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Taking the awkward out of sexuality education

31 July 2023

A new online platform aims to bridge the gaps in sexuality education for young New Zealanders.


A new platform for learning about relationships and sexuality using research gathered from rangatahi has been launched by UC researcher Tracy Clelland.

Called Te Puāwaitanga: Beyond the Birds and Bees, the free platform is a New Zealand first led by Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha | University of Canterbury (UC) lecturer Tracy Clelland, Dr Fabian Gilson and Associate Professor Adrian Clark. 

UC Adjunct Lecturer Tracy Clelland says research with rangatahi (young people), educators and whānau shows the need for a reliable research-informed Relationships and Sexuality Education (RSE) platform. “Our work with rangatahi in Aotearoa continues to highlight that young people are being left to their own devices,” she says. 

<img src="" alt="SDG 10" style="    " class="img-responsive additional-image"> Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 10 - Reduced Inequalities

“They told us it’s still difficult to talk with parents and whānau. They want the skills to navigate sexuality messages they find online and to build healthy relationships.

“Young people do not want RSE left to chance, or for pornography to be the main educator. They want opportunities to discuss the gender and sexuality norms that shape their worlds and influence their wellbeing.”

The free online platform aims to provide a wide range of reliable information about sexuality, sexual health and relationships. It includes an app, Instagram, and TikTok site for young people as well as a website for parents/whānau, educators and anyone working with rangatahi. 

Te Puāwaitanga: Beyond the Birds and Bees aims to bring RSE material into one space. “Young people have questions, and we want to ensure they are getting trustworthy answers from a range of sources across the country,” Clelland says. 

 “A critical aspect of this platform is that it is co-constructed with young people. We hope it will be a living platform where we continually add to the content based on ongoing feedback.

“Our research has told us that if we really want to open up the kōrero about relationships and sexuality, we need to use a range of digital technologies. Te Puāwaitanga creates a space where everyone can learn together”.

 The team worked alongside NZ stakeholders and Sense, a Netherlands RSE platform that answers all those awkward, funny and confusing questions. Te Puāwaitanga covers many topics, including being in love for the first time, gender identity, breaking up, safer sex, boundaries, bodies, consent and healthy relationships.

 Clelland says while there was a small amount of funding for the initial stages of the project, much of the mahi has been voluntary hours by a team of people keen to deliver the RSE young people want.. “We will need further funding and input, including feedback from anyone who accesses the platform, to continue opening up the kōrero around relationships, gender and sexuality.” 

Find out more and give us feedback at Te Puāwaitanga:

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