Half of Australian High School Student Respondents Admittedly Having Sex
A national survey with data collected in 2018 found that 47 percent of respondents to Australian high school students had had sex.
Especially for grade 12 students, the number reached 55 percent.
Australia has a national curriculum, but because the education sector remains the responsibility of the states, implementation varies, including the application of the sex education curriculum.
According to Latrobe University sexual health expert, Dr Christopher Fisher, teaching sex education in Australia is still patchy.
Dr Christopher leads the National Secondary Education and Sexual Health Student Survey which has been conducted every five years since 1992.
"Some teens said they were very happy they got sex education, because they could learn so many things," Dr Christopher told the ABC.
"But along the way, other teenagers may not get sex education as well as what is taught in school," he explained.
Curtin University sex education curriculum coordinator Dr Jacqueline Hendriks called the sex education curriculum in Australia still "fickle".
"I do not say that we are left behind, but we must keep up with the times," he said.
"There are huge differences, between schools, between classrooms," said Dr. Jacqueline.
Tamsin Griffiths hopes that sex education in schools can be in line with the attitudes and behavior of adolescents like himself.
ABC Heywire: Karen Brookes
A teenager in Melbourne, Tamsin Griffiths said sex education in schools needs to be more representative of the relationships and sex lives of adolescents in general.
"We need more information than just an explanation of how to put a condom on a banana," he said.
"It's not all about how babies are born or about marriage anymore. The existing curriculum does not include topics like the element of fun," said Tamsin.
"One-night stands and casual sex are very common nowadays. But the curriculum only teaches about sex as a reproductive function alone," he said.
Tamsin, who is from the Mornington Peninsula area, conducted a survey of 500 high school students last year and found sex education teaching was out of date.
"The curriculum does not reflect the LGBTQI + community properly. When I compare it with friends, there are so many experiences of youth that are not represented in the curriculum," he said.
"Sex is a natural part of life, so why not teach it adequately in schools?" said Tamsin.
Tamsin said that currently teenagers generally have sex for pleasure, but education in schools treats sex as a reproductive activity.
"The pleasure aspect is a big enough reason for teenagers to have sex," he said.
Dr Jacqueline said sex education should include a more comprehensive view of sex, including aspects of pleasure, mutual respect, intimacy, relationships and consent.
"Young people always say they don't want to be reminded only about illness, babies and bodies," he said.
"They want to know more. Like about same-sex attraction and gender diversity, because most curricula are very focused on heterosexual relationships," he explained.
Dr Jacqueline added that a "sex positive" mindset is more needed to avoid outdated concepts around sex.
"Ideally, we want to teach teens to have sexual relationships that are really positive and enjoyable," he said.
According to Dr Christopher, teaching the aspects of mutual agreement when having sex is another thing that must be strengthened.
"Quite consistently over the past 25 years, about a quarter of teens reported unwanted sexual relations," he said.
Teens need to be critical about pornographic content that is increasingly accessible
Students are looking for information about relationships and sexual health through the internet.
ABC South East SA: Kate Hill
The results of a survey from Latrobe University also stated that an increase in the number of adolescents accessing sexual health information via the internet to 79 percent.
Dr Jacqueline added that a realistic sex education curriculum is needed to emphasize digital literacy.
"It is not a matter of whether our children will view pornography or sexual content, but only a matter of when they see it," he said.
Currently, a lot of sexual content is easily accessible, so according to him, teenagers need to teach skills to be critical of the content they consume.
A spokeswoman for the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) said the national curriculum includes a special module on relationships and sexuality in Year 10.
The national curriculum regulates relationships and sexual health starting at grade 10 or grade 1 high school.