Modern teens tackle taboo topics in ground-breaking survey

31 August 2018

Researchers from The Australian National University (ANU), in partnership with Deakin and Monash Universities, say we can learn some important lessons from Australia's Gen Z when it comes to accepting diversity.

Professor Mary Lou Rasmussen and her colleagues surveyed more than 1200 Australian teenagers aged 13-18, to find out what they think about a range of topics, including sexuality, gender diversity and religion.

"Contemporary teenagers are exposed to diversity in ways that are unprecedented, through social media, school and peers. But there is a lack of evidence based understanding of their experiences of religious, spiritual, gender and sexual diversity." Professor Rasmussen said.

"This study provides a powerful insight into how teenagers are making sense of the world around them."

According to the survey, 84 per cent of Australia's teens think school students should be allowed to openly express any sexual or gender orientation and 82 per cent supported marriage equality.

80 per cent of teens agree sex education in schools should include information relevant to LGBTQI people, while another 73 per cent think schools should discuss issues related to sexuality.

"This research also demonstrates that LGBTI issues aren't being taught in our schools," Professor Rasmussen said.

"Education needs to better reflect the complexities of Gen Z's everyday experiences of religion and belief, and gender and sexuality - young people do not see these things as oppositional."

Wear it Purple Day, Friday 31 August, is the perfect opportunity to make sure these young voices are heard.

Wear it Purple Day is about demanding adults listen to young people's demands for education that is inclusive of gender and sexual diversity.

Professor Rasmussen and her team hope this push to understand more about young people's perspectives and what influences them will lead to change in our school system.

The Australian Research Council funded study "Young Australians' perspectives on religions and non-religious worldviews" used 11 focus groups to survey students in Years 9 and 10 across three states.

The researchers also conducted a telephone survey of 1200 people aged 13-18, and 30 in-depth, follow-up interviews with survey participants.