Local students participate in youth sexual health conference
ABOUT a thousand local high school students, teachers and volunteers have taken part in a region-wide youth sexual health conference at Byron Bay.
The Positive Adolescent Sexual Health (PASH) Consortium is a voluntary network of more than 30 North Coast organisations.
It featured workshops, talks, multimedia and arts-based platforms to help young people develop skills and healthy behaviours around issues of sex, sexuality, sexual health, body image, bullying, homophobia, consent, accessing services, social media and sexual boundaries.
Youth sexual health researcher and clinician Dr Mellissa Kang from Sydney University, a conference presenter, said sexual health, like sex itself, could be difficult to talk about honestly.
"We tend to focus narrowly on the negatives such as diseases, especially when it comes to young people," she said. "Yet young people of high school age are often just beginning to experience the joys, pleasures, heartaches and worries of new romances, new sexual feelings and their new and changing bodies.
"If we ignore this and pretend it's only about the bad things that can happen we deny young people their right to information and services that acknowledge the complexity and diversity which comes with sexuality."
Dr Kang said there was no evidence that sex education of any kind led to earlier or increased sexual activity.
"In fact there is a body of research which tells us that such education means that young people are more likely to delay sexual intercourse and to be better prepared for it when the time comes."
North Coast Public Health HIV and Related Program coordinator Franklin John, one of the event's organisers, praised the organisations involved.
"The PASH conference is a not-for profit event solely supported by a group of passionate parents, volunteers and staff from various health and youth organisations that go way out of their way to make this community event happen," he said.
"The conference was an opportunity for adults to hear directly from young people and for young people to learn effective ways to influence the policies, programs and services that can ultimately improve the sexual health services for regional youth."