Casino High School students Hannah Laird, Hope Johnston, William Smith and Michael Haynes voluteered as Peer Educators Educating Peers (PEEPS) at the annual PASH conference.
Casino High School students Hannah Laird, Hope Johnston, William Smith and Michael Haynes voluteered as Peer Educators Educating Peers (PEEPS) at the annual PASH conference. Cathryn McLauchlan

Teens talk sex at PASH to help create cultural shift

SEX. It's a topic most of us struggle to talk about openly and yet it affects everyone.

That's one of the reasons why 640 kids gathered over two days at Southern Cross University for the Positive Adolescent Sexual Health (PASH) Consortium.

Melbourne-based sex and relationship specialist, Cyndi Darnell, held talks and an embodied consent workshop at the conference.

She described the absense of discussion around sex as "not only dangerous, but also a form of abuse".

"Being able to give young people access to the information that they have a right to have is fundamental to their health and wellbeing," she said.

The PASH conference is a voluntary network of over 34 organisations.

It's programmed by youth workers, health experts and young people who receive training in the lead up to the event.

The young people, or PEEPs (Peer Educators Educating Peers), are volunteers from Northern Rivers schools.

Year 11 Casino High School student, Hannah Laird, recognised it wasn't a topic people like talking about.

"Young people need to be educated on sexual health, because they are probably having sex already and they need to know about it," she said.

"It's important to have young people educating other young people, because I think they listen a lot more."

Year 11 student Michael Haynes said with explicit images all over the internet it was important to talk about sex-related subjects.

"Everyone sees porn all over the internet ... there's all these photos on social media that people get this overall image that 'We have to do it because they are', and that's not what sex is about, it's all about doing it with someone who is fine with it and you're fine with it," he said.

Ms Darnell said it was all about creating a cultural shift.

"It's not just about the young people, it's about the teachers, the media, sports clubs ... the parents," she said.

"Culturally we've never been told that it's valuable so we dont spend any time practising it.

"This is true of adults, so because young people are brought up surrounded by adults who are mostly not very well educated around communication, consent and pleasure, what they do is demonstrate what they see around them."

Students at the conference rotated around five workshops through the day on the subjects of:

  • Hot topics
  • Let's talk about sex
  • Byron Youth Theatre
  • Consent
  • Mind, Body, Soul

For more information about the PASH conference visit healthynorthcoast.org.au/pash/