Firstly, I would like to say what a welcoming and wonderful community we have here. I have always loved the start of the year – it’s where we get to meet new people, make new friends, and challenge ourselves beyond our comfort zone. This year, starting at a new school, I experienced a range of emotions: excitement, nervousness, fear, anticipation. The joy that I have experienced over the past four weeks has been a result of the wonderful students, families and staff that I have had the pleasure of interacting with and I look forward to continuing to build those relationships over the coming year.
In week two, Year 12 had the school Police Liaison Officer come out to talk about respectful relationships and consent. As he informed the Year 12 students, the law is clear: People in NSW are now required by law to give and obtain consent before they engage in any form of sexual activity. The new affirmative consent laws came into operation on 1 June 2022. Due to this change in the law, it is important that our students understand what this explicitly means and how it relates to respectful relationships in their lives.
Respectful relationships and consent – It is important for teenagers to build respectful relationships as they develop into a young adult. Sexual consent is only one form of consent. Consent is at the centre of all interactions: yes, you may call me; yes, you may hold my hand; no, you may not kiss me. Consent is all about communication! When consent is given, both people can communicate by checking in and talking about what they want or don’t want in a relationship, it keeps everyone safe and happy. This makes for a positive and rewarding relationship!
I am a person who values relationships and they are essential to our lives. They make up such a large part of our world, and that is the way we are designed. In Genesis 2:18, the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” God has designed us to be in relationships: with him and with others. We also read in the New Testament that we are to love our neighbours as ourselves. Matthew 22: 36-39 says:
36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’
We are to look after and respect others above ourselves: that can be hard and challenging. For adolescents, peer relationships are vital; their friends become a significant source of social and emotional support and the attitudes of their peer group can have a positive or negative influence on their choices. One of the biggest misconceptions in society today is that relationships evolve and intimacy just ‘happens’ – young people need to feel confident and strong enough to say ‘no’ when in an uncomfortable and pressured situation. Adolescents also need to have the voice to communicate positively about their interactions. Consent is when everybody involved in a decision, freely agrees to what is happening without feeling pressured or threatened – they are aware of their decisions and openly agree to it.
Respectful relationships and vaping – We all know that smoking is risky and harmful to our health but a misconception that surrounds our teens is that vaping is ‘better’. Research proves that this is not the case. Peer influence, which is a part of growing up, can influence teenagers in so many areas of their lives. The pressure that we faced as teenagers to smoke cigarettes is still there today, only the product has changed. Having positive, respectful, and supportive relationships allows teenagers not to feel pressured and make wise, healthy choices.
Have conversations with your teenager…
Discuss consent with them – don’t just assume they know what it means. Consent must be explicit. Help your teenager work through their emotions and their changing lives. The aim is to give them the tools to work out what they are comfortable with and to be able to communicate those boundaries. Encourage your child to ask questions such as: Do I feel safe? Do I feel anxious? Discuss what impact their actions may have on other people. Finally, always keep the dialogue open. Continue to talk to your child about consent, healthy boundaries, and respect. Remind them that if they feel their boundaries have been compromised, they can always talk to you or another trusted adult about it. God has created us in his image – everyone is valued! Remember Matthew 22: 39 ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’
Mrs Rebecca Clisdell
Dean of Students (Years 11 and 12)
These are some highlights from our High School swimming carnival in week 2. It was a fun and memorable day for all our students and staff. A big thank you to everyone took part and helped the day run smoothly.