Minister Rishworth interview on ABC Radio Sydney


RICHARD GLOVER, HOST: You'll hear in a moment from [Teach Us Consent] founder, Chanel Contos. but first to Amanda Rishworth who's the Minister for Social Services and made the announcement today. She joins us here on drive. Minister, good afternoon.

AMANDA RISHWORTH, MINISTER FOR SOCIAL SERVICES: Good afternoon. Great to be with you.

RICHARD GLOVER: Yeah, this is obviously a priority for you.

AMANDA RISHWORTH: It is a priority. We launched our National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children last October. Sexual harm, and reducing that, was a key part of the plan. We've actually seen some pretty alarming rates. And you indicated in your introduction a lot of women, young women, came out in response to Chanel's call. We know that those numbers are going up and that is really significant. So, we need to make sure we're communicating, making sure the concept of consent and what that actually means is very clear. We need to engage with young people on this conversation very clearly about this. We believe the best way to do that is with young people. Chanel's Teach Us Consent has been really effective on social media and connecting with young people using the conversations and involving the conversations that are relevant. Part of the money we've announced today will be about supporting Teach Us Consent to expand their work, particularly focusing on 16 year olds and above. We know that through Chanel and many others hard work, we now have a lot of consent work being done in the national curriculum. So, we want to make sure that's complemented. But in addition, we want to put together a youth advisory group on this. Youth led to give us good advice so that we're getting the interventions and messages right.

RICHARD GLOVER: Okay. I mean, in other words, I was about to ask you the question, but in a way you've answered it. How do you go about crafting a message that is not off-kilter like the milkshake one? And your answer to that is you start with young people?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: You absolutely have to start with young people. You have to get the terminology they're using correct and the trends and things that are happening. I was speaking to Chanel earlier today. We made this announcement together, and she was talking about looking out for love bombing. I've never heard of that term before. I'm a little bit older. And so if that's what people are talking about young people are talking about, that's the type of thing we're trying to raise awareness of. We've got to be not just engaging young people but allowing them to actually lead the work.

RICHARD GLOVER: Well, Amanda, I'm not going to define love bombing. You're not going to define love bombing. It sounds like the moment Chanel Contos should join us from Teach Us Consent. Hi, Chanel.

CHANEL CONTOS: Hi. How are you? Thanks for having me.

RICHARD GLOVER: Good. I obviously want to ask you some general questions, but can you start with the thing the Minister just brought up love bombing.

CHANEL CONTOS: Yes. So, love bombing, I guess, is a kind of colloquial term often used on TikTok at the moment to describe when someone just gets in a relationship with someone and they kind of shower them with affection and gifts and attention and then it evolves into kind of coercive protected behaviour. It can actually be a sign of an unhealthy relationship from the start, even though it feels really nice. They give it to you and then they take the love away and the relationship feels as though you're seeking after it. And that's just one example of the type of content that we post.

RICHARD GLOVER: In other words, it's kind of overwhelming love, maybe then, followed by silence.

CHANEL CONTOS: Yes, exactly.

RICHARD GLOVER: Generally, how do we avoid making the mistakes of the milkshake ad, for want of a better example?

CHANEL CONTOS: I think we essentially need to engage with youth and engage with experts, and the overlap of that is what needs to be delivered and then adequately implemented. And that feels like this establishment of this committee, this youth committee that will have a bilateral relationship with the Government, being able to give information, ask information, that sort of thing, and also the involvement of a lot of other work that's going on at the moment in Australia. We have large amounts of money going into consent, education implementation, we have money going into evaluation, we have all different things going on with the national plan at the same time. And I think that this bit of funding and that committee and the social media push just adds another layer onto the holistic approach that we need to be taking.

RICHARD GLOVER: Well, it is possible to make a good ad. I remember seeing the one that Saxon Mullins was involved in, which people might have seen it. It's a kind of party scene where they leave the guacamole and go and kiss in the corridor and he says, do you want to continue with this or do you want to go back to the dancing? And she said, oh, actually, let's go back to the dancing. It kind of allows you to models young people to see the modelling of what is reasonable behaviour. It's actually quite sexy behaviour.

CHANEL CONTOS: 100 per cent, and actually, Teach Us Consent was one of the consults on that project, which is great, but that government project did a great job. It was a New South Wales government project, I believe, about affirmative consent laws. And they did such a great job of actively engaging with young people and having these conversations and editing the script and having actors that represented the types of behaviours and settings they find themselves in. I think that's why it was so effective. And it's still being spoken about.

RICHARD GLOVER: A TV or Facebook campaign is one thing. There's a whole other level of difficulty, I imagine, when you go into a classroom and try to teach affirmative consent. Consent in a classroom. Have you seen it done well?

CHANEL CONTOS: I mean, I've tried to teach it myself and yes, I've also definitely seen it done well. There's incredible educators mainly also youth-led organisations from around the country that do these things and go into schools and do it. But I think the thing is, it can be a challenge when, say, hypothetically, you get the best consent sex-ed class in the world by the best instructor in the world, and that's in the classroom. But then you go home and you're seeing different messaging coming through the phone, you may be seeing misogynistic attitudes or a lot of our media kind of romanticises violations of consent, all these sort of things. So, I think it's really important to have that kind of second aspect of it.

RICHARD GLOVER: Well, that's right. A lot of Romcom plots looked at through a different lens are really examples of somebody stalking somebody who's unwilling to accept their advances.

CHANEL CONTOS: Yeah, 100 per cent. Especially those kind of like 2000s Romcoms.

RICHARD GLOVER: So, you got a lot to fight against. Chanel, stay with us for a second. Back to the Minister, Amanda Rishworth, the Minister for Social Services. Amanda, I noted that you said 16 and over was a focus for you. Some people would say that's too late, it should be earlier. What do you say to that?

AMANDA RISHWORTH: What we're doing – 16 and over - is the focus of this money that we've been working with Chanel on. But the Federal Government has also, in the October budget, committed over $80 million to supporting programs in classes and in schools. So, we don't believe that 16 is where you start. Indeed, we're making a big investment in schools. This complements and is in addition to that investment by saying if people have missed out at school or, as Chanel mentioned, they need that message reinforced. That is where the focus of this money is going.

RICHARD GLOVER: Chanel, what do you say to that? When do you think it's these more complex ideas of consent and affirmative consent? When do you think they should be taught? At what age?

CHANEL CONTOS: I think that in terms of explicitly teaching consent in a sexual way, that sort of information should be coming at the home as soon as parents were ready and at the school at a high school level. But in Australia, we actually don't have a national curriculum for year eleven and twelve because it's not mandatory to finish school then. And that's when high school students are most sexually active and having their first sexual experiences. So, it's really important that they continue to have this sort of dialogue and that education is key.