Ms Patten (Northern Metropolitan) — My adjournment matter is for the Honourable Steve Herbert in his role as Minister for Training and Skills. Body safety education aims to teach children about physiology, body autonomy, consent and communication in a safe, inclusive and age-appropriate way. It adds to and complements our respectful relationships program. I think it is an important component of our battle against family violence.
We know that curriculum should be delivered by classroom teachers and lessons should be embedded throughout the year rather than in one-off lessons or in a set of lessons. However, given the prevalence of family violence in the community, it stands to reason that some teachers who are expected to deliver these programs are current or former victims of family violence, childhood abuse and other types of victimisation. From an OHS perspective it is a lapse in our duty of care to expect that victims or survivors will be forced to deliver elements of the curriculum that can retraumatise them. It is also unreasonable to expect that a staff member must disclose that they are a victim or a survivor in order to be exempt from delivering this part of the curriculum. Worse — and it is a very rare situation — a teacher may have abused their own position to commit one of these crimes, in which case we would have a situation that is very questionable.
A mixed delivery method would allow external providers to undertake this education and supplement the curriculum based on respectful relationship frameworks. This would require specialist accreditation in this area, ensuring that best practice principles and standardised education in body safety is available. I ask the minister to establish a system of accreditation for body safety specialists and educators and to make funds available for external providers of body safety education in Victoria.
This matter falls within the portfolio responsibilities of the Minister for Education. I am informed as follows:
Body safety education and teaching that focuses on ‘protective behaviours’ enables children to recognise and respond to situations in which their personal space and sense of safety might be compromised. Effective respectful relationships education in schools should include a focus on protective behaviours and provide developmentally appropriate information and skills building.
As well as what we know about how the curriculum should be delivered by classroom teachers and lessons embedded throughout the year, we also know that for respectful relationships education to be delivered successfully, applying a whole school approach, we need to build the capacity and professional judgement of teachers to deliver this education. In some cases, schools may wish to consider using external providers, or invite experts in to support delivery, but this should only be to complement core curriculum being taught by teachers. It is for this reason that the establishment of specialist accreditation for body safety educators and extra funds to increase the number of external providers with this specialism is not deemed necessary or appropriate in this context.