged between 14 and 21 years, came from all states and territories of Australia, from remote (2%), rural (18%) and urban (67%) areas and from a range of culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds. There were more young women (57%) than young men (41%) and a smaller group (3%) who were gender questioning (GQ).


Respectful Relationships Education Violence prevention was published by the Communications Division for the Student Wellbeing Division, Department of Education and Early Childhood Development Victoria in 2009. Authored by Michael Flood, Lara Fergus and Melanie Heenan from the Victoria Health Promotion Foundation, the report is intended to advance violence prevention efforts in schools in Victoria and around Australia. It is the outcome of the Violence Prevention, Intervention and Respectful Relationships Education in Victorian Secondary Schools Project, undertaken by the Victorian Health Promotion Foundation (VicHealth) on behalf of the Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD).

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