On National Condom Day, we shine a spotlight on the work of the ‘Yeah Nah’ Explicit, informed, and voluntary agreement to participate in sex.affirmative consent project led by YACVic Rural.
Remidy Burney recalls her sexual education experience in Swan Hill in the Mallee region as awkward, heteronormative, and lacking in important details.
“The girls went and talked about periods, the boys went and talked about erections and that was it,” she said.
“We didn't have the opportunity to learn all things sexual health, consent, boundaries.”
Remidy said that among her peers, this had contributed to unhealthy sexual habits, poor knowledge around sexually transmitted infections, and taboos that hindered open communication between sexual partners.
“Even now as a young adult, I think a lot of people are still struggling to have these conversations.”
The Mallee region of north-eastern Victoria has one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancies in the state.
Data from the Victorian Womens Health Atlas indicated that in 2019, the People aged 15-19 who have had a baby.teenage fertility rate for the Mildura local government area was 18.64 women per 1000, more than double the state’s average of 9.1 women per 1000.
While progress has been made in recent years, stigma and a lack of accessible support services has limited young people’s access to contraceptives.
“They’d go to the chemist. Their friend’s mum works there and serves you. They go to the doctors, same thing,” Remidy said.
YACVic’s ‘Sexy and Safe’ project observed similar challenges in the region, finding that most of the 230 young people surveyed wanted sex education delivered earlier and at every year level in high school, with specialist sex educators.
‘Yeah Nah’ by YACVic is an affirmative consent project training six young peer educators in the Mallee, including Remidy, to co-design sexual health resources and run workshops in local community settings.
‘Yeah Nah’ Affirmative Consent Project Officer Laura Crozier said the project would embrace sexual education that prioritised what young people wanted to learn.
“I'd like there to be more of a focus on the needs and wants of young people rather than the expectations of different school boards and school councils," she said.
Laura said the conservative approach taken to sexual health in the Mallee was contributing to high rates of unplanned teenage pregnancy, and that a holistic approach to education would be effective harm minimisation.
“Safe sex should encompass a lot more than just heterosexual sex and wearing a condom and pregnancy prevention. It should focus on STI prevention and it should focus on consent and it should focus on pleasure.”
Learning about affirmative consent, setting boundaries, and offering inclusive sexual education will be core elements of the ‘Yeah Nah’ project.
“I think it’s super important for everyone to have a safe sexual health journey,” Remidy said.
“What I want to come out of this project and the sessions we’re running is for people to feel like they’re in control of themselves.”