Home » Publications

Category Archives: Publications

Reaching young men with sexual health information through digital media: new research report (and practitioner guide)

A new report by QUT Digital Media Research Centre researchers in collaboration with True Relationships and Reproductive Health and University of Technology Sydney shows that informative comedy videos shared on social media platforms like YouTube and Facebook are a good way to engage teenagers and young people with sexual health information. The report details the findings from an Australian Research Council Linkage research project that investigated teenage boys and young men’s digital media use, health seeking behaviours online and also created, shared and tracked engagement with a series of comedy videos about sex and relationships on social media sites.

The project involved focus groups of young men aged 14-23 and found that teenage boys and young men preferred informative comedy videos about sex and relationships to more traditional models of school-based sex education. While such entertainment-based approaches to sex education are not without risk, the project also found that social media offers novel opportunities for conducting audience research and deploying health campaigns, particularly with young people.

The report includes a user guide for practitioners wishing to follow a similar method for conducting a sexual health campaign on social media platforms, along with a social media use guide for any young people involved in similar campaigns.

Download the report and user guides.

Special AFSEH issue of Sex Education journal

A recently published issue of Sex Education contains key papers from AFSEH’s first national conference.

With an open access editorial introduction by Tania Ferfolja and Jacqueline Ullman, and an open access In Conversation between Simon Blake and Peter Aggleton, the issue contains papers details cutting edge research and commentary from across Australia.

Topics addressed include:

  • the importance of educating young people about HPV vaccination in schools;
  • teacher positivity towards gender diversity;
  • parents’ perspectives on sexuality education;
  • the politicisation of Australian queer affirming curriculum materials;
  • young people’s perspectives on homophobic language use; and
  • LGBTIQ experiences in tertiary education.

Contributors include Paul Byron, Cristyn Davies, Karyn Fulcher, Kerry Robinson, Barrie Shannon, Rachel Skinner and Andrea Waling

Full details here:


Parents & sexuality education: New ‘Talk soon, talk often’ digital resource

The NSW version of the ‘Talk soon.Talk often’ sexuality education resource for parents is now online
Click HERE  for the Flip book version


Call for Papers: Journal of LGBT Youth ‘Still Queering Elementary Education’

Still Queering Elementary Education

Journal of LGBT Youth Special Issue Editors: Dr. James Sears & Dr. Kristopher Wells
Eighteen years ago, shortly after the tragic murder of Matthew Shepard, the landmark book “Queering elementary education: Advancing the dialogue about sexualities and schooling” (Letts & Sears, 1999) was published with critical attention. At the time, even the word “queer” was viewed as controversial and contested as the field of LGBT educational studies challenged everyday taken-for-granted heteronormative assumptions about teaching, curriculum, childhood, gender, race, and the construction of family. This groundbreaking collection contained 22 essays, which explored foundational questions such as “What does it mean to teach queerly?”; “Why discuss sexuality in elementary schools?”; “What is a family?”; and “Who makes a girl or a boy?”. During the 2008 presidential contest, the book continued to draw focused attention when a written endorsement by Bill Ayers (featured on the book’s back cover) was associated with a Right Wing conservative attack on the Obama campaign.
While the study and field of elementary education has gradually progressed into more nuanced and complex investigations examining the normalizing processes of sexuality and gender, there still remains a paucity of critical scholarship focused on the primary schools as foundational to the construction and regulation of (hetero)sexualities and binary gender identifications. This is especially evident with recent increased interest and awareness of transgender children who are becoming much more visible and vocal at younger ages in primary schools. How are elementary educators and administrators responding to this “gender revolution”? How do elementary schools operate as critical sites for the production and regulation of sexuality, gender, and the promotion of childhood innocence? How are teachers implicated in or complicit with these normalizing discourses? How do students understand and do gender? How do they creatively resist and redeploy these identity-constituting practices? At what costs? Under what historical, social, cultural, and political conditions are discourses of sexuality and gender circulated and (re)produced? What are the impacts of hegemonic masculinities and femininities and possibilities for students to be and act otherwise? How might we continue to queer elementary classrooms and teaching practices to create spaces of immense hope and possibility to live beyond the gender binary?
This special double issue invites papers examining these and other questions to explicate the current state of the field of elementary education and LGBT issues worldwide. How far have we come as a discipline? What are the continued absences, barriers, and silences? Where does the field need to go to continue to advance the dialogue and bring forth meaningful change?
Abstracts are due April 30, 2017.
For more details (including deadlines), please visit: http://explore.tandfonline.com/cfp/beh/journal-lgbt-youth-education


