Sexuality and relationship education courses coming to Lithgow

Family Planning NSW is aiming to improve reproductive and sexual health outcomes in Lithgow with the introduction of whole of community sexuality and relationship education courses.

These courses will help target high rates of teen pregnancy and low rates of STI detection in Lithgow. Currently, teen pregnancy in Lithgow is more than double the rate across wider NSW, with pregnancies for women aged 15-19 sitting at 24.12 per thousand compared with 9.9 in wider NSW.

Traditionally the responsibility of sexuality and relationship education has sat almost entirely within the school curriculum, however this doesn't account for the varying needs of young people - some of who may be disengaged from school - and ignores the role that the community plays in shaping a person’s attitudes towards their reproductive and sexual health.

A 2019 Needs Assessment conducted by Family Planning NSW found that almost 80 per cent of parents and carers had not participated in a sexual and reproductive health workshop, reflecting the lack of resources available in Lithgow. It also found that while most service providers had not participated in training, 90 per cent reported they would benefit from it.

According to Eliza Basheer, Lead Project Officer, the assessment also uncovered a great discrepancy between the topics that parents, carers and service providers would like more information on when compared to young people.

"Parents and carers highlighted the need for information on physical body changes through puberty and service providers requested training focusing on LGBTIQ health and consent, whereas young people themselves want holistic education that covers topics such as gender identity," Eliza said.

"These needs differed again for parents and carers of children with disability, who felt things like personal hygiene and managing menstruation, were most relevant for them."

"From our research and close collaboration with key stakeholders and the community in Lithgow, what became clear is that there is a lack of comprehensive sexuality and relationship education but a high demand for resources across the board."

Based on the findings, Family Planning NSW is introducing a series of free-of-charge courses in the region, made possible through the Nepean Blue Mountains Local Health District. The courses will be made available to parents, carers, disability support workers and service providers, and may expand to other groups in the future.

The course content takes a whole-of-community approach, focusing on capacity building for adults who support children and young people regarding sexuality and reproductive education.

"Through implementing a whole-of-community approach, we are aiming to provide education that is meaningful, tailored to the needs of the community and that will have a positive and lasting impact on reproductive and sexual health outcomes for children and young people in Lithgow," says Eliza.

"This means that children of all ages, young people who might be disengaged from school and people with disability will all be able to benefit from the courses as those they look to for guidance are up-skilled in providing accurate and relevant sexuality and relationship education."

The courses are free-of-charge and will be run by expert staff from the Family Planning NSW Education and Health Promotion teams and will begin in March 2020. There will be face-to-face courses available across Lithgow and surrounding areas, with some courses also offered online as webinars.

For more information and to register, visit the Family Planning NSW website: https://www.fpnsw.org.au/education-training

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Media enquiries: Family Planning NSW E: media@fpnsw.org.au M: 0402 880 653

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