Embedding Respectful Relationships and Consent

This year, Mrs Diane Furusho returned to Haileybury to develop and lead a new program that will reinforce the importance of Respectful Relationships and Consent across the School. Elements of the Program are already being rolled out and more initiatives are planned for 2022.

Here, Mrs Furusho, Assistant Principal Respectful Relationships and Consent, answers some questions about the aims of the Program, what it looks like so far and why it is so important.

Q: What is the overarching goal of Respectful Relationships and Consent?

Our goal is that every student will truly understand what respect is and the values that underpin it. It is also that every student knows respectful relationships begin with respecting oneself and respecting each other. It exists and is seen in their thoughts, words and actions. With regard to consent, it is imperative that students learn that you cannot just take—you need consent first. You must ask and receive a ‘yes.’ Students also need to be able to say ‘no’ and feel confident to do so.

Q: What kinds of values underpin the Program?

We surveyed our community and from the responses we decided on the following values: respect, trust, honesty, empathy and kindness. These values are the shared common language used across our School and they are embedded into every aspect of a student’s life in the School. For example, instead of saying ‘are you telling me the truth or lying?’ you could say ‘I trust you will be honest’. By using the word ‘trust’ it shows the positive relationship and the word ‘honest’ contains being truthful, but it also reflects ‘I am believing you’.

Q: What kinds of work are younger students already doing around relationships and consent? 

In Year 1, students learn about their different relationships, such as those they have with family, friends and teachers. Through story books they are exposed to various scenarios which can lead to conversations to help children learn about conflict and strategies to manage that. They discuss how disagreements in the playground make them feel and from this they learn about different emotions. In learning how to share, this begins the learning of consent and for a child to know that it is okay to say ‘no’.

Q: How is Respectful Relationships and Consent delivered to older students?

In Years 7 and 8, students examine what a positive relationship looks like. We expand on what conflict in a relationship might look like, such as bullying, and what it means to be a bystander and an upstander. This leads to continuing to teach about empathy and the importance of trying to see situations through the eyes of the other person and how they may feel. Students also learn about what a respectful relationship looks like online. In an age where social media dominates much of a young person’s life, we need to ensure we are equipping them with the skills to be respectful and to stay safe online.

In Years 11 and 12, students delve deeper into healthy relationships with a partner. The question that students often ask is ‘what does a healthy relationship look like?’ We provide a safe environment for students to ask questions and have discussions. Topics such as power imbalance, persuasion of the media and the impact of stereotypes form part of the curriculum and are designed to encourage the critical thinking skills of our students.

Q: What is important to the success of Respectful Relationships and Consent?

We know that it must be a whole-school approach for change to be effective—from the Leadership Team, teachers, students, parents and the broader community. Professional development for staff is vital, along with student input into the curriculum and how they wish for it to be delivered.

Q: How can parents support their children to understand the importance of consent and building respectful relationships throughout their lives?

Parents need to grab every opportunity with their child to have conversations about consent and respect. If they are watching a movie together and a stereotype has been portrayed, during the ad break ask them what they think about what they have just seen. At Haileybury, we run parent webinars and front-load parents with information regarding topics students will be studying and tips on how to have conversations with their child. Most important is that parents role-model respectful relationships.