After a lengthy time in captivity, the Western Australian Commissioner for Children and Young People’s Sexualisation of Children report was finally released on the final sitting day of the WA Parliament before it rose for winter.
Nick Goiran MLC
Having called for an inquiry into this issue since I introduced a motion in WA’s upper house, the Legislative Council, in March 2012 — a motion which passed with bipartisan support — I was relieved when we were finally given access to this worthwhile report.
Along with many parents with young children, I find the hyper-sexualisation of our culture deeply disturbing. Given the underwhelming track record of governments of both persuasions on this issue, it is not something we can be casual about.
I recently facilitated an extremely informative briefing in the WA Parliament by Melinda Tankard Reist, a renowned advocate, author and expert in the area. What really struck me was her plea, “We don’t need more pamphlets or reviews. We need action!”
As she pointed out with uncomfortable clarity, despite all the evidence and community concern about the impact and pervasiveness of sexualisation, very little is actually being done about it.
Many of us sighed with relief when in 2008 the Senate released the findings of its own Inquiry into the Sexualisation of Children in the Contemporary Media Environment. Disappointingly, the lack of a meaningful response by the then federal Government means that this problem has been left largely unaddressed.
Not only was the Senate supposed to review this issue 18 months later; it was also supposed to ensure that a major longitudinal study would be commissioned into the effects of premature and inappropriate sexualisation of children. Six years later, neither of these things has been done.
WA’s 117-page Sexualisation of Children report provides a useful overview of the issue. It adds weight to the concern that is being expressed nationally and internationally that children are, intentionally or otherwise, being exposed to sexualised media, advertising and products. It also points the way forward for WA in a national context.
I commend the author, Michelle Scott, the now former WA Commissioner for Children and Young people, for putting forward 14 carefully thought-out proposals to address a problem that is fraught with practical, social and legislative issues.
I was particularly pleased to see some proposals for action-based initiatives around amending legislation to prohibit any person from supplying R18+ material to a minor, and making it an offence for children to be used in sexually suggestive advertising.
Some other recommendations focus on reviewing the classification scheme for music videos, developing a retailers’ voluntary code of conduct for products aimed at children, and regulating child beauty pageants.
It is noteworthy that Ms Scott shares my scepticism of the Commonwealth government’s intention to take immediate action on this issue. In particular, her report proposes that WA “monitor the Commonwealth government’s response to the recommendations of the review of the self-regulatory system of advertising” (p.12), but then also recommends a “review of Western Australian laws and regulations that impact on billboard and outdoor advertising … to determine if there is any scope for Western Australia to regulate the nature and positioning of outdoor advertisements to ensure that children and young people are protected from exposure to sexualised images” (p.13).
The former commissioner is evidently all too aware that the industry can’t be relied upon to regulate itself. Earlier this year, Calvin Klein produced an advertisement featuring a close-up of a man’s genital region, with his hand partially pulling down his underwear down, and the slogan, “Show yours. #mycalvins.”
I’m pleased to that say that the advertisement was barred from being displayed on billboards across Australia. However, according to a report in Sydney’s Daily Telegraph (February 25, 2014), it is telling that the industry complaint was that the advertisement could have been displayed had it featured a female model….
Rather than taking action to prevent women being depicted as sex objects in the public space (as has regularly been seen in previous Calvin Klein advertisements featuring women), the industry complains that it should be free to depict men in the same way, too!
The industry seems to be recklessly indifferent to the deep concerns expressed by parents driving their young ones to school.
It has been reported that Queensland has taken up this issue on a state level, with the government reportedly committed to introducing financial penalties for advertisers that fail to comply with the industry’s code of ethics.
I commend Queensland for taking action on this issue, and I look forward to Western Australia — and, indeed, the Commonwealth — doing the same.
The Sexualisation of Children report currently rests with the WA Attorney General, Michael Mischin, who is considering its recommendations before he reports to parliament by the end of September this year.
I am hopeful of a positive and timely response to the proposals put forward by the former Commissioner for Children and Young People. Our children cannot wait any longer.
The Hon. Nick Goiran MLC, a husband and father of five, has served as a Liberal upper-house MP in Western Australia’s state parliament since May 2009. He has degrees in commerce and law, and was admitted as a barrister and solicitor of the Supreme Court of Western Australia in December 2000. He is a former member of the Joint Standing Committee on the Commissioner for Children and Young People. The Commissioner’s report can be accessed at: