The Australian teenage fertility rate of 16 births per 1000 women aged 15-19 years is considerably higher than countries such as the Netherlands, which has a rate of 5 births per 1000 women, and Sweden, which has a rate of 6 births per 1000. [i] Even more concerning is the fact that this rate is five times higher amongst Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders at 75 births per 1000 women.[ii]
Young people in Australia are also increasingly sexually active and when asked what they thought were important topics for their learning, young people cited sex education, sexual identity and mental health as critical issues for young people today.[iii]
Of particular concern in relation to young people is the fact that almost one quarter (24.2%) of sexually active secondary school students surveyed about their sexual behaviours indicated that they were drunk or high at their most recent sexual encounter.[iv] Furthermore, 61% of same sex attracted young people reported verbal abuse because of homophobia/transphobia, with 80% of all the abuse happening at school (this has steadily increased from 70% in 1998 [v] and 74% in 2005[vi]).
An emerging issue is the relationship between pornography, social media and sexualisation of children. Definitive work is required to better understand these relationships and appropriate interventions.
The Youth Special Interest Group (YSIG) focuses its attention on three areas of youth sexual and reproductive health: mental health; lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) issues; and pornography and the impact of popular culture. Information on the national stakeholders, possible project donors, conferences and services is being compiled as a means of a national contextual scanning activity to inform future YSIG work.
[ii] Zubrick SR, Silburn SR, Lawrence DM, Mitrou FG & Dalby RC 2005, The social and emotional wellbeing of Indigenous children and young people, Telethon Institute for Child Health Research and Curing University of Technology, Perth. WA. Cited in Johns J, Hurley C & Bentley M, 2010; A Literature Review of Indigenous Health Literacy, Prepared for Shine SA, Flinders University, SACHRU, p13
[iii] Australian Youth Forum, June 2012, Submission to Australian Curriculum and Reporting Authority on Proposed Australian Curriculum Subjects: Health and Physical Education, Technologies, Office for Youth, Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, Accessed on 6 August 2012 at: http://www.youth.gov.au/ayf/News/Documents/AYFSubmissiontoACARA_Healthan…
[iv] Smith, A., Schlichthorst, M., Mitchell, A., Walsh, J., Lyons, A., Blackman, P., Pitts, M., 2011. Sexuality education in Australian secondary schools 2010. Melbourne: Australian Research Centre in Sex Health and Society, La Trobe University
[v] Hillier L., Dempsey D., Harrison L., Beale L., Matthews L & Rosenthal D. (1998) WritingThemselves In: A national report on the sexuality, health and well-being of same sex attracted young people, Australian Research Centre in Sex Health and Society, La Trobe University.
[vi] Hillier, L., Turner A. & Mitchell, A. (2005) Writing themselves in again: 6 years on: The 2nd national report on the sexuality, health & well-being of same sex attracted young people in Australia, Australian Research Centre in Sex Health and Society, La Trobe University.
[vii] Smith, A., Schlichthorst, M., Mitchell, A., Walsh, J., Lyons, A., Blackman, P., Pitts, M., 2011. Sexuality education in Australian secondary schools 2010. Melbourne: Australian Research Centre in Sex Health and Society, La Trobe University
[viii] Walsh, J., Western Australia. Sexual Health and Blood-borne Virus Program, Australian Research Centre in Sex, H.& S., Western Australia. Dept. of Health, 2011. Talk soon. Talk often : a guide for parents talking to their kids about sex. Sexual Health and Blood-borne Virus Program, [Perth, W.A.]