NZ's new conservative govt plans to end gender and sexuality education

New Zealand’s new conservative government plans to end gender and sexuality education


New Zealand’s new coalition government has announced plans to scrap gender and sexuality education (RSE) from the curriculum.

Last week, Prime Minister Chris Luxon made his first school visit since he won the federal election in October and formed his new government. During his visit, the conservative former businessman made a pledge that his government would “refocus the curriculum on academic achievement and not ideology, including the removal and replacement of the gender, sexuality, and relationship-based education guidelines.” 

“All that has been raised with us over the course of the last year has been by parents about some of the sexuality training,” Luxon said

“All we’re asking for is because we’ve been caught between curriculum, we want a well-defined curriculum agreed to by experts that actually makes sure that the content is age-appropriate, that parents have been consulted, and importantly that parents have an ability to withdraw from the education as well.”

“It’s been very variable even within schools and between schools because the guidelines have been just that – guidelines – that have been variously interpreted,” he continued. 

“They actually need a clear curriculum definition, expert opinion, age appropriateness, parents consulted and actually having an option to participate or not participate.”

New Zealand Educational Institute’s President Mark Potter described his initial reaction upon hearing Luxon’s plans as one of “dismay.”

“The one thing our children don’t need is less education in the area of relationships and health,” the Wellington-based primary school teacher told AAP, adding that the curriculum is already age-appropriate.

“You’re not going to talk about things that alarm people at a young age,” he said. 

The current guidelines on gender and sexuality education require schools to consult with parents on the content and method of instruction. The guidelines also allow parents to withdraw their child from the classes should they choose — a freedom that isn’t afforded to any other part of the curriculum, according to Tabby Besley, managing director of Aotearoa’s rainbow charity InsideOUT Kōaro

Besley believes that schools are responsible for providing students with a physically and emotionally safe environment free from discrimination – an endevour that would be viable through gender and sexuality education.

“If young people aren’t getting that in schools, they’re gonna be getting it from their peers and from the internet where parents don’t have control of what they engage with,” she said.

New Zealand’s shift away from broader access to gender and sexuality education is in stark contrast to the momentum gathering here in Australia around the issue, largely due to the advocacy of Chanel Contos, founder of Teach Us Consent and Chair of the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership’s Youth Advisory Committee. 

Her efforts led to the implementation of holistic and age-appropriate consent education in schools nation-wide since the beginning of this year. 

Last month, Contos addressed the National Press Club where she spoke about the power of consent education and Australia’s potential to be a world leader in preventing sexual violence.

“In terms of education, we need consent and respectful relationships education to span more than Kindy to Year 10. Years 11 and 12 are important for sexual development, and the conversation must continue throughout them,” she said.

“We need more comprehensive porn literacy to counteract the indoctrinating force that’s distorting the sexual landscape for young people.”

In September, she published her book, “Consent Laid Bare”, which has already been tipped as this year’s most important book. 

Meanwhile, a concerning wave of anti-wokeism is rising in New Zealand. 

The Deputy Prime Minister, Winston Peters, has campaigned against Māori cultural representation and frequently criticised what he calls “woke virtue signalling in policies.” 

Recently, he clarified what he meant by the word, ‘Woke’: “Woke means like a lot of you, you woke up yesterday thinking you know a lot more than the rest of us, and got a greater sense of consciousness about these issues,” Peters said last week. 

This, coming from a white male who once threw around the phrase “two Wongs don’t make a white” and called journalists who pulled him up on it “Nazi politically correct police.”

Luxon’s latest pledge to axe gender and sexual education was applauded by anti-trans lobby groups Resist Gender Education and Speak Up For Women. 

Last week, the new government announced it will repeal stringent anti-tobacco laws, prompting fears for the health and mortality of thousands of lives. 


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