Young offenders in New South Wales, Australia and the need for remedial sexual health education

Document Type


Publication details

Mistler, G, Kirkwood, K, Potter, E & Cashin, AJ 2008, 'Young offenders in New South Wales, Australia and the need for remedial sexual health education', Sex Education, vol. 8, no. 4, pp. 439-449.

The publisher's version of this article is available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14681810802433960

Peer Reviewed



The 2005-2008 Australian National Sexually Transmissible Infections Strategy identifies young people as a key target group in need of sexual health education, screening and management. For young people who are in contact with the New South Wales (NSW) juvenile justice system, a dire need for remedial sexual health education exists. NSW young offenders indicate initiation of sexual activity at a younger age than their peers, higher numbers of sexual partners, infrequent condom use and higher rates of sexually transmitted infections. They also report family instability, poor accessing of health services, and low school attendance: all factors that result in poor sexual knowledge and health outcomes. An examination into the cognitive profile of these young offenders indicates remedial education for this group may require a dual approach in order to redress their specific circumstances and needs. The first approach should target young offenders who simply missed out on stages of sexual health information in the school curriculum. The second approach requires a tailored teaching methodology more appropriate for a group with atypical cognitive profiles. Both approaches need to engage an educative model that acknowledges that these disadvantaged young people are already sexual active; and that many did not have the benefit of an informed or consensual decision making processes. More importantly, the tailoring of a sexual health education program to these young people needs to resonate with teaching to a cognitively distinctive population who have experienced higher than usual rates of alcohol and other drugs abuse, and higher than usual episodes of physical and emotional abuse and neglect.

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