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Welcome from the Director

Latest News

Upcoming Events

Resource: Teen Teaching Resource

Feature: Safe Schools


Our People: Rachel Thorpe

Research Participants Needed

Recent Publications

ARCSHS in the Media

Times they are a'changin'

This last quarter has seen a myriad of changes for young and old around LGBTI rights.

We've seen positive steps taken in aged care with two Australian-first Rainbow Tick accreditations (see latest news for more). We have also seen extensive media coverage around the Safe Schools project, and we've played a central part in the conversation.

On the 4th of March, my comment piece - Let's not lose sight of the facts in the Safe Schools debate - was featured as an op-ed in The Age, and we've compiled a number of feature articles around the topic in this edition of our quarterly newsletter. We hope this serves to give you a deeper understanding of our position on the debate.

As always, thank you for your contribution to - and interest in - our work. I hope you enjoy reading about it. 

Warm regards,

Professor Jayne Lucke
Director, ARCSHS


Safe Schools

The Safe Schools Coalition has been a prominent topic of debate in Australia's media over the past few months. Researchers from ARCSHS and other universities have offered a strong voice in the media throughout, helping to demystify the facts and highlight the key issues for LGBTI children, teenagers and communities.

The following articles feature a selection of published articles on this issue.

Let's not lose sight of the facts in the Safe Schools debate

Jayne Lucke, published 4 March 2016 in The Age

Attacking programs that recognise the facts about diversity can harm young people. Amid the claims, counterclaims and opinions, it's time for the discussion to be grounded in facts. It's clear to me that a number of important points are being ignored in the debate. Read the full article here.

Safe Schools Coalition: what is the Christian Right afraid of?

Timothy W. Jones, published 26 February 2016 in The Conversation

The review of the Safe Schools program is yet another example of the misguided conservative anxiety that talking about homosexuality can "turn" children gay. Read the full article here.

Explainer: what is Safe Schools Coalition?

Lucy Nicholas, published 19 February 2016 in The Conversation 

Safe Schools Coalition has been the focus of hot debate, but there is little evidence to support the anxieties around its mission. Read the full article here.

Safe Schools review findings: experts respond

David Rhodes, Lucy Nicholas, Timothy W. Jones & Victoria Rawlings, published 18 March 2016 in The Conversation

After a three-week debacle, the findings of the review into the Safe Schools Coalition program are out. Here's what academic experts make of the review. Read the full article here.

Fear and loathing reigns in Safe Schools and same-sex marriage debates

Dennis Altman, published on 21 March 2016 in The Conversation

The damaging polarisation around queer issues in Australian politics is out of step with community sentiment. Read the full article here.

We must celebrate gender and sexual diversity in our schools

Lucy Nicholas, published on 16 February 2016 in The Conversation

Moralising commentaries about the Safe Schools Coalition are out of touch with social research about gender and the realities of the ways that young people understand their own sexual and gender identities. Read the full article here.

Latest News


Aged care reaching for the rainbow

It's been a ground-breaking few months for LGBTI rights in aged care with two Australian firsts.

Providing over 550 services across NSW and the ACT, Uniting is Australia's first large, faith-based aged care provider to achieve Rainbow Tick accreditation, and in Victoria, Lifeview Residential Care has become the first private Australian residential aged care provider to achieve the Rainbow Tick. Organisations carrying the Rainbow Tick have demonstrated a clear commitment to LGBTI pride, diversity and inclusion and have a commitment to meet the needs of LGBTI clients, consumers and staff. 

Val's Cafe and Transgender Victoria played a key role in helping Lifeview achieve the tick through specialist education and training programs undertaken by all Lifeview staff and volunteers.

Read more about these fabulous achievements in the following news releases:

Sexuality and gender short course in South Africa

Professor Gary Dowsett recently travelled to South Africa to present a short course on Sexuality and Gender at the University of Pretoria's Centre for Sexualities, AIDS and Gender. This short course ran from 17-30 January 2016 as part of the Research and Training Committee (RTC) of the International Association for the Study of Sexuality, Culture and Society (IASSCS)

The Centre for Sexualities, AIDS and Gender was established in 1999 to deliver HIV prevention education right across the curriculum of the University of Pretoria. Its Co-Directors are Ms Mary Crewe and Mr Pierre Brouard. The Centre has a staff of young activists, students, volunteers and a small team of academics.

