Police, private schools pledge support after petition of alleged sexual abuse among students goes viral


March 6, 2021

By Anthony Piovesan

NSW Police have met with senior stakeholders in the education sector after a new petition that gathered more than 3000 testimonies of alleged sexual assault committed by high school students went viral.

The petition, which called for more thorough and earlier education about consent, was started by Chanel Contos, a former student of Sydney’s Kambala School.

She is hoping to draw attention to how frequently girls experience sexual assault from all-boys’ school students in the city.

In a statement, NSW Police said they addressed the concerns at a meeting with the NSW Department of Education, Association of Independent Schools and Catholic Schools NSW on Friday.

“A commitment was made to establish a statement of intent to address the issue of sexual violence within NSW schools,” NSW Police said.

“Some of the key elements that will be considered during this process include but are not limited to: consent education, protocols on reporting, and most importantly the safety, welfare and wellbeing of young people.

“Through co-operation, collaboration and communication, the NSW Police Force and our partners in education are committed to providing schools with all available resources to create safe spaces for learning and empowerment.”

The independent schools association also announced on Friday that it had established a high-level team to enhance its support to schools on “safety, respectful relationships and consent” among students.

AISNSW chief executive Geoff Newcombe said the issues were among the “most significant” facing schools.

“The responsibility for ensuring school students have the knowledge and understanding to respond to these issues is a collective one that belongs to everybody who interacts with young people,” Dr Newcombe said.

“It’s clear from the disturbing accounts from students that have emerged recently that schools and their support bodies must rethink some of their approaches to these matters and make improvements where necessary.

“The measures currently taken to educate and appropriately support students in this area are extensive and wide-ranging,” Dr Newcombe said.

“Nevertheless, I am keen to explore with our member schools how we might enhance those offerings to ensure the safety and wellbeing of children and young people in our schools.”

The Catholic Education Commission of Victoria (CECV) also came out and offered its support to the affected students.

“The confronting examples of harmful, disrespectful, and, in many cases, abusive sexual contact between students, shared online and in the media, cannot be ignored,” it said in a statement.

“Catholic schools utilise a range of programs including the respectful relationships program, to help form appropriate interpersonal behaviours and respectful attitudes among the student cohort, as enshrined in Gospel values.

“However, recent days have shown that much more needs to be done to ensure the safety of our young people.”