Addressing gender and sexuality in drug education: Developing effective and ethical drug education

Ideological and party-political investments in school curricula have generated controversy about drug education since its inception. While the necessity of drug education is now generally accepted among researchers, debates about the merits of prevention or harm reduction goals and effective forms of delivery continue. Despite these debates, and at a time when alcohol and a range of other drugs are especially available to young people, policymakers and researchers continue to position classroom-based programs as central to efforts to reduce youth alcohol and other drug-related. It is within this politically charged context that efforts to intervene in youth alcohol and other drug use are developed and young people make sense of these substances and make decisions about their use.

Funded by an Australian Research Council DECRA fellowship (2022-2025) this project will conduct in-depth qualitative interviews with young people, producing urgently needed detailed understandings of, experiences of and meanings given to drug education by its key subjects: young people. Undertaking interviews with drug education stakeholders, a key innovation of this project is to make the field of drug education itself the focus of analysis. By analysing the data collected in these interviews alongside those from interviews with young people, this project will also generate new knowledge on whether and in what ways young people’s concerns align with the concerns of the developers of drug education curricula.

Project activities

The project began with the formation of an advisory panel and development of interview materials.

Recruitment of drug education stakeholders has begun.

Chief investigator

  • Dr Adrian Farrugia, Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, La Trobe University

Project staff:

Andrew Whalley, Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society, La Trobe University (July 2022 – November 2022)

The project is benefitting from the expertise of an advisory panel:

  • Bridget Hayes, DanceWize, Harm Reduction Victoria
  • Nick Kent, Students for Sensible Drug Policy
  • Tom Lyons, Victorian Department of Health
  • Justin Barker, Youth Coalition of Australia
  • Mary Lou Rasmussen, Australian National University
  • Lucy Burnett, Thorne Harbour Health