A “Say NO to sex advertising” campaign has the support of a number of politicians.
|Matthew Restall (centre) |
and Catherine Sheehan (right).
Photo courtesy of
The Wyndham Leader,
Victoria, August 19, 2008
An enterprising and determined young man has struck a chord deep within the Australian community with a campaign he launched two months ago against advertisers who use sex to sell products.
Matthew Restall, a 19-year-old university student, has launched a campaign called “Say NO to sex advertising” and has organised a petition with 1,500 signatures so far, from Victoria and NSW. He aims eventually to have 20,000 signatures.
In July, Mr Restall and his associates met over 50 community and church leaders in Victoria and NSW to gain their support. The campaign has a multi-faith dimension and Catholic Cardinal George Pell and Dr Mohammad Anas, an imam of the Islamic faith, have both signed the petition.
The sexualisation of children has become a major concern among parents, family groups and the general community. Highly offensive billboards advertising brothels and impotency treatments have appeared all around Australia, in densely populated areas and along roadsides, where they are visible to everyone, including children.
Mr Restall’s campaign builds on the efforts of a nationwide movement which originally got underway two years ago with support from the Australian Family Association; the Australia Institute think-tank which published a landmark study, Corporate Paedophilia: Sexualisation of Children in Australia (2006) by Emma Rush and Andrea La Nauze; Women’s Forum Australia, founded by researcher and author Melinda Tankard Reist; and Kids Free 2B Kids, founded by Melbourne mother of two, Julie Gale.
Mr Restall argues that state laws in regard to advertising should be changed to protect the innocence of childhood and the dignity of women.
Mr Restall, who is president of the Victorian Catholic Students and Young Adults Association, says: “I find this is an issue not just for parents or religious people. I have non-religious friends and they think these signs are ridiculous – they don’t want to know about people’s struggles in the bedroom.”
A resident of Wyndham Vale in Melbourne’s west, Mr Restall and some of his supporters were photographed in front of one of the billboards for The Wyndham Leader which ran an article on the campaign on August 19.
The local newspaper was reportedly “inundated” with around 115 letters supporting Mr Restall’s cause. Not one of the letters received expressed disagreement with his stance.
One mother of five wrote, “I do not like the sexualised advertising you see everywhere, and it is great to see young people saying ‘enough’.” A young man wrote, “It’s only a matter of time before children become susceptible to constant attacks on their innocence.”
Mr Restall was also interviewed by Melbourne Radio 3AW’s Neil Mitchell on August 21.
On August 25, the Advertising Standards Board (ASB) announced that the Advanced Medical Institute has been ordered to replace all of its 120 billboards around Australia advertising cures for sexual impotency.
Even though the ASB had for a long time “received continued complaints” about the billboards, it determined in February 2007 to dismiss them because the ASB rules allow them to not reopen a complaint for years after their first decision.
However, the continued stream of public complaints, the ongoing campaign from several groups, and the increasing number of experts coming out to criticise the advertisement – a process set in motion by Julie Gale of Kids Free 2B Kids – eventually led to the ASB’s unprecedented decision.
On this occasion, ASB chief executive officer Ms Alison Abernethy said: “The Board acknowledged that, in the time since the original decision, debate in the community about the sexualisation of children has crystallised community concern about the unsolicited exposure of children to advertisements dealing with sexuality…. With the shift in community standards, the content of the billboard was no longer acceptable.”
A jubilant but realistic Mr Restall commented: “It is great that the Advanced Medical Institute has been forced to take down these signs, though this is only a drop-in-the-ocean solution to the recurring problem of over-sexualised material being used in advertisements on the sides of our roads and vehicles.”
A website and a Facebook page have been set up to promote the campaign and gain support, at: www.notosexualadvertisements.info
– News Weekly staff writer.