Free UNSW seminar: sexuality education in the Liberian Ebola epidemic

Reconceptualising sexuality education in the context of the Ebola epidemic in Liberia

When: 9 Mar 2016, 3:30pm – 4:30pm
Where: Room 221/223, Level 2, John Goodsell Building, UNSW Kensington

Dr Ekua Yankah, Centre for Social Research in Health

This seminar will comprise a personal reflection by Ekua Yankah on her mission to Monrovia, Liberia in July and August 2015 as the Ebola epidemic was declining in West Africa. Ekua was hired as part of a two-person team on behalf of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

“The aim of our mission was to update the Ministry of Education’s HIV and Life Skills Curriculum and for me to develop a complimentary sexuality education curriculum targeted to out-of-school children and young people. In order to realise our goal we facilitated the late Dr Doug Kirby’s 5-day logic framework training Reducing Sexual Risk Behaviour Among Young People for a large group of government and NGO stakeholders. The same group of stakeholders also attended our 5-day curriculum design workshop. We encountered many challenges along the way – not the least regular reports of rape occurring among girls of school-going age all over the country, and a nation emerging from the Ebola crisis that claimed 4,809 deaths, the hardest-hit in the region”.

Please see this report for background information prior to attending the seminar.

Dr Ekua Yankah is an Afro-German social scientist and activist. She is a former Programme Specialist with the Section on HIV and AIDS at UNESCO headquarters in Paris where she initiated and led UNESCO’s Global Programme on Sexuality Education. Since 2010 she has been working as an independent consultant for various United Nations agencies. In early 2015 Ekua was appointed Adjunct Lecturer in the Centre for Social Research in Health, where she works with Scientia Professor Peter Aggleton. Ekua holds a PhD in Social Epidemiology from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, University of London and a Masters in Public Health from George Washington University.

Registration essential: https://csrh.arts.unsw.edu.au/othersites/?path=othersites/fass/form/index.php&i=712

How do sexuality/gender diverse students experience schooling?


Design and Aims

This report details the findings from a 2013 nationwide survey of sexuality and gender diverse Australian secondary school students.

The project’s core aims were to 1) gain a better understanding of how sexuality and gender diverse students experience their school’s ethos, referred to here as school climate, with regards to sexuality and gender diversity in the broad sense, and to 2) investigate links between students’ reported school climate and various measures of their school wellbeing and associated academic outcomes.


Seven hundred and four young people between the ages of 14-18, representing every state and territory in Australia, participated in the online survey. In terms of sexual identity, the majority of participants identified as lesbian/gay (43%) or bisexual (24%), with a sizeable minority of participants identifying as pansexual (12%).

The majority of participants identified as either a girl/woman (57%) or as a boy/man (34%), with just over 7% of participants identifying as either genderqueer or transgender. The term sexuality and gender diverse is used throughout this report to signify the array of sexuality and gender identities highlighted by the young people.

Schooling Experiences

The young people in this study attended schools from across the sector, with the majority of participants attending government schools (62%). Participants overwhelmingly depicted a secondary schooling environment in which marginalising (e.g. homophobic/transphobic) language was rife and where school staff did not respond with consistency.

A startling 94% of students had heard homophobic language at school, with 58% of these young people reporting hearing this language daily. Of those who reported classmates using this language within earshot of school staff, less than 5% reported that these adults always intervened to put a stop to its use.

Although somewhat less commonly reported, 45% of participants indicated that they had witnessed school-based physical harassment of classmates perceived to be sexuality and/or gender diverse, with 12% of participants witnessing such harassment on a weekly basis. Only 12% of young people who witnessed such physical harassment occurring in front of school staff reported that these adults always intervened.

Participants depicted inconsistencies in adults’ responses to school-based marginalisation ranging from purposive ignoring (and, in the worst cases, active participation in the marginalising behaviours) to addressing the discrimination and attempting to educate around the incident. Most participants who described an educative intervention highlighted specific teachers at their school who would respond in such a manner, in contrast to a majority of others who would not.

