Last April, the Australian Christian Lobby was called as a witness to the inquiry on the Sexualisation of Children and Young People by the NSW Parliamentary Committee on Children and Young People.
The ACL was invited to participate because of its strong record of work in this area over many years, and because of its high standards of research. This was an excellent opportunity for ACL to speak directly to our politicians and we do not take this privilege lightly.
This inquiry was wide-ranging in its exploration of how media and communications can lead to the early sexualisation of children and teens. The Committee recognised that children and young people are exposed daily to a range of messages and imagery through advertising, social media, television, the internet and school curricula and programs. This potentially has a profound impact on their health and relationships.
The exposure of children and teens to the proliferation of sexual imagery and messaging and the accompanying sexualising effect, has generated much concern and discussion in Australia.
The Committee found that one of the major ramifications of sexualisation was the inability to protect children from inappropriate online material.
This is something that the ACL has been lobbying our State and Federal governments on for many years.
It was immensely encouraging to be invited to speak on the current inability of our systems to protect children from inappropriate material and to present to the committee a possible solution such as an ‘opt-in’ clean feed internet which is currently in operation throughout the United Kingdom.
In addition to inappropriate online messaging, material in the media and in advertising, our schools are now also becoming the purveyors of harmful sexual messages through controversial programs such as Safe Schools and Respectful Relationships. It was pleasing to see the committee consider the breadth of these concerns which helped them in putting forward sound recommendations.
It is with a sense of great encouragement that I share with you just a few of the committee’s recommendations following this inquiry -
- The Committee recommended that the Attorney-General advocate for the adoption of opt-in internet filtering through the Council of Australian Governments Law, Crime and Community Safety Council.
- The Committee recommended that the Department of Education require schools under the Controversial Issues in Schools policy to consult with parents prior to any implementation of the Safe Schools program, and require that parents choose whether to opt in to this program. At any time parents may elect to have their child opt out of the program.
- The Committee recommended that the Advocate for Children and Young People continue to work with the Office of the Children’s e-Safety Commissioner and industry stakeholders to explore opportunities to reduce children and young people’s exposure to pornography.
Thank you for your support of the work of ACL, without it we would not be able to submit to, and witness, at committees such as this one. Together, we are making a difference and working for the peace and prosperity of our nation.