In 2015, Gary was asked to conduct this short course as part of the re-orientation of the Centre toward broader sexuality and gender issues, while continuing its emphasis on HIV/AIDS.

Gary took the opportunity to use modules from the IASSCS Advanced Sexuality Short Course (ASSC), delivering the follwoing sessions over two weeks:
  • Introduction to gender and sexuality theory and research
  • Sex, sexuality and gender: basic concepts
  • The social construction of sexual identities
  • Thinking about men and masculinity
  • ‘Critical Sexuality Studies’ and research methodologies
  • Special panel on sexuality, gender and HIV/AIDS.
Overall, Gary reports that the course was a success and that the IASSCS modules stood up well, although some of the content may need to be updated.



New insights to Hepatitis B Forum
Understanding the social and cultural experiences of people affected by hepatitis B

The forum will showcase a range of current research and health promotion programs as a way to explore the challenges, diversity and commonalities in understanding and working with people affected by hepatitis B. The forum aims to inform the development and delivery of hepatitis B social research, liver cancer research and health promotion program delivery.

Date: 12-5pm, 18 May 2016
Location: Rydges Melbourne, 186 Exhibition Street, Melbourne VIC
Cost: Free for Hepatitis Australia Health Promotion Conference attendees; $30 for non-attendees
More details: Visit the ARCSHS website

ARCSHS Course in Health - HIV and hepatitis C Testing
This course in post test counselling is run by ARCSHS several times throughout the year. 

This comprehensive accreditation program is designed to equip participants with appropriate knowledge and skills to engage in pre- and post- HIV and hepatitis C antibody test discussion, and prevention education, in a range of settings. 

Date: Monday 11 July 2016 09:00am until Tuesday 19 July 2016 05:00pm    
Location: 215 Franklin St, Melbourne 3000
Cost: $790
More details: Visit the ARCSHS website

Resource Feature

Online teen teaching resource

The Practical Guide to Love, Sex and Relationships resource is now online and ready to go. Developed by Jenny Walsh with input from ARCSHS staff, this free teaching resource takes a ground-breaking skills development approach to ethical sexual decision-making. 

Funded by the Australian Government, this resource promotes the concept of care of self, taking care of each other and having an equal say, for all young people. It includes activities exploring relationships, sexual consent, equity and sexual and reproductive health with videos, lesson plans and assessment tools.

Check it out online now.



Congratulations to Rachel Thorpe, whose PhD thesis “Choices and constraints: Older women’s reflections on bodies, sexuality and ageing in contemporary Australia” has been passed with very minor amendments.

A mighty achievement indeed.



The following piece by ARCSHS Research Officer Bianca Fileborn was first published on The Conversation, 22 January 2016. 

Forget the pick-up lines – here’s how to talk about your sexual desires and boundaries

“Pick-up artists” from the American company Real Social Dynamics (RSD) have been back in Australia to run a series of seminars for men on how to seduce women.

During a 2014 visit, RSD “coach” Julien Blanc was driven from the country after a public outcry that his seminars promote violence against women. The new seminars triggered a similar response.

RSD encourages the overt use of violence, such as choking, as a method for “picking up” women. Other strategies include wearing women down through repeated requests for sex, and “negging”, where men subtly insult women to undermine their confidence in an attempt to make them more likely to submit to sex.

Real Social Dynamics offers basic and advanced pick-up classes. Screenshot from

The program promotes models of masculinity and ideas about sex that have been explicitly linked to individual propensity to perpetrate sexual violence. Sexual conquests are construed as an impersonal “game”. Men are encouraged to view women as dehumanised objects: as points on the board or notches on their proverbial belts.

At the very least, these strategies constitute highly unethical sexual practices. At worst, they teach men strategies of sexual assault.

Compounding this problem is that we don’t consistently provide young people with information about sexual consent and negotiating romantic or sexual relationships as part of sex education at school. Yet they’re crying out for this information. So programs like RSD might inadvertently fill this void.

