In 2017 the Victorian government rolled out a new Respectful Relationships curriculum across all schools. This holistic approach recognises that it is necessary to change beliefs and attitudes in order to address the prevalence of gender-based violence in Australia, and that education plays an important role in this change. Research demonstrates that efforts in schools to address gender-based violence are vital. This involves incorporating new material into the curriculum, and delivering this across multiple subject areas and in different formats. It also involves a comprehensive approach by teachers, parents and school staff to create a supportive environment that addresses and promotes respectful and non-violent relationships.
Undercurrent partners with schools to deliver workshop programs that can be incorporated into a whole-school approach. Our workshops are separate from the Respectful Relationships curriculum, however they are designed to complement it, and offer the potential to explore many topics in greater depth. Our program is most similar to the ‘gender and identity’ and ‘positive gender relationships’ elements of the Respectful Relationships curriculum.
The focus of our standard secondary schools workshop is on recognising and responding to violence; challenging beliefs, attitudes and behaviours which enable violence; learning relationship and support skills, and empowering participants to think critically and challenge violence.
Our secondary schools workshops are available for young people from years 7 to 12. Research shows that education programs are more effective in changing attitudes, beliefs and behaviours when they run for multiple sessions. Our facilitators also prefer multiple session workshops as they give space for participants to develop deeper critical thinking skills, and we have found that young people enjoy the opportunity to talk in depth about the topic areas. Multi-session workshops are designed to cover topics from both our standard and our sex education workshops (more information below). We recognise that it can be hard to find time to incorporate multiple workshops into the school curriculum and we are able to adapt our workshops to fit into the time you have available. At minimum our workshops run for 90 minutes. We design workshops to respond to the needs of individual schools and participants. We take into account the length of the workshops and the age of participants and will build on related content that teachers or the school may have already covered.
Facilitators present information for discussion and run a series of interactive activities with the aim of enabling young people to use their own experiences and knowledge to explore the complexities surrounding violence, sex and relationships. Undercurrent workshops can be useful in introducing ideas that participants often appreciate discussing with people from outside the school context.
In most contexts we run workshops in groups of ‘young men’ and ‘young women’. The young women’s workshops are run by women and non-binary people as peer-educators, to help create a safe and comfortable space. The young men’s workshops are generally run by a mix of men, women and non-binary/gender diverse peer-educators. A teacher is required to be present in each room, with no male teachers in the young women’s workshops.
We acknowledge that many young people are transgender or non-binary, and may not feel that workshops which are separated into young women’s and young men’s are appropriate for them. We offer workshops for young people who are LGBTIQ+, which we can run at the same time or at another venue and date. We are happy to discuss with you the most appropriate structure for your school. Please see the LGBTIQ+ program that we offer.
We also acknowledge that many young people have experienced violence, including sexual violence, and that many young people grow up with violence in the home. We are skilled and caring in our approach to supporting participants who have experienced violence, including when experiences are shared in a workshop.
Feedback is collected from participants and teachers after each workshop to allow us to continue developing and updating workshop activities. We send a copy of the feedback to schools after all the workshops are completed.
We also offer workshops for teachers on violence prevention: see our Professional Development/Capacity Building section for more information.
Some of the topics and exercises that we can cover in the workshops include:
How does the media create myths and harmful attitudes about gender, relationships and sex?
Relationship skills - negotiating boundaries, communication strategies, expectations and assumptions
Mapping an understanding of family violence and sexual assault
Power and control in both friendships and intimate partner relationships
Causes or contributors to family violence and challenging violence-enabling attitudes
Myths about relationship violence and sexual assault
Violence in LGBTIQ+ relationships
Exploring what young women think it means to be a woman - their limits and possibilities
Exploring what young men think it means to be a man: limitations, possibilities, challenging gendered stereotypes and discussing positive masculinities
Challenging rigid gender binaries
Non-violent communication skills and strategies for dealing with conflict
Bullying and social violence, including racism and homophobia
Supporting someone who has experienced violence
Sexual harassment and attitudes towards women in the community, at school and in the media
Recognising and responding to situations of violence or intimidation
Where to seek help - resources for those who have experienced or are experiencing violence
Empowerment and self-respect
SEX EDUCATION PROGRAM
Undercurrent facilitates sex education workshops that aim to fill the gaps in contemporary sex education. The workshops feature interactive activities to engage young people and get them thinking critically about where their pre-existing knowledge about sex comes from. The workshops seek to not only provide accurate information about sexual health, but also to nurture positive and self-affirming attitudes toward sex. Topics covered include consent and sexual coercion; attitudes and understandings of what sex is and means; sexual health; queer, lesbian, gay, bi and other sexualities; body image; and positive and respectful sexual relationships. Crucially, these workshops stress young peoples sexual autonomy, challenge rigid gender expectations and operate within an intersectional feminist framework.
Our workshops are run by facilitators with a variety of different life experiences who young people can often relate to. Participants often acknowledge feeling more able to have honest and open discussions around sex, consent and sexual health and to ask questions they may not always feel comfortable asking. We aim to give young people the tools to explore their own ideas in a positive and non-judgemental space. The workshops aim to demystify sex without devitalising it, and ultimately to empower participants to approach their sex lives with knowledge and agency.
Content around sex education can be covered in a dedicated workshop or incorporated into our standard secondary schools workshops. Get in touch if you would like us to tailor a workshop to the needs of your school and participants.
Some of the topics and exercises that we can cover in sex education workshops include:
What is sex? Where do we learn about sex? Attitudes around sex and sexuality
Relationships with sex, body image and popular culture
A critical and popular discussion of pornography
Positive sexual relationships and boundaries
Sex and communication
Consent: realities, challenges, and empowerment in sexual decision making and respectful sexual choices
Sexual health and contraception
Resources and support services
Feedback we received from our high school workshops in 2018:
“Let me speak about what I can’t speak about with my friends/family”
“Gave us more options to look at before making decisions”
“Made me look at things differently”
“Answered many questions, especially because I wanted to know heaps of the things I learnt today”
“Was open and we weren’t judged for things we shared with the group”
“Felt comfortable talking about things I usually don’t talk about and I was able to say my opinion”
“Teaches me how to support a friend in a good way”
“Was informative because the workshops had a very natural, uncensored approach to issues related to sex”
In the workshop I found useful…
“Hearing everyone’s thoughts and opinions on a certain topic”
“Learning that there are other ways we can help our friends or family or anything in the situation”
“To learn about relationships, friends and consent about sex”
“That I could be open and talk about new things”
“Learning how I can help someone if they have experienced assault”
“Because I could talk to someone that wasn’t going to be offended”
“Understanding that I’m not the only one nervous of sex, especially for the first time”
“If something happens to me like this I know who to talk to”
“We could share our thoughts with each other”
“Because I was able to talk about things and made me more aware of things that can go on in a relationship”
“Was great to see students engaging and learning about these topics from real people outside the school bubble”
Free or by donation.