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Delivering culturally safe sexual & reproductive health education

Health & wellbeing

Aug 15, 2022

This July, our sexual and reproductive health team was thrilled to be able to facilitate the first Human Relations education sessions in over two years.

An illustration of a young person who is standing front on with her arms folded. She's wearing black sandals, purple pants, a drees top and glasses. She has short black cropped hair.

What is the Human Relations program?

The Human Relations program increases sexual and reproductive health knowledge among newly-arrived young people with refugee and migrant backgrounds. It supports the development of healthy and respectful relationships.

The program provides young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds with education that is inclusive and culturally sensitive, to support them to make informed decisions about relationships and sexual and reproductive health.

GenWest delivers this program over five weeks at Western English Language School (WELS) in Braybrook. It is delivered in partnership with the City of Maribyrnong (Youth Services), cohealth, Centre for Culture, Ethnicity and Health and the WELS school community.

The program is tailored to the needs and priorities of newly-arrived young people from migrant and refugee backgrounds. Special care is taken to ensure that the content is clear, accessible, relevant, culturally responsive and age-appropriate. Cultural safety and sensitivity are crucial to the effective delivery of this program.

Our Human Relations program has been running for over a decade, but COVID-19 interrupted the delivery of the program in early 2020.

What has changed since COVID-19

Disruptions due to COVID-19 gave facilitators a two-year break from running these education sessions. During this time they reflected on how the sessions run and reviewed the topics and content of the sessions.

Before 2020, facilitators worked with students of up to four different language groups at one time. This meant having four translators in the room. In 2022, facilitators decided to present to one language group at a time. Facilitators thought that this would help the students engage with the topics more easily.

An illustration of a young Persian woman sitting with her arm rested on her bent leg. She’s wearing a navy head scarf and trousers, a green sweatshirt and white trainers. She has a lilac bag beside her, and her hands are painted with brown henna.

Successfully relaunching the program

The Human Relations sessions were delivered to 29 Afghan students in term 2 of 2022. Due to a large enrolment of Afghan students at WELS, who were soon to be moving on from the school, the team decided to prioritise working with these students.

In preparation for delivering the education sessions, the facilitators and the school met with Foundation House for a professional development session about how to sensitively discuss the topics with the students, and to gain greater knowledge of other cultural considerations.

The sessions were presented in English with two Dari interpreters. The interpreters were comfortable delivering the content and were very engaging - they joined in on the discussions with students because of their direct cultural understandings. Their engagement in the dialogue had a significant positive impact on the comfort and sense of safety felt amongst the students.

The sessions included discussions and interactive activities on the following topics:

  • Consent and health relationships
  • Emotions
  • Puberty
  • Safer sex and pregnancy
  • Sexuality and gender
  • What make them feel comfortable and uncomfortable
  • Who in their lives they can talk to about these topics

Students shared that they felt embarrassed to talk about the content but were glad they had the opportunity because it is important information. Students also shared they were thankful to have this space to learn because they do not talk about it elsewhere.

“Thank you. The girls really enjoyed the program and said it was the best class they have had at school.”

WELS teacher
Three drawings by students on blue and yellow paper of a female body and handwritten notes such as '"boobs get bigger", "hair growth", "height" and "pimples".

Drawings by some of the students for an activity. They were asked to note changes that happen during puberty.

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