Approximately 40% of students reported that they knew where to go to locate information and support regarding sexuality and gender diversity and similar percentages of students could recall their teachers engaging with sexuality and/or gender diversity in a positive or supportive fashion at least “some of the time” or more frequently. However, only one quarter of participants’ could recall classroom learning about topics related to sexuality and/or gender diversity in any kind of formal capacity, with a mere 3% of students reporting that it was “definitely true” that they had learned about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender identities during their Health and Physical Education instruction.

Findings suggest that some school staff work intentionally to support sexuality and gender diverse students in a variety of informal ways, including general positivity with regards to related topics and the provision of inclusive resources, but that formal curricular inclusion is far less common.

Participants attending schools in which their school harassment policies explicitly included sexual orientation as a considered and protected cohort of the student population (16% of participants) were significantly more likely to report their teachers’ intervention in instances of verbal and physical marginalisation of sexuality and gender diverse students, as well as their general positivity and support.

Relationships between School Climate and School Wellbeing

Students attending schools with fewer instances of marginalising behaviours, and more consistent adult intervention when those behaviours did occur, were happier and more connected at school, safer and more likely to feel as if their teachers were invested in their personal academic success.

Likewise, reported teacher positivity and support for both sexuality diversity and gender diversity were significantly correlated with students’ school wellbeing outcomes, with the strongest relationships present between teacher positivity and both student morale and sense of connection to school. Similar relationships were found between school wellbeing outcomes and students’ reported formal inclusions (e.g. within health and physical education and elsewhere within the curriculum).

Academic Outcomes

Participants with elevated school wellbeing outcomes also had higher reported academic outcomes, including higher academic self-concept, greater intentions to attend university and fewer reported incidences of truancy. Students’ truancy behaviours were significantly correlated with their teachers’ reported positivity with regards to sexuality and gender diversity, highlighting the links between school climate, school wellbeing and academic outcomes and behaviours for sexuality and gender diverse students.


Most of the sexuality and gender diverse young people who contributed to this research attended secondary schools in which marginalising practices occurred on a weekly, if not daily, basis and where teacher positivity and formal inclusions of sexuality and gender diversity were the exception rather than the norm. Project findings highlight the relationship between sexuality and gender diverse students’ perceptions of their school climate and their own school wellbeing, including connection to their peers, teachers and investment in the schooling environment more generally, and demonstrate how these key factors are linked to academic outcomes for this cohort.

Project-based recommendations can be found within the body of the report: http://handle.uws.edu.au:8081/1959.7/uws:32727

Rethinking media and sexuality education: executive summary


coverimage credit: George

Executive Summary

What’s the problem?

  • Parents, educators and policy makers are overwhelmed by the pace at which digital technologies (such as mobile phone and tablets) and platforms (such as Facebook and Snapchat) are evolving – and the increasing role they play in young people’s lives.
  • Practices such as sexting (the digital sharing of naked or semi-naked pictures) create complex legal and socio-cultural challenges for young people, schools and families.
  • To date, health promotion and education policy and practice have struggled to develop activities and messages that offer young people better guidance than ‘just say no’.

What we did

  • Four three-hour workshops were held in New South Wales and Queensland with secondary teachers, health promoters and youth workers (n=77). The workshops covered three relevant theories of media communications as well as practical activities adapted from The Selfie Course developed by Kath Albury, Terri Senft and colleagues. Follow-up surveys assessed the extent to which participants found this approach useful, relevant and applicable to their work.

What we found

  • There are both individual and institutional barriers to an asset-based approach to young people’s digital media practices. At best, an approach focused solely on risk will result in frustration for professionals and young people alike. At worst, it will actively undermine trust between young people and the services that wish to support them.
  • Educators and policy-makers need to move beyond asking ‘what does media do to young people?’ towards asking instead ‘what do young people do with media?’ The frameworks and activities piloted and evaluated in this study can support them to make this change.

Next steps

  • A majority of participants indicated a desire to engage further with critical theory and practice models for working with young people in the area of media and sexuality education.
  • This report presents data self-reported by participants. Future research could engage more closely with educators to better understand how the frameworks and activities piloted in this project are applied and translated in their practice.

