Special Editorial, Jane Wilkinson
Report: ACEL Victorian President’s Research Seminar 2021
Recently ACEL Victoria ran a powerful research seminar for ACEL members and educators more broadly, entitled, “The implications of the #metoo movement on Australian schools: What do schools, educators and leaders need to know and do?” The seminar featured a stellar cast of speakers, headlined by Chanel Contos, Consent Activist/ Founder of Teach Us Consent, www.teachusconsent.com For those of you who missed the seminar but would like to learn more, details of how to access the recording plus a very helpful resources list for schools are at the end of this report.
The seminar was organised in response to the perceived needs of schools, educators and leaders who are keen to learn how to address these issues meaningfully and holistically and to understand what they proactively can do to prevent abuse. Chanel, our first speaker, argued that we currently live in a ‘rape culture’ and that rapists are not only those people we read about in the news but can be ‘entitled opportunists’ who seek instant gratification. Often girls will not recognise that the coercion they suffer is a form of sexual abuse. Education is essential in this space.
Dr George Variyan shared his research on teachers’ experiences in elite boys’ schools, including female teachers’ experiences of sexual misconduct from male students. Distressingly, many of the women worried about whether they would be believed if they reported these incidents. His research revealed that schools worried about damage to the ‘brand’ if such incidents came to light and incidents were sometimes minimised, sidelined or reframed as the teachers’ fault (https://research.monash.edu/en/persons/george-variyan)
Associate Professor Steve Roberts shared his research on healthier masculinities and argued that school programs to address change need to be more than a ‘one off’ and should be part of a whole school cultural change (https://research.monash.edu/en/persons/steven-roberts). He urged schools to help students to normalise bystander action, harness common decency and to move beyond stereotyping groups of boys from high poverty, non-Anglo backgrounds as ‘the problem’. Steve provided some very useful resources to learn more about how to do this (see below).
Professor Amanda Keddie drew on her extensive research on gender justice and masculinities and asked what do teachers need to know and do to challenge gender injustice? She pointed out that teachers can only do so much in the classroom and initiatives need to be part of broader school practices of social justice. She talked about the powerful and uncomfortable emotions we often experience in this space and the need to learn to live with a certain degree of discomfort when dealing with these issues (https://www.deakin.edu.au/about-deakin/people/amanda-keddie).
Our final speaker, Associate Professor Deb Ollis shared her expertise as a researcher in the fields of gender, respectful relationships and sexuality education (https://www.deakin.edu.au/about-deakin/people/debbie-ollis). She pointed out that sexual misconduct and abuse was not a new issue for schools and feminist educators had been proactively addressing these issues over decades, particularly in sexuality education. She argued that expecting schools to solve the problem on their own was not okay as this was about broader societal power structures. Deb had some clear messages for educators and school leaders:
- Don’t sugar coat this stuff
- Consent education on its own is not enough to change cultures of gender injustice
- We don’t need to reinvent the wheel! There are excellent resources in this space. Respectful Relationships is one such program which Deb was a primary developer of in Victorian public secondary schools
- Developing resources with children is crucial. Listen and work with children and young people as co-developers of resources and curriculum
- Schools need to develop awareness AND commitment
- A whole school approach is essential
- We need to support and validate the intense, emotional work that goes on in this area
- Schools need to be properly resourced to do this work through professional development
- Partnerships with parents are crucial to bring about cultural change but who is responsible for parent education?
This was such a rich and insightful seminar that my notes cannot do it justice. A huge thank you to our wonderful speakers for so generously sharing their time and expertise for us. A warm thank you to ACEL Victoria President, Coralee Pratt and ACEL President, Barbara Watterson, who so enthusiastically supported this event. A round of applause for ACEL’s Victorian administrator and national office personnel whose able organisation and technical support were integral to the success of the event.
For those who want to learn more, a recording of the seminar and a list of helpful resources is available to ACEL members on our members’ lounge. You can also find the recording here:
Access Passcode: aR!q2T2#
You can also email me ([email protected]) and I’ll happily share the resources list with you.
ACEL Victoria Executive
Special Editorial, Karen Money
ACEL connecting with our rural and regional colleagues
As educators we are constantly learning and evolving, the past 18 months have taught us this in so many ways. As an organisation ACEL has a lens on evolution and engagement with all who have the privilege of working with our young people.
The Victorian Branch of ACEL is particularly keen to learn from and with our colleagues in remote and regional areas What can we do for you? How can we support your leadership and educational journey?
While there is much to be valued in regional and rural education, studies in Australia have identified isolation as a key dimension requiring additional support. In the 1973 report to the Australian Schools Commission, Karmel identified several aspects of educational disadvantage experienced by rural schools – including high teacher turnover, low retention rates, less confidence in the benefits of education, limited cultural facilities in the community, lack of employment opportunities for school leavers, and a less relevant curriculum. Sadly, these issues are still relevant today and exacerbated by both the pandemic and the effects of climate change.
In 2019 an Expert Advisory Panel into Victorian Rural and Regional Students reviewed and met with communities to identify ways to improve educational outcomes for students in these areas. The panel’s recommendations include considering measures to attract principals, teachers and support staff to regional areas and making more resources and subjects available for senior secondary students. We would like to hear from you about how this work is progressing and how ACEL can assist with a range of options to support the development of your aspirations as leaders and solutions to issues you face in workforce retention and supply, the tyranny of distance and access to opportunities for all students. Your work is crucial in your community and with your students and families. Through the young people we teach today we touch a future we will never see but one we can influence to be bright and successful.