NSW police and education leaders have promised to address sexual violence in the state's schools after thousands of women and girls shared stories of their assaults as students.
Representatives from the NSW Department of Education, Association of Independent Schools and Catholic Schools NSW sat down with police on Friday to discuss the issue, brought to light by a petition for schools to teach students about consent earlier.
The petition of nearly 28,000 signatures was started by former Kambala School student Chanel Contos, and is accompanied by thousands of harrowing stories of sexual assault suffered by students - mostly from private, single-sex schools across Sydney.
Ms Contos, who graduated in 2015 and is now studying in London, says she started the campaign because she "was sick of constantly hearing my friends' experience of sexual abuse".
"I have lived in three different countries and I have never spoken to anyone who has experienced rape culture the way me and my friends had growing up in Sydney amongst private schools," she said.
Among the high-profile schools implicated by the testimonies are Sydney Grammar School, Knox Grammar School, The King's School, Barker College, Waverley College, Kincoppal-Rose Bay School, Cranbrook School, Loreto Kirribilli and Scots College.
In a statement released after Friday's meeting, NSW Police said a commitment was made to establish a statement of intent to address the issue of sexual violence within NSW schools.
"Some of the key elements that will be considered during this process include but are not limited to: consent education, protocols on reporting, and most importantly the safety, welfare and wellbeing of young people," the statement read.
Principals of nine prestigious Sydney private schools earlier this week spoke with Ms Contos via Zoom.
"It was a valuable and productive meeting, giving us the opportunity to talk candidly about the scale of the problem, what we have done so far to address it and what we will do from here," a joint letter to alumnae said.
"Our meeting with Chanel helped reinforce the fact that there is much more we can do, and do earlier."
The schools, which include Kambala, Sydney Grammar and Cranbrook, have promised to audit their sexual consent programs, and to create more opportunities for male and female students to interact in a safe school setting.
"The testimonies have lifted the lid on a toxic culture that has shocked us all; we are determined to work together, with our communities, to challenge and dismantle that culture."
Australian Associated Press
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