Chanel Contos - Changemaker

In the first of our new BroadTalk series on Australian Women Changemakers, Virginia talks to Chanel Contos, whose pioneering work started a movement around holistic consent and sexuality education.

In 2021, aged just 22, Chanel Contos, kicked off a nationwide media storm when she exposed the alarming level of sexual assault and an undeniable prevalence of rape culture in elite private schools across Sydney, New South Wales. It all began with a simple question on social media: “have you or anyone close to you ever experienced sexual assault from someone who went to an all-boys school?”. Within hours thousands of testimonials from school girls poured in and soon tens of thousands of Australians signed her online petition demanding consent education reform in Australian schools. 

With lightning speed she set up the ‘Teach Us Consent’ campaign and soon had a seat at the table with the Prime Minister and key policymakers. By early 2022 she’d pulled it off! Education Ministers around Australia unanimously committed to mandating holistic and age appropriate consent education in every school, across every age group. For Chanel it was a jubilant win, but like many radical social reforms, there is always a price to pay. And as we hear in this raw and intimate discussion, Chanel is still paying it.

Chanel’s story is the first in our ‘Changemaker’ series, in which we highlight the extraordinary efforts of some stunning, audacious and gutsy Australian women. As guest curator of a new exhibition, ‘Australian Women Changemakers’, which opened at the Museum of Australian Democracy (MoAD) in June 2022, BroadTalk host Virginia Haussegger has spent hundreds of hours pouring over feminist activism and advocacy, chasing that holy grail of insight about ‘what makes a changemaker?’. In the series we explore the courage, motivations and importantly the cost of being a changemaker.

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