Our students on gender equity and inclusivity

In the final week of Term 2, Ms Kaitlin Young and I had the pleasure of accompanying a group of Year 12 students to a Gender Forum for students, hosted by Xavier College, Kew. This event, which had been planned for 2020, and cancelled twice due to COVID-19 lockdowns, involved student representatives from a range of Kew Schools including Xavier College, Genazanno FCJ College, Methodist Ladies College, Ruyton Girls’ School, Trinity Grammar School, and of course, the only independent co-educational school in our area, Carey.

The purpose of the forum was to begin a dialogue amongst the students of our area about gender equity, and the way in which students and adults in our communities approach this issue.

As I listened to the students, some key themes became clear:

  • Social media is a source of immense pressure and sometimes stress for our young people. Students reported finding it hard to distinguish between what is real and what is perceived, and many students experience anxiety and a fear of getting things wrong online, and as a result, becoming a victim of ‘cancel culture’, which is the practice of withdrawing support for (cancelling) people after they have done or said something considered objectionable or offensive.
  • There are two distinct issues that young people want and need to think about and engage in: Gender Equity; and Gender Identity and Inclusivity. These two very important but different issues are often confused by our young people, and it is important that we help them understand the difference between:
      • Gender Equity: the state of equal ease of access to resources and opportunities regardless of gender, including economic participation and decision-making; and, the state of valuing different behaviours, aspirations and needs equally, regardless of gender
      • Gender Identity and Inclusivity: the true inclusion of all, regardless of person’s sense of their own gender identity and how they express this to the world.
  • Our young people recognise the need to be brave and challenge stereotypes that exist, particularly gender stereotypes. They recognise that sometimes these stereotypes are perpetuated by their own family members.
  • There is a desire to do better when it comes to understanding what respectful relationships look like, and what the impact on others (often women and girls) can be when relationships are disrespectful, unequal, harmful or abusive.
  • There is also an acknowledgement of the importance of maintaining an open and ongoing dialogue about respectful relationships and in particular consent. This acknowledgement also extends to pornography and the way in which the accessibility of pornography has shaped and changed our young people’s perceptions of what consensual and respectful sexual relationships looks like.
  • Our young people want to know that, if they call out inappropriate, disrespectful, abusive and illegal behaviours, that firstly they will be believed, and secondly, they will be supported to walk the difficult journey that follows a disclosure.
  • Finally, there was an overwhelming sense that our students from across Kew wish to have true and honest connections with one another, they want to be able to be themselves, and they also wish to stand up for what they believe in.

Ms Young and I left the session feeling immensely proud of not only our Carey students, but all the students who chose to use their voice on this day. It was also obvious to both of us that at Carey, whilst of course there is work to do to continue to ensure that we have the most respectful, inclusive and equal culture, we have certainly taken important first steps in this space.

I am pleased to let you know that one of these steps, in response to student, parent and staff feedback, is to engage all our Year 9 to 12 students in a protective and proactive wellbeing activity, entitled When Loves Hurts – Respectful Relationships and Consent. This session, led by Dannielle Miller and Jack Ellis from Enlighten Education, will cover such things as:

  • gendered patterns of violence and the foundations for abuse (gendered beliefs and sexism)
  • the types of violence teens and adults experience and how to identify the warning signs
  • understanding enthusiastic consent
  • knowing how to handle disclosures of abuse
  • knowing how to change and be a good ally.

Additionally, I am pleased to invite you to a parent session on Thursday 25 August, also led by Dannielle and Jack. This session will pick up on the key themes above and will provide parents with practical strategies to support their teenagers in this space. Further information will be provided, and I look forward to seeing you there.

Kellie Lyneham
Head of Senior School

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