So what, precisely, does an “ethical” approach to sex and sexual consent look like? And how can we avoid repeating the various pitfalls of the RSD model?

Sexual ethics 101

First and foremost, an ethical approach to sex requires that we challenge the hierarchical system of sexual value that deems certain sexual practices or identities as being inherently “good” or “bad”. Sex in a monogamous, heterosexual relationship versus casual sex is just one example.

An ethical approach to sex arms young people with the skills to discuss, negotiate and articulate their own sexual desires and boundaries, and to respect those of others.

While there is no one correct way to negotiate sexual consent, this can involve:

  • Discussing your sexual likes and dislikes with a partner. For example, “which sexual activities do you find most pleasurable?”

  • Asking if it is OK to proceed with a sexual activity with a partner and respecting their response. For example, “would you like to do X?”

  • Paying attention to all of the signals a sexual partner is giving, including verbal responses and body language

  • Stopping and checking in if a partner gives any sign that they are not comfortable with what is happening

  • Never making assumptions about what a sexual partner is thinking or feeling

  • Having a conversation about safer sex practices.

Importantly, sexual consent is not a one-off “yes” or “no”. It’s an ongoing process throughout a sexual encounter. It might also shift across different relationship contexts (for example, a casual encounter versus a long-term relationships), or with different partners.

Context, power and gender roles

The particular social or relationship context we are in can have significant implications for the ability of a sexual partner to freely consent. Consuming alcohol and other drugs, for example, can impair our ability to give consent. If someone is extremely intoxicated or passed out, they cannot legally give their consent to sex.

An ethical approach to sex requires that we are aware of power dynamics and our position in the world relative to our sexual partners. For instance, does one party have direct power or control over the other, such as a boss and employee? How might this restrain the ability of the employee to openly refuse a sexual encounter?

Check in to see how your sexual partner is going. Shuttertock/Shutterstock

The onus sits with the person in a position of power to “check in” with the other and to create the space for them to freely communicate their needs and desires. If there are negative consequences of not having sex, such as losing your job, this is not ethical.

Likewise, gendered sex roles often teach women to be the passive recipients of sex, and men to be the relentless pursuers. Of course, not everyone adheres to this model of gender or sexuality.

It’s important to reflect on how this might shape our own and others' sexual expression. For example, might this make it more difficult for women to refuse heterosexual sex? Does this relentless perseverance respect the desires of the other person?

Exploring and challenging dominant models of gender and sexuality is vitally important in enabling people to become ethical sexual actors.

Sexual ethics education

Programs such as Moira Carmody’s Sex & Ethics have been implemented in some schools across Australia to teach young people about negotiating sex in a way that minimises the potential for sexual violence or coercion to occur.

Initial evaluations suggest the program has had some success in changing the attitudes and behaviours of young people when it comes to negotiating sex.

It is vital that sexual ethics education starts early and is age-appropriate, that respect and ethics are modelled across all interactions within a school (and, ideally, other environments such as the home) and that programs are responsive to different social, cultural and religious needs.

Ensuring young people are engaged in discussions on ethical sex can only lessen the influence of groups such as RSD and reduce the potential for coercive sex.


Rachel Thorpe
Research Fellow

Rachel Thorpe is a Research Fellow at ARCSHS. Her current research interests include how we make sense of ageing through our everyday bodily practices, and how these intersect with health. Rachel recently completed her PhD at ARCSHS, a qualitative study investigating how the current generation of older Australian women are negotiating sexuality and the appearance of age in the context of contemporary discourses about ageing. 

Rachel will soon be recruiting women to participate in a Building Healthy Communities-funded project investigating the association between women's shoe-wearing habits, identities and foot problems across their adult lives. 

Rachel also teaches the first year elective Contemporary Issues in Sex and Sexuality. 


We want YOU

Research participants wanted

To continue to deliver high-quality work, we need genuine participants to help us in our research. ARCSHS is currently looking for interested parties to participate in the following research projects.


