With the Mallee region boasting one of the highest teenage pregnancy rates in Victoria and the country, young people are providing solutions to health services and government on how they can be on top of sex education.

Youth Affairs Council Victoria (YACVic), the peak body for young people and the youth sector, partnered with Women’s Health Loddon Mallee and the Centre of Excellence in Rural Sexual Health on “Sexy and Safe: Let’s Talk About It” to understand the attitudes and behaviours regarding sex in young people in the region.

Alarmingly, the report found that less than 1 in 5 young people in the Mallee use condoms every time they have sex.

“There are many barriers including cost, judgement, embarrassment and lack of transport which impact on a young people’s ability to access what they need, when they need it,” says YACVic Southern Mallee Rural Development Co-ordinator Rhiannon Jennings.

“Considerable change in approach and delivery of sexual and reproductive health is essential.”

Senior Health Promotion Manager at the Centre for Excellence in Rural Sexual Health, Kylie Stephens says that “hearing directly from rural young people about the gaps in services, inconsistent sexuality education and stigma related to sexual and reproductive health will provide clear directions for future action”.

“There is also a role for all of us to play to contribute to the larger conversation around positive sexuality and sexual well-being in our communities,” says Kylie.

The report and consultations were co-designed by young people, with 21 year-old Swan Hill local Mia Rovere playing a key role throughout the project in ensuring young people were heard the loudest.

“Young people are experts in their own lives, so their voices should be the loudest and most considered when seeking to understand the issues and the potential solutions to the current youth sexual health crisis in rural and regional Victoria,” says Mia Rovere.

Mia’s personal experience of seeking support for teenage pregnancy opened her eyes as to the lack of support that young people could receive in the Mallee, and the lack of interactions between health services and young people. She believes that young people are key to creating real change.

“It is the voices of these young people that must be not only listened to, but actioned if we are to see real change, both with and for young people, in the delivery of youth sexual health education, services, resourcing and supports in our region,” says Mia.

“My hope from this work is that one day all young people, especially those in rural areas will not have to face barriers that I have had to face. Those of stigma, judgement, lack of confidentiality and lack of service options/provision.”

Read the full reports: sexyandsafe.com.au

Media contact: Thomas Feng, YACVic Media and Communications Manager, 0431285275

Rhiannon Jennings, YACVic Southern Mallee Rural Development Co-ordinator is available for further comment. Mia is also available for further comment.

About Youth Affairs Council Victoria (YACVic)

Youth Affairs Council Victoria (YACVic) is the peak body and leading advocate for young people aged 12–25 and youth workers in Victoria. Our vision is that young Victorians have their rights upheld and are valued as active participants in their communities.

YACVic leads policy responses to issues affecting young people, represents the youth sector to government, resources high quality youth work practice, research and advocate on youth issues. We value our members and prioritise their needs.