There’s much more to be done to dismantle the culture of toxic masculinity present in some Australian private schools, a current student and Shadow Education Minister Tanya Plibersek told last night’s education-focused Q+A.
Facing a question from an independent boy’s school student who said he’s witnessed how “a dangerous culture of sexism and misogyny” can spread, Vy Tran, a Year 12 student from Melbourne’s Mac.Robertson Girls’ High School, said some schools still cover for their students with the “justification of boys will be boys.”
Referring to recent incidents like the footage of students from Melbourne’s St. Kevin’s College shouting sexist chants on a public tram, Tran said she was lucky not to have personally faced sexual harassment or assault, but put forward the idea “There shouldn’t be a fortunate person.”
“A woman shouldn’t have to feel like they’re unsafe in their own school environment, and I shouldn’t have to sit in a class or sit with my peers and think there is a girl here that’s been sexually harassed or even assaulted,” Tran said.
“And we need to start holding these students accountable.”
Tran said she did not believe suspensions were suitable punishment for students involved in similar incidents, saying time off school doesn’t quite get the message across.
“We need to start holding not just schools but also students accountable for the actions and consequences that they impact upon students,” she said.
While the conversation quickly turned to the role of government funding for private schools and how they report serious incidents, Plibersek was keen to return to the key point – how students can prevent, or undo, a blokey mindset which can harm others.
“We need to do better,” Plibersek said of how the education system currently teaches healthy relationships, before turning to the role of individual responsibility among the student cohort.
“I do have a message for young men,” she added.
“Quite often you’ll be in a group and things could go one way or the other. Someone’s vulnerable. Someone’s on their own. Someone’s about to be bullied, someone is about to be assaulted, harassed. You have to be the leader in that group.
“And it’s hard, it’s embarrassing. People think you’re a straighty-180, whatever. Be that leader. And that cultural change among your peers is so much more powerful than me talking about it on television.”
You can catch the full episode here. This particular question kicks in at the 17:17 mark.Image: Q+A / ABC