The social and ethical implications of HIV cure research

There are currently a number of clinical trials happening in Australia and across the world exploring new approaches to the development of a cure for HIV.

While it is unlikely a cure for HIV will be available for many years (or decades), we're interested in how people living with HIV feel about HIV cure research and the media attention HIV cure research has attracted.

Do you have a spare hour to participate in an interview (face to face or on the telephone)?

We're looking for:
  • people aged over 18-years
  • living with HIV.
If you're interested in participating, please contact Andrew Westle at or call (03) 9479 8700.

HIV Futures 8 survey

Deadline extended to 17th June

HIV Futures 8 is a survey about the health and wellbeing of people living with HIV in Australia.

If you haven’t completed the survey yet, it is not too late! The deadline has been extended to 17 June 2016. 

About the survey

HIV Futures is Australia's most comprehensive national survey of people living with HIV (PLHIV). The survey, conducted periodically for nearly two decades, explores the experience of living with HIV in Australia, including:
  • physical and mental health
  • treatments
  • relationships
  • work and financial situations.
The results are used to help shape policy development, improve service delivery and chart an important chapter in LGBT history.

Have your say

HIV Futures 8 is now open. People living with HIV (over the age of 18) are invited to complete the survey online or in hard copy. 

To order a hard copy of the survey, please email Jennifer Power or call 1800 064 398.



Check out our top ARCSHS picks for this quarter. For more ARCSHS publications, visit our website.


Aggleton, Peter (Adjunct Professor at ARCSHS). Monitoring and Evaluation in Health and Social Development, Interpretive and Ethnographic Perspectives. Edited by Stephen Bell, UNSW, Australia and Peter Aggleton, UNSW, Australia.

Journal articles

Heywood, W., & Lyons, A. (2016). HIV and elevated mental health problems: Diagnostic, treatment, and risk patterns for symptoms of depression, anxiety, and stress in a national community-based cohort of gay men living with HIV. AIDS & Behavior. DOI: 10.1007/s10461-016-1324-y.

Jones, T., Smith, E., Ward, R., Dixon, J., Hillier, L., & Mitchell, A. (2015). School experiences of transgender and gender diverse students in Australia. Sex Education: Sexuality, Society and Learning, 16(2), 156-171. DOI: 10.1080/14681811.2015.1080678.

Lyons, A., Fletcher, G., & Bariola, E. (2016). Assessing the well-being benefits of belonging to resilient groups and communities: Development and testing of the Fletcher-Lyons Collective Resilience Scale. Group Dynamics: Theory, Research, and Practice. DOI: 10.1037/gdn0000041.

Lyons, A. (2016). Mindfulness attenuates the impact of discrimination on the mental health of middle-aged and older gay men. Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity. DOI: 10.1037/sgd0000164.

Lyons, A., Heywood, W., & Rozbroj, T. (2016). Psychosocial factors associated with resilience in a national community-based cohort of Australian gay men living with HIV. AIDS and Behavior. DOI: 10.1007/s10461-016-1338-5.

Waling, A. (2016). 'We are so pumped full of shit by the media': Masculinity, magazines and the lack of self-identification. Men and Masculinities. Accepted: 3 Feb 2016.
ARCSHS monographs

Mejia-Canales, D., & Leonard, W. (2016). Something for them: Meeting the support needs of same sex attracted and sex and gender diverse (SSASGD) young people who are newly arrived, refugees or asylum seekers. ARCSHS Monograph Series Number 107. Melbourne: The Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health & Society, La Trobe University. ISBN: 9781921915925.

ARCSHS in the Media

Our researchers have opinions, and they're out there on the world wide web. Here are some of our favourites. 

Jayne Lucke's column on The Conversation, Facts of Life including: 

Let's not lose sight of the facts in the Safe Schools debate by Jayne Lucke

Same-sex couples and their children: what does the evidence tell us? by Jennifer Power

Where is the line between normal behaviour and harassment? by Bianca Fileborn

ARCSHS opinions and activities have been featured in La Trobe University's Knowledge Blog articles including:

ARCSHS staff were also featured in:
Copyright © 2016 Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society (ARCSHS), La Trobe University, All rights reserved.

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