The Rethinking media and sexuality education project 2015 was led by Kath Albury and Paul Byron, UNSW, with the support of True Relationships & Reproductive Health Queensland, and Family Planning NSW.

The preliminary research report is being launched this morning at AFSEH’s First National Conference, at Western Sydney University.

A full pdf  is available for download here.

Follow the AFSEH conference Twitter conversation at #afseh15.

Planning to discuss the Essena O’Neill story with young people? Read this first…


Social Media Dress

(illustration credit: Anthony Stone)


Western Australian academic Crystal Abidin recently completed an ethnographic study of social media ‘influencers’. Her research tells us that the Essena O’Neill story is about A LOT more than the dangers of social media.

This blog post (and others on Crystal’s blog) offers an overview on mainstream media coverage of O’Neill’s story, and suggests  some ways to think about and discuss it, without blaming, or shaming young people’s social media practices. As Abidin provocatively puts it:

Dwelling on the micro-public actions of one 18-year-old (without taking into account nuances like her demographic, context, backstory, motivations, etc) and casting a blanket statement that WE NEED TO SAVE YOUNG PEOPLE or that YOUNG PEOPLE ARE NARCISSISTIC is

1) shallow albeit clickbaity,

2) prescriptive and not descriptive, and

3) just not productive. What is the value of another article describing how O’Neill cried through her video?

AFSEH members Kath Albury and Paul Byron have been conducting research into the ways that Australian sexuality educators and health promotion professionals engage with young people’s digital and mobile media practices. They will be launching their initial report on this project at the AFSEH National Conference at the University of Western Sydney in late November. You can check out a draft program here, and register for the conference here.


Talk soon. Talk often. A guide for parents talking to their kids about sex


Designed for parents and carers, Talk soon. Talk often was originally developed in 2011 by the Western Australia Department of Health, following research by La Trobe University to determine what parents want with regard to the sexuality education of their children. The recommendations from Parents and sex education in Western Australia – A consultation with parents on educating their children about sexual health at home and school (2008) by Sue Dyson, included the need for a high quality, attractive resource that would be long lasting and well used within families and across communities.

There have been several print runs in WA with over 60,000 books being distributed since its initial release in late 2011. Talk soon. Talk often has also been reproduced in Tasmania and its content and messaging has been used to develop shorter, specialised resources in other states.


The original publication, written by Jenny Walsh from La Trobe University has now been updated by the HARP Team of Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District to reflect the NSW context and is being launched across the Local Health Districts of Nepean Blue Mountains, Western Sydney and Hunter New England. The changes include updated referrals, information about relevant NSW programs and legal issues. The photos have been changed to reflect the diversity of communities across NSW. 

Talk soon. Talk often is a broad resource that reflects the diversity of parent’s voices. The book is a great companion to the NSW PDHPE Curriculum, and aligns with the NSW Department of Education document About sexuality and sexual health education in NSW government schools, March 2015. It enables families to extend the classroom learning without fear or awkwardness about language and challenging questions. Talk soon. Talk often aims to establish open and honest communication from early in childhood. The book provides tips on creating easy conversations about bodies, relationships, health and sexuality, as part of routine communication.

For further information, to contact:

Bronwyn Leece Bronwyn.Leece@health.nsw.gov.au (02 4734 3998) or Louise Maher Louise.Maher1@health.nsw.gov.au



New flagship publications on the response to HIV

AFAO and the Centre for Social Research at UNSW Australia warmly invite you to a Special Reception with drinks and canapés to celebrate the joint launch of two flagship publications on the Australian response to HIV.

The Australian HIV Prevention Response. Special edition of the journal AIDS Education and Prevention edited by Peter Aggleton and Susan Kippax.

HIV and the enabling environment: Australia and our region. Special edition of HIV Australia focusing on HIV and the enabling environment

Download here http://www.afao.org.au/library/hiv-australia

When? Wednesday 23 July 2014, 5.15–7.00pm

Where? AFAO, G’day! Welcome to Australia Networking Zone, AIDS 2014 Global Village, Melbourne Conference Centre. Admission free

With music by the Acacia Quartet