Young People's Perceptions of Sexuality and Relationships Education in Queensland Schools


  • Milena Barbagallo James Cook University
  • Helen Boon James Cook University



sexuality, relationships, sexual health, curriculum, sexual relationships education


The Australian Research Centre for Sex, Health and Society (2009) reported a rise in the number of students becoming sexually active at a younger age. Statistics show the rate of people contracting Sexually Transmitted Infections have increased in Australia, with reported numbers of Chlamydia quadrupling in the last ten years, with 80% of reported cases being 15-19 years old. Education is fundamental in providing good sexual health care. However research suggests that too few of our youth, particularly those in rural areas, are provided with Sexuality and Relationships Education (SRE) deemed adequate to support future adult sexual health and wellbeing. In the past there has been no mandated framework or program for SRE in Australian schools. However Queensland State and National Government health strategies have identified young people as a priority target population for the prevention and management of youth sexual health and wellbeing. These initiatives have provided the impetus for this study.

The study aimed to gain insight into young people‟s perceptions of SRE as the end users in Queensland State, Catholic and Independent schools. It examined their views about the efficacy of the SRE they received and whether it informed them in today's society. They responded to questions about the content and delivery of SRE, as well as how pertinent it was of current issues youth are exposed to in society. The study, centred in a regional city in Queensland, involved a sample of 110 people between the ages of 18 and 21. Of this sample, 87.3% of participants were schooled in rural or regional areas in the state. Participants completed a confidential, anonymous survey, consisting of a range of multiple choice and short answer questions. The survey required participants to reflect on their past schooling experiences and report their perceptions of their SRE courses. Results were analysed using quantitative, descriptive analysis.

Results show similarities from respondents who attended State and Independent schools in relation to the SRE program. In general, young people said education was age appropriate and presented current issues, however 68% maintained that improvements could be made in terms of content and the delivery of the subject. Suggestions for improvements were made by respondents. With the implementation of the National Curriculum over the next couple of years, we conclude that State, Catholic and Independent schools in Queensland, in particular rural and regional areas, should use this opportunity to improve the content and delivery of SRE. Comprehensive SRE in schools needs to encompass learning that is functional, beneficial and practical for end users, in order to inform their choices and experiences.




How to Cite

Barbagallo, M., & Boon, H. (2012). Young People’s Perceptions of Sexuality and Relationships Education in Queensland Schools. Australian and International Journal of Rural Education, 22(1), 107–124.