In the words of American hip-hop group, Salt-N-Pepa, let's talk about sex.
It is often framed as a sensitive and personal topic that is best avoided in public and polite company. For many people, it can attract shame, guilt, embarrassment, weighty expectations, and even moral quandaries. But if we as a society don't talk enough about sex, sexuality and relationships, what are the personal and public consequences? What does it mean for our safety and our wellbeing?
Traditional sex education may teach young people about basic anatomy, or sexual and reproductive health, but do we leave school equipped to safely and confidently navigate the real world of sex and human relationships? What is sexual wellbeing and how do we improve it?
Some things are changing. Australian education ministers have unanimously agreed to mandate consent education in schools from 2023. Diversity in sex and relationships is increasingly visible in popular culture. Sexual offence laws are being reformed and the federal government is investing almost $15 million to strengthen how the criminal justice system responds to sexual assault. But other things aren't changing fast enough. In recent weeks, several women have been killed in Australia allegedly by men known to them. What can we do, individually and collectively, about this national emergency?
This important conversation will be hosted online by Australian experts, combining a wealth of knowledge and experience in law, sex education, and sexology.
Katrina Marson (She/Her) passionately pursues a world where everyone has the right to sexual wellbeing and to live free from sexual violence.
She has been researching the protective power of sex-ed to prevent sexual violence and safeguard sexual wellbeing for a decade. She has been a criminal lawyer since 2013, primarily in the area of family violence and sexual offences. On secondment for two years, Katrina led the implementation of the Child Sexual Abuse Royal Commission’s criminal justice recommendations in the ACT before returning to the ACT Department of Public Prosecutions as a senior prosecutor in the Sexual Offences Unit.
Katrina undertook a Churchill Fellowship in 2019 researching the implementation of relationships and sexuality education overseas. Her findings were published in the report Ignorance is not Innocence: Implementing Relationships and Sex Education to safeguard sexual wellbeing. Katrina sits on the federal government’s National Respectful Relationships Education Expert Working Group.
Katrina is currently taking a break from criminal practice while she completes her PhD in sex-education. She is a columnist for The Age/The Sydney Morning Herald, and her first book, Legitimate Sexpectations: the power of sex-ed, was published in 2022.
Katrina graduated from the Australian National University with a Bachelor of Arts / Bachelor of Laws (Honours) in 2012 and was named Student of the Year in 2013 and ACT Young Lawyer of the Year in 2016.
Lauren French (She/Her) is a proud Karajarri women who believes that every young person deserves a life filled with respectful relationships and equitable experiences. She is currently the Head of Education and Community Development at Body Safety Australia and a sexologist in private practice.
Lauren had the joy of growing up on Larrakia Lands in the Northern Territory and has always been passionate about finding ways to support and empower First Nations children and families. A large focus of her work has centred on helping move others away from viewing mob through a deficit lens and understanding the very real strengths community holds in preventing harm.
After completing a Bachelor of Psychology, she had the incredible opportunity to volunteer with Body Safety Australia. This work opened her eyes to both the heartbreak of violence experienced by children, as well as the joy in helping them find their voice. Since 2017, Lauren has been working in this field facilitating workshops across early childhood, primary and secondary school spaces with children, educators, and families. In her current roles, Lauren specialises in prevention of child sexual abuse, consent & respectful relationships, puberty & sexuality and LGBTQIA+ equity & inclusivity education.
Lauren holds a Masters of Sexology and is a member of the Society of Australian Sexologists, Australian Counselling Association, and the Australian & New Zealand Mental Health Association. Her work in schools has been highlighted in the SBS documentary series ‘Asking for It’, a series exploring Australia’s current issues with sexual violence, and she has presented her work and experience at multiple conferences.
Lauren received the 2023 Indigenous Achievement award in the 2023 7News Young Achiever Awards (Victoria), and is currently undertaking a Churchill Fellowship studying Indigenous Elder-guided relationship and community repair after youth sexual violence.