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Monday, May 20, 2024
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Standing Up for Respect in Schools

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Melinda Tankard Reist at the 10/10 Conference. Photo: Giovanni Portelli
Melinda Tankard Reist at the 10/10 Conference. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

Girls as young as 10 are being subjected to sexual harassment in Sydney schools and countless female teachers are leaving the profession due to the level of abuse they are suffering on a daily basis.

And the stories are getting worse and the children are getting younger.

Students are being threatened with rape and physical violence in the classroom, school yard, school bus and even the school chapel, leaving them with no safe space to hide.

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One of Australia’s leading campaigners against the sexualisation of girls, Melinda Tankard Reist said the problem is rife in all schools, with faith-based ones no exception.

“What today’s Year 5 and 6 students are telling me used to be what the senior girls in Years 11 and 12 were saying.”

The speaker, writer and media commentator said schools are failing to provide a safe environment for learning, effectively creating “crime scenes with sexual harassment happening daily”.

Speaking last week at Sydney Catholic Schools 10:10 Project, a forum which gives Year 10 students a safe place to talk about their world, Ms Tankard Reist said female students and teachers alike are in deep distress daily.

She said one of the most shocking stories she had heard was female students being sexually abused in a school chapel.

Melinda Tankard Reist at the 10/10 Conference. Photo: Giovanni Portelli
Melinda Tankard Reist at the 10/10 Conference. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

“This really is an absolute tragedy, a complete disaster, can you imagine not even being safe in the school church,” she said.

“I’m hearing some of the worst stories I’ve ever heard in my life and the kids that are telling me are getting younger.

“What today’s Year 5 and 6 students are telling me used to be what the senior girls in Years 11 and 12 were saying.

“I have never been asked to talk to girls in primary school until now, which just shows how bad the problem is getting.

“I have been going into schools and talking to students for more than a decade and thought I was pretty much unshockable … but sadly I was wrong.”

“I had three-girls in one Christian school last week tell me that a 14-year-old boy threatened to rape their sisters and their mothers unless they sent them nude pictures of themselves.

“I have been going into schools and talking to students for more than a decade and thought I was pretty much unshockable … but sadly I was wrong.”

Apologising to the students at the Homebush Waterview Convention Centre for “allowing her generation to allow this to happen”, she also appealed to them to call out all bad behaviour by boys and stand up and for change.

Hundreds of students gather for the 10/10 Conference. Photo: Giovanni Portelli
Hundreds of students gather for the 10/10 Conference. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

She begged parents and teachers to support them to make urgent changes starting in our schools and homes, and ensure there was serious consequences for boys who carry out these behaviours.

“This has to be taken seriously, how do we change the world if we don’t change the environment where we are in right now,” she said. “How are young people supposed to develop long term relationships and marriage and family life when porn is teaching boys what girls are for and what girls want done to them.

“The girls are subjected to shocking behaviour and the reason they respond so energetically and passionately to my message is because they feel heard and that their disgusting stories are validated.

“I have female teachers from faith-based schools telling me they are leaving teaching because they are getting groaned at, propositioned, boys are playing porn on their devices in the classroom and the list goes on.

“I am so grateful to Sydney Catholic Schools for … giving me this opportunity to talk about really sensitive and challenging issues …”

“And quite often there is nothing done about it, we are doing a huge disservice to young boys by not addressing these behaviours.

“If the boys are allowed to get away with this in Year 6 and 7, what will they be dong in Years 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12 and God help us when they leave school.

“I am so grateful to Sydney Catholic Schools for being willing to face the difficult issues in giving me this opportunity to talk about really sensitive and challenging issues and wanting to address it.”

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