Sexual health advocates say the draft national curriculum is a ”dreadful attempt” at teaching sexual health in high schools.
The final draft of the Health and Physical Education curriculum does not mention sexually transmissible infections, blood-borne diseases or HIV, nor does it directly address homophobic bullying.
Some organisations are concerned the omissions will leave room for schools to sidestep the issues.
The curriculum, developed by the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority, will guide how schools teach the subject, replacing the existing NSW-specific syllabus.
The chief executive of Youth Empowerment Against HIV/AIDS, Alischa Ross, said the curriculum had made ”a dreadful attempt” at including sexual health issues.
”There is an extraordinary emphasis on movement and physical activity and very little in that personal, social and community health strand,” she said.
While the curriculum did cover ”sexual health”, it provided little detail as to what that should include.
Unlike the NSW syllabus set by the Board of Studies, it did not mention sexually transmissible infections or HIV.
”It is a big step backward for a lot of states,” Ms Ross said.
The rates of STIs in Australia had risen to what she called ”epidemic levels”. And, without minimum standards in place, there could be great diversity in the way sexual health was taught.
”Individual schools are totally at will to interpret it as they see fit, which means they can quite easily omit important content if they decide they don’t want to teach it,” Ms Ross said. ”They could replace lessons on sexual health with lessons on abstaining from sex … and that’s terrifying.”
The Australian Family Association spokesman Tempe Harvey said the curriculum already went too far in making sexual health education compulsory.
”This amounts to a one-size-fits-all morality education being forced on parents against their will,” Ms Harvey said. ”It should be optional as an extracurricular activity.
”Many parents would like their children taught abstinence before anything else and that would not be an option if their children are subjected to these classes. They will be told you can do whatever you like as long as you’re wearing a condom.”
An ACARA spokesman said the authority rejected the criticism and believed it had ”struck the right balance”.
The NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby was alarmed that a reference to homophobia in an earlier draft had been removed.
”That’s really disappointing because it represents backsliding,” policy and project officer Jed Horner said.
The ACARA spokesman said the reference to homophobia was removed because feedback favoured incorporating all discrimination into one topic.
”The curriculum provides for all students to learn about the negative impacts of all forms of discrimination and encourages the teaching of health and physical education to be inclusive and relevant to students of all sexual orientations.”
Ms Ross said the national curriculum was a once-in-a-generation opportunity ”because a huge amount of money and time has been invested in developing it”.
”If you’re not going to deal with these issues then it’s a big waste of time and taxpayers’ dollars.”
The curriculum is in the final review and approval stage and is expected to be published by